How Was It for You? The dark side of the 1960s sexual revolution

Book review: “The thing about the Sixties was that it was totally male-dominated”

Before feminism, way before MeToo, there wasn’t the language or the self-belief. Photograph: Gamma-Rapho/Keystone France via Getty

Before feminism, way before MeToo, there wasn’t the language or the self-belief. Photograph: Gamma-Rapho/Keystone France via Getty

You know what they say: if you remember the 1960s, you weren’t really there. Virginia Nicholson was a shy girleen in bare legs and a cotton dress when that decade was going full bore; now she’s put together a kaleidoscopic, 492-page history of that most “yeasty” of decades: cue the pill, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, tights, Mary Quant, Christine Keeler, the Beatles, the Vietnam war, the Rolling Stones, civil rights, Thalidomide, abortion, mini-skirts, Ready Steady Go, hippies, Zandra Rhodes, “free” love, rock’n’roll, RD Laing, drugs and, at the 11th hour, feminism.

Yeastiness indeed.

This was Britain emerging post war via a “youthquake” into a consumer boom; everything old was “square” – that is, to be rejected. Little rich girls’ dreams morphed from chaste debutante presented to the queen (“We didn’t drink, we didn’t have sex, we still wore white gloves”) to being Mick Jagger’s drugged up girlfriend in a “pussy pelmet”.

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