My new book, Masquerade, is set in 1976. The most important aspect of the historical context is that the heroine, Luz, is finding her way as a young woman in a society being transformed – by the sexual revolution.
The revolution changed lives across the Western world in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. It was driven by various proponents of change, from the women’s lib and gay rights’ movement to the counterculture and even Surrealism in art (a major theme in Masquerade). Ultimately, it was a move against oppression: in the wake of World War Two and attempts to return to status quo ante bellum, rock and roll culture had infused the upcoming generation with a zest for living free from depressing, limiting rules.
At the core of the sexual revolution was a driver to challenge long-accepted values, rules and behaviour with regard to sexuality and relationships. As a result, the following – once taboo – became more acceptable:
- Sex outside of marriage
- The use of contraception – and abortion
- Nudity in public
The changes affected both men and women, but it was women who most profoundly felt the difference;no wonder they called the revolution liberation. For the first time in history, women were gaining financial independence and building careers, and they were able to take charge of their bodies and their futures in a whole new way vis à vis birth control. Most of all, though, they were able to explore their passions and find their own identities without rule-breaking and the associated stigma and guilt.
Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? And if you were living in Andalucia, Spain, in 1976 like my heroine Luz, the sexual revolution was all the more exciting.
In 1976, Spain was not quite in pace with the rest of the world, having been under the control of the dictator Franco from 1939 right through to 1975. Franco was ultra conservative, and he was very oppressive. If you didn’t fit the mould, you had better pretend you did, or flee. All kinds of aspects of life were tightly controlled: the Basques couldn’t speak their own language, for example, and the Sardana, the national dance of Catalunya, was forbidden. Far more serious – and frightening for citizens of Spain – though, was how Franco dealt with those he deemed to be enemies of the state: it is estimated that 400,000 people lost their lives in executions and inconcentration camps. Breaking Franco’s many rules, then, was a dangerous business, and people (like the characters in Indiscretion) lived in fear.
For women, life in Franco Spain was very difficult. Their role, according to the head of state, was to be good little wives and mothers, nothing more. They could not divorce. They could not access contraceptives, or abortion. They could not be judges or testify in trials. They could not be university professors. Under the permiso marital law, wives could not work, own property, have a personal bank account or even travel from home.
Imagine how it feels to be Luz, then, in 1976, with the leader dead and reform underway! She can have a career and be respected for her profession – and confidently fight her corner for her rights in a business agreement. She can live independently without judgement. She can explore her passions and sexuality. And if she contemplates marriage someday, she does so knowing that Franco’s permiso marital has been abolished: she is on an equal footing.
Still, the gaining of equal rights for woman has a way to go, and Luz must have the courage of her convictions to be a modern woman of her times. And while her mother faced a difficult journey falling in love with a Spaniard back in the 1950s in Indiscretion, Luz’s journey in love is not without stumbling blocks. Spain in 1976 may be breaking down barriers for women to be themselves and follow their passions, but the taboo about falling for a gypsy… well, that is still deeply entrenched.