Chilean Youth, Democracy, and Sexual Liberation

A “sexual revolution” has found fertile soil in post-Pinochet Chile (image courtesy of Tomas Munita)

Long the bastion of conservative social mores, Chile is undergoing a rapid transformation that is being spearheaded by its youth as they engage in a sexual revolution reminiscent of the USA during the 1960s. Viewing themselves as “the children of democracy and not dictatorship”, Chilean teenagers are taking advantage of the freedoms accorded them in the post-Pinochet era. Alexei Barrionuevo explains:

“Chile’s youth are clearly having sex earlier and testing the borderlines with their sexual conduct,” said Dr. Ramiro Molina, director of the University of Chile’s Center for Adolescent Reproductive Medicine and Development.

The sexual awakening is happening through a booming industry for 18-and-under parties, an explosion of Internet connectivity and through Web sites like Fotolog, where young people trade suggestive photos of each other and organize weekend parties, some of which have drawn more than 4,500 teenagers. The online networks have emboldened teenagers to express themselves in ways that were never customary in Chile’s conservative society.

“We are not the children of the dictatorship; we are the children of democracy,” said Michele Bravo, 17, at a recent afternoon party. “There is much more of a rebellious spirit among young people today. There is much more freedom to explore everything.”

Politics is tied into the personal here as the old dictatorship crumbled and along with it Chile’s social conservatism. When borders are opened up it only becomes natural to see what is on the other side. The “grass is greener over there” syndrome becomes a prevalent view as individuals take part in these new freedoms previously denied them by rigid social mores. But to what end? America’s experiment with “free love” saw the rise of STDs, teen pregnancies, rising divorce rates, and broken families. Sexual liberation also brought what some consider to be a “slave to the libido” mentality and the rise of raunch culture. Explorations of new freedoms don’t necessarily denote a victory of sorts as the American example attests to. Hopefully Chile can cope with this new openness without the social ramifications felt elsewhere by those who engaged in the same “revolution”.

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