Professors Hua, Stein and Student Eric Noble: Summer of Love Shapes Modern Ideas of Sexuality

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Photo of four people embracing in a wooded area

SF STATE NEWS -- The Summer of Love wasn’t just about love — it was also about sexuality. According to Professor and Chair of the Department of Women and Gender Studies Julietta Hua, people were questioning what sexuality could be.

“The Summer of Love shook up conventional notions around how one should express one’s sexuality and in what spaces,” Hua said. During this era, San Francisco became known for sexual freedom and progressive sexual politics. The idea that women were to be wives and later mothers was questioned and people fought for accessible birth control.

Professor of History Marc Stein said that the Summer of Love was partly about expressing one’s desires and feelings sexually. “Some of the constraints on sexual expression that existed before the Summer of Love don’t exist or exist in a weakened form today,” Stein said. “For instance, non-marital sexual expression, BDSM, polyamory and asexual cultures were all empowered because of the Summer of Love and the larger sexual revolution.”

Eric Noble, a 67-year-old SF State graduate student in history, moved to San Francisco in 1968 and has done research on the Summer of Love and the many influences that contributed to the movement, including Lenore Kandel’s “The Love Book.” This collection of four poems about a woman’s experience of sexuality was declared obscene and banned in San Francisco in 1966. “There was a protest here at San Francisco State and a number of professors read from her book in the hopes of getting arrested by the police as a protest against censorship,” Noble said.

Noble himself has good memories about the Summer of Love. “I fell in love, I came out as gay and dropped out of college,” he said.