50th Anniversary of the Pill: Are we liberated yet?

5 Feb

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the pill. In 1961 the FPA Medical Advisory Committee approved the use of the Pill in its clinics. Forty percent of women in the UK today are using the contraceptive pill as a form of birth control.

Whilst this form of contraception is credited with changing women’s attitudes towards sex, it is still sometimes seen as a taboo. Was it sexually liberating or did it give women less choice?


I spoke to feminist author and head of Cultural Studies at Leeds Met University, Ruth Robbins, on her views on changing attitudes through the years.

“There’s an assumption that the pill made a sudden and absolute change. But the sexual revolution didn’t happen overnight, it was much more of a gradual process.”

“It’s not true as Philip Larkin said that sexual intercourse was invented in 1963.”

“Many GP’s were very conservative and thought the pill should be only available to married women. Women would have to demonstrate that their husband was in agreement with them using it”.

“Yes, the pill enables women to take much more control over their sexuality. But it also makes it easier for men to exploit female sexuality.”

“When I talk to young women today i often wonder how free women really are.”


Spokesperson for BPAS, Clare Murphy, told me that it is important that women know their options and are comfortable with what they are using.

“Now compared with 50 years ago the number of contraceptives on the market is immense.”

“It was introduced at a time legal abortion wasn’t available, so it was a massive relief to women. Many were prepared to put up with some of the quite serious affects.”

“It’s had an up and down ride, every decade has seen a new health scare over the pill. The most recent being the 1990’s, when the pill was linked to thrombosis.

“Many women ditched pills and this led to many unwanted pregnancies.”

“Now there’s no real reason why women should have to go to the doctor and obtain their pill, it’s very suitable for most women.”

“It’s interesting that we still like to retain control over this method, we aren’t comfortable with the fact that it is so obtainable. There’s still some moralising.”


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