|Sex Files||Nov 5 2010|
The world famous tea shop Bettys, based in Harrogate, England, recently unveiled a vintage line of chocolates based on one of their popular selections from the 1920s. The flapper figure perched atop the original papier-mâché box has a partially unbuttoned blouse and a mischievous expression that—in our humble view, at least—is perfect for the guilty pleasure of chocolate. But when the line goes on sale later this month, the flapper will have been bounced in favor of a more conservative breed of woman. Bettys execs are quoted in various British newspapers stating their belief that the 1920s figure is too risqué, and expressing their amazement that such a box was even made back then. A Telegraph quote from a Bettys archivist sums up their view: “I am surprised at how daring the original chocolate box is for its time as there is quite a lot of flesh on display. The fact that it is still a bit risqué even nowadays shows it must have caused quite a stir.”
Bettys management may believe the original box got everybody’s knickers in a twist, but in actuality, the 1920s were a sexually open decade. It was an attitude shift that arose among those who survived the generation-killing horror known as World War I. Life was to be enjoyed, because ten million dead on the battlefields of Europe proved it could be over in a flash. But the change also had to do with the rising numbers of women going to college (thus finding themselves in less protected social environments where they could make their own sexual decisions). Studies show that in the 1920s roughly 50% of American and British women were having sex before marriage. And let's not even get the French, Dutch and Scandinavians involved. We haven't researched it, but we'd bet they were humping like rabbits. The point is, though it’s possible Bettys' suggestive flapper caused a stir, we wouldn’t assume it. And if it did, the reaction may well have been considered a boon to the product. What’s changed in 2010 is our default position—i.e., sexualization is automatically bad, even though sex is that thing we do that enables our survival. So the question becomes are we evolving to a better state, or a worse one?