Women’s History Month and Sexual Health

Women's Sexual Health: A Historical Perspective

March, designated as Women's History Month, offers a unique opportunity to delve into the intricate history of women's sexual health. As we trace the contours of women's sexual health and empowerment through history, we uncover a narrative of profound resilience and transformative change.

This journey from the ancient use of sex toys to the emergence of modern sexual health brands reveals not just a history of innovation and struggle, but a testament to the enduring spirit of women striving for autonomy over their bodies and desires. Throughout the ages, women have navigated societal constraints, fought for their rights, overcame societal pressures of shame, and carved out spaces for sexual freedom and health, against often formidable odds.

The historical past, with its mix of suppression and secret resilience, laid the groundwork for today's more open and empowered discourse on women's sexual health. Yet, as much as we celebrate the victories and progress, the present moment reminds us that the journey is far from complete. The landscape of women's sexual health continues to be a battleground, with ongoing debates, legislation, and societal attitudes reflecting both advances and setbacks in the quest for true autonomy and empowerment.


About The Author:

Hail Groo (they/them) is historian of gender and sexuality with a M.A. History from Colorado State University. Their work focuses on the juxtaposition of gender, race, and class with environmental history in the United States. You can find more of their work here.

The History of Women's Sexual Health
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    The Ancient Roots of Pleasure: Early Use of Sex Toys

    The history of sex toys dates back thousands of years, with evidence suggesting their use in ancient civilizations like Greece and China. Ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Chinese societies were even known to use lubricants such as olive oil and early (largely ineffective) natural contraceptives such as honey. These early tools of pleasure were not just for individual enjoyment but also played roles in various cultural and religious practices, highlighting the acknowledgment of sexual pleasure in women's lives from ancient times.



    • Sex toys, lubricants, and contraceptives have been used since ancient times.
    • Their usage reflects cultural acknowledgment of women's sexual pleasure.


    Birth Control Through the Ages: A Contraceptive Evolution

    The evolution of contraceptives, including dental dams and female condoms, illustrates the lengths to which women have gone to take control of their sexual health. The use of contraceptives enables women to enact more control over the trajectory of their lives, which is why it was seen as a controversial and taboo subject for so long. It wasn’t until the mid-20th century, after the rise of feminism, that women could legally access medically-developed and accurate contraceptives. The history of these methods is a testament to the ingenuity and resilience of women in the face of societal constraints, with innovations ranging from the use of natural substances to the development of modern synthetic contraceptives. 



    • Contraceptives have evolved significantly over time.
    • Women have always sought methods to control their reproductive health.


    Waves of Feminism: Sexual Health and Liberation

    The journey of feminism, particularly in the United States, can be seen as a series of powerful waves, each cresting at a different point in history, yet all converging on the shore of sexual health and liberation. These waves have each played a pivotal role in reshaping the landscape of women's rights, including their sexual autonomy and health. By examining the first, second, and third waves of feminism, we can appreciate the significant achievements of each period and understand their cumulative impact on today's society.


    The First Wave: The Dawn of Advocacy (Late 19th to Early 20th Century)

    The first wave of feminism, spanning from the late 19th century into the early 20th century, laid the groundwork for women's rights movements. Focused primarily on legal inequalities, this wave's hallmark achievement was the fight for and eventual success in securing women's suffrage with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. While sexual health was not the central issue of this wave, the empowerment that came from gaining the right to vote and participate in public life set the stage for future discussions on more personal aspects of women's rights, including sexual autonomy.


    The Second Wave: Sexual Liberation and Health Rights (1960s-1980s)

    The second wave of feminism, emerging in the 1960s and lasting until the 1980s, broadened the scope of feminist concerns to include sexuality, family, the workplace, and reproductive rights. This period saw significant advancements in sexual health and liberation, highlighted by the legalization of contraception for all women (married or single) and the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, which legalized abortion nationwide. The second wave feminists fought not just for the legality of these rights but for their accessibility, challenging societal norms and stigmas surrounding women's sexual health and freedom.


    The Third Wave: Diversity and Intersectionality (1990s-Present)

    The third wave of feminism began in the early 1990s and continues to influence the current discourse on women's rights. Building on the achievements of the second wave, the third wave emphasizes diversity, intersectionality, and the personal as political. This wave challenges the one-size-fits-all approach to feminism, recognizing the varied experiences of women based on race, class, sexuality, and other social factors. Third-wave feminists have expanded the conversation around sexual health to include issues of consent, sexual orientation, and gender identity, advocating for a more inclusive understanding of sexual liberation.



    • The first wave of feminism focused on legal inequalities, setting the stage for future advocacy.
    • The second wave expanded the feminist agenda to include sexual health and reproductive rights.
    • The third wave introduced concepts of diversity and intersectionality, broadening the scope of sexual health advocacy.


    Advocacy and Change: Women's Health Movement in the Late 20th Century

    The women's health movement in the latter half of the 20th century marked a pivotal shift in how healthcare addressed women's needs. Advocacy efforts led to significant changes in medical research, policy, and practice, highlighting the importance of gender-specific approaches to health and the need for women's active participation in healthcare decisions.


    Visibility and Representation for Queer and Gay Women

    The history of queer and gay women is a narrative of struggle, resilience, and eventual representation. Early portrayals were often shrouded in stereotypes and censorship, but the persistence of the LGBTQ+ community has led to more authentic and diverse representations, highlighting the importance of visibility for sexual health advocacy. It is important for women of all sexualities and identities to see themselves and their struggles reflected in mainstream media and culture, as well as in private sectors such as healthcare and pleasure. 


    Trans Women in History

    The history of trans women in America is a complex and evolving narrative marked by struggles for recognition, rights, and acceptance. One of the earliest recorded instances of gender affirmation surgery in the United States took place in 1952, when Christine Jorgensen, a former American soldier, became widely known after undergoing such surgery in Denmark. Her story brought significant public attention to transgender individuals and set the stage for the gradual emergence of a trans rights movement. The 1960s and 1970s saw pivotal moments, such as the Compton's Cafeteria riot in 1966 and the Stonewall uprising in 1969, where trans women played significant roles, highlighting their contributions to the broader LGBTQ+ rights movement. 


    In the decades that followed, trans women continued to fight for legal recognition and healthcare rights, with milestones such as the establishment of the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2003 and the inclusion of gender identity under the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2021. Despite facing ongoing discrimination and challenges, trans women in America have made remarkable strides in gaining visibility, advocating for policy changes, and fostering a more inclusive society. Their journey underscores the importance of resilience, community, and advocacy in the ongoing fight for equality and justice.



    • The 20th century brought trans issues into the public eye, laying the groundwork for visibility and advocacy.
    • Key events along with significant legal advancements highlight the progress and persistent efforts of trans women in the fight for recognition and rights.


    The Battle for Choice: Abortion in the United States

    The history of abortion in the United States is marked by controversy, legal battles, and significant societal implications. From the early colonial period to the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and the ongoing debates, the struggle for abortion rights reflects broader issues of autonomy, moral governance, and the fight for women's control over their own bodies.

    Aging and Sexuality: Understanding Menopause

    Research relating to menopause has undergone significant changes over the years, with early studies often limited by societal taboos and misconceptions. However, recent decades have seen a shift towards a more holistic and nuanced understanding of menopause, emphasizing its impact on women's health beyond the reproductive years, including a focus on understanding their sexuality.



    • The women's health movement transformed medical research and policy.
    • It emphasized gender-specific health needs and women's participation in healthcare.


    The Rise of Sexual Health and Pleasure Brands

    The recent history of sexual health and pleasure brands showcases a significant shift in societal attitudes towards women's sexuality. Brands like Wicked Sensual Care have emerged at the forefront of this movement, empowering women to explore and embrace their sexuality with confidence, through products designed for pleasure, safety, and wellness.


    Wicked Sensual Care: Empowering Women's Pleasure

    Wicked Sensual Care stands as a testament to the evolution of women's sexual health and empowerment. With a commitment to providing high-quality, consciously-crafted lubricants, enhancers, massage creams, and toy cleaners, Wicked Sensual Care seeks to enhance women's pleasure and well-being. The brand embodies the progress made in women's sexual health advocacy, offering products that are not only about pleasure but also about informed choices and empowerment.



    • Wicked Sensual Care offers products for women's sexual health and pleasure.
    • The brand emphasizes informed choices, safety, and empowerment.


    Celebrating Progress and Looking Forward

    As we reflect on the history of women's sexual health during Women's History Month, it's clear that the journey has been complex and challenging, yet filled with remarkable progress. The evolution from early sex toys to modern sexual health brands reflects a broader narrative of empowerment and liberation. Wicked Sensual Care's commitment to enhancing women's pleasure and well-being is a shining example of how far we have come and a reminder of the work that remains in advocating for women's sexual health rights.


    In celebrating the achievements, we must also acknowledge the battles still to be won. The history of women's sexual health is not just a reflection of the past but a guide for the future, inspiring continued efforts towards equality, understanding, and empowerment in all aspects of sexual health.

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