American History Sex

Andrew Cominelli presents a decade by decade look at how intercourse has changed in America over the past century.


Sexual intercourse has mystified and puzzled humans since they were painting each other fornicating on cave walls. Indeed, the practice of love-making is always changing, often due to shifting social norms. Did you know that as society’s idea of what is “sexy” or what is “hot” has changed, so too has the actual act of sexual intercourse? Just take a look at the astounding ways Americans have defined and practiced intercourse over the past century:

1900s: In turn-of the-century America, sexual intercourse took place behind closed doors and was seldom addressed publicly. How did a couple engage in sex in these years? Simply by sitting in the same room and hating the Spanish. Indeed, hating the Spanish was a widely practiced form of sex, and it started thousands of new families. Orgasms could also be achieved by reading penny papers, not having indoor plumbing, and hating the Irish— all totally appropriate ways to have sex in this decade.

1910s: People mainly achieved orgasm by buying Model Ts at an affordable price. If you were overpaying for some other car, you definitely weren’t having sex — you were doing something else. In 1919, women were finally able to have sex by voting, so lots of sex was had by all in early November of that year.

1920s: If a man was wearing a top hat, he was having sex. If a woman was a “flapper,” she was definitely having sex. These were, as far as I know, the only two ways to have sex in this decade. Actually, you could also have sex by standing near a jazz musician.

1930s: During the Great Depression, sex occurred as follows: a woman would be preparing a meager dinner of cornmeal and lard over a small flame, when a man would enter, covered in dust from a long fruitless day of working the arid land. Standing in the doorway, he would give her a hard, solemn look — a look that said, “The bank is foreclosing on our land, we must go to California in search of work.” In that moment, the woman would become pregnant.

1940s: For several years, women could not become pregnant because of World War II. Then, when World War II ended, all of the women became pregnant. So, we can deduce that, in 1940s America, “sexual intercourse” was synonymous with “the end of World War II.”

1950s: In this decade, a man and woman could initiate sexual intercourse by taking a trip to Sears and Roebuck. They would “seal the deal” sexually by purchasing a washing machine. Other ways to have sex in this decade included: reading self-help books, not being able to voice your discontentment to your spouse, and drinking alcohol before noon.

1960s: The 1960s was a time of tumultuous social change. In this decade, young people were having sex simply by being awake. Indeed, during these years, being awake and having intercourse were basically one and the same thing for the hip youth. Agreeing with Martin Luther King Jr. was another trendy new way to have sex.

1970s: In this decade, people had intercourse just as they did in the 1960s, only it was somehow sadder and less innocent, and if they were doing it right, they would emerge from the experience feeling as though they’d lost something and hating Jimmy Carter. Men would impregnate women through the act of regretting the Vietnam War. Americans in the ‘70s could also have sex by being Jack Nicholson.

1980s: In the 1980s, women became pregnant by watching Dallas or buying expensive clothes. Anyone who went to see films like First Blood or Die Hard found that watching those films was an exciting new form of intercourse.

1990s: Young people had sex in this decade by disappointing their parents. Lots of this kind of sex was had.

2000s: Technology would alter sexual practices for the new millennium. For example: when a man and a woman sat in a room together and simultaneously opened their laptop computers, they were having sex.

2012: In the past year, many people have been having sex by publicly sharing their internet radio playlists. In addition, a new form of sex seems to be developing: many young couples find it possible to achieve orgasm by exchanging their thoughts on the latest episode of Breaking Bad.

Photo courtesy of Brave Heart

Andrew Cominelli writes and performs comedy, mainly with his NYC-based group Kingmaker. He has a Twitter and a blog.