Did the Industrial Revolution Lead to a Sexual Revolution?

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In the Issue “Did the Industrial Revolution Lead to a Sexual Revolution?” presents two sides of debate that discusses the reason why, and how industrialism impacted young unmarried women. On one side, Edward Shorter, argues that a change in the times led to an increase in illegitimacy rate throughout Europe.

Also, Shorter insists that industrialization opened a wide scope of opportunities outside the home causing increase for young women independence. On the other side of the debate, are historians Louise A. Till, Joan W. Scott and Miriam Cohen, who argue it was not that women sought independence from their traditional settings rather that the age of industrial revolution caused women to work out of need.

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During that time women has inner desire of making end meet by supporting their husbands by taking advantage of new opportunities. Therefore, the rise of women leaving home was due to breakdown of tradition that include lack of support of family, community, and the church. Young women had to work hard long hours, low wages, unstable jobs, and were caught in poverty cycle (Louise A. Till, Joan W. Scott and Miriam Cohen p. 20).

Edward Shorter stats his argument suggesting hat the position of women with in the family underwent radical shift starting late eighteenth century, stating that young women roles went from powerless, dependency to be more powerful and independent. In addition he stating that “changing economic structure replaced of this traditional “moral” economy with modern market place economy that changed so thoroughly values and behavior” (E. Shorter p. According to Shorter individualism led to independence of women and by that they were more likely to pursue their pleasure and desire.

Moving away from families young women were regretting traditional standards they were raised with. Young woman were looking for personal fulfillment, and according to Shorter, sexual experience is a part of personal fulfillment. Also, Shorter suggest that capitalism created subculture that developed rules. The subculture sooner or later matter to fertility by providing a different set of rules for sexual component.

He argues that before it was almost never premarital sex however after industrial revolution started it was more acceptable. Shorter convince capitalism meant personal freedom for women and it turn that into sexual freedom. Illegitimacy rate were so high because as he starts “modern sector promised employment, economic self-sufficiency and if needed migration” (Shorter, E p. 15). On the other side of this debate are argument presented by Louise A. Till, Joan W. Scott and Miriam Cohen, who are disagree with Shorter s points, and they are stating that his claims have no supportive evidence.

They argue that no evidence found to support the point Shorter made about women that they were powerless in traditional families. Instead, there are some evidence that showed the women had power within a family because importance of their roles. They point out that vast majority women did not work in the factories, but in customary women’s jobs. Women did not work because of rebalanced or to seek for independence, but to add to the family finances. Woman who worked they add only small amount to the family finances they did not make much money.

Till, Cohen, and Scott proving different point as to why women sought work. Unlikely Shorter, the explanation they offer why women were employed was because the problem generated from industrialization. Industrialization gave new opportunities for women, it also contribute for young girls were sent out to the cities for work. Even though, young Women Were sent far from home their independence was Very limited. Some countries had nuns, who were placed watching and restraining young women behavior and social lives.

Women did not make much money and very poor, female got paid significantly less than male did, and female work was seasonal and irregular. Authors point out that young women were deficient income with unstable jobs caught in poverty cycle that increased their susceptibilities. Also, authors pointing out one of the reasons for increased in illegitimacy was some young girls were going to be married however resistances of their lives changed, poverty, large social morbidity, instability, and lack of traditional social protection prevented of this expectation.

Till, Scott, and Cohen stating that in both rural and urban setting premarital sex was common, however Shorter argues the sexual revolution was more likely the expression of the tradition to marry. In my opinion, do agree that industrialism led to sexual revolution since it is what actually brought about the vast transformation with regards to female emancipation. The sexual revolution started when new opportunity opened or young women, even though, one of the article stated that young women were supervised and restricted by nuns, I do believe they feel free from traditional family boundaries.

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Did the Industrial Revolution Lead to a Sexual Revolution?. (2018, Feb 01). Retrieved from


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