Liberation means ‘being set free’, sexual liberation-sexual behaviour being set free. Any action which has consequences can never be set fully free, more so with sex. Therefore, sexual liberation is a bit of misnomer, the correct term should be sexual revolution- radical change in sexual behaviour.
At times, the norms practiced by one society can be more restricting than being followed by another society, which brings in the terms conservative and liberal in to use, not slaves and liberated. These two factions co-exist within the same society too.
Sexual norms, which may seems repressive now, have emerged from the practical need of society to govern sexual behaviour in a particular way to avoid consequences which were detrimental to the individual and to the over all society.
These norms were accepted voluntarily.
When an individual wants to limit the impact of consequences, specially negative ones, of a joint action by two or more people it seeks arbitration and support from the society. And society, to deliver that protection in a fair manner, sets norms to govern the behaviour leading to that act, for without preset norms there can not be fairness and transparency.
It is us, who cede our freedom of arbitrary action and accept behavioural norms of society to be under its protection, specially those who wield less power (physical, financial).
Society, ideally, forms it norms with the view of protecting its weakest, the more capable ones, who can afford to be more independent in certain aspects, also have to abide by same rules. That is a peril of living in a social structure, for the stronger. However, when they defy they get pardon more easily, weak members have to be stickler to norms for their own safety.
People accept norm based protection in exchange of predictable, directed/guided, behaviour to maximise mutual benefit. The norms are also decided by them mutually. So, no one can complain of oppression. Voluntary repression, yes.
Sexual behaviour is one which has very critical consequences for the individual and the society. This is key behaviour which ensures propagation of genes of the individual and perpetuation and growth of society. Therefore, both have keen interest in the outcome of sexual behaviour of individuals-the progeny.
In a sexual act, in the two parties involved, woman had more vulnerable position, because of the pregnancy, child birth, and child raising. She, could not go through the possible consequences of a sexual act without support, so she needed the protection of the society much more than man. And in lieu of that support she also needed to pay higher price in terms of accepting higher restrictions on her sexual behaviour.
Accepting control on sexual behaviour is a premium payment by individual, specially woman, insuring her self against the unwanted consequences of her sexual action. In lieu of this society forces man, who otherwise can afford to be more reckless sexually, to behave and share the responsibility arising out of consequences of a joint act more responsibly.
So, in a way sexual revolution is primarily a description of change in the sexual behaviour of woman. Men, throughout, have acted in reaction to her behaviour only, as is expected by society of them.
The sexual revolution of West (Developed world, 1960-80) is a consequence of two important changes in the environment which have severely limited the negative consequences of sexual act for individual- the woman, and the society. These are, handy contraception (oral birth control pills) and government sponsored child care, foster home system. First one reducing the unwanted pregnancies drastically and hence limiting the society’s possible liability of taking care of children who are not supported by a marriage based couple-raising-their-children setup; and second one, these governments being rich enough to be able to support these limited number of children through their own setup of community raising of these kids in foster home on public money, ensuring that future members of society are not wasted to neglect and misery of being unwanted and unplanned.
There are two other minor contributors too, to this revolution, which have hasten the revolution. One, dilution of authority of organised and centralised religion, for as long as they would have been influential they would have resisted, and two, financial independence of woman caused by modern, less labour intensive, economic system, which has led to freeing her from bartering her sexual fidelity for food, cloth, and shelter provided by man.
In any society where organised religion has no place, all norms are result of a slow and painful learning and, therefore, do not seem restrictive to the members, for these norms have their basis in unchallengeable utility. Restrictions also vanish quickly once the change in the environment abolishes their need. Such a society hates laws and norms, because enforcement is always a big burdens, and keeps them at minimal.
It is religion, with its paid hierarchy of law makers and enforcers, which does a professional job of deliberately restricting the behaviour of people by enforcing laws, to maintain status quo in favour of power that to be. Religion fossilises the fluid structures of societies and makes them stagnant.
In our case, luckily, because of diluted form of religion (Hinduism, not really organised- no central authority etc.) little attention has been paid to sexual behaviour from religious point of view, all restriction have evolved, based on practical requirements of running a society (Muslim invasion, for last 1000 years). And, I believe, they will vanish with time when their practical utility fades away. This, of course, will have to make allowance for inertia, because only some people can change quickly with time, others have to learn it by copying, which takes time in dissemination.
How does sexual revolution will manifests itself in terms of sexual interaction between man and woman can not be covered by a general prediction of behavioural pattern. Specially, in case of woman. It will depend on personality aspects of the individual, like in any other form of relationship, say friendship etc. Uniformity of behaviour is a result of restriction placed on it, when set free human behaviour exhibits more variation than uniformity at microlevel.
Men, as usual, will keep on reacting to female sexual behaviour in general and adapt their own sexual behaviour accordingly.
Also, ethical behaviour has its root in fairness; there is no other benchmark to asses the quality of ethics.
With more freedom from the consequences of sexual behaviour the definition of ‘fair’ will become more and more democratic, to be decided by mutual consent of sexual partners. Which will minimise the role of society. So, there would be no taboo to hooking up, to having multiple partners, anything, as long as one of the partner doesn’t go complaining to the society and brings its intervention to get “fairness” defined by it.
However, we do not have conditions ripe for West like sexual revolution yet. Even if we copy their behaviour it will backfire due to lack of their kind of awareness and social infra structure. It will keep its root in small pockets in urban centres with people of education and financial strength, but that doesn’t count for whole society.