Free love

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Victoria Woodhull, who called for free love for women in 1872, was influenced by Charles Fourier .

Free love ( Engl. Free love ) was the demand of the 1870s in the United States resulting movement in which feminists such as Victoria Woodhull and later Emma Goldman advocate the establishment to free women from coercion, sexual for their economic power relationships without Having to enter into love, regardless of whether it is in the form of marriage or prostitution . The idea gained new attention when the birth control pill became available in the early 1960s and many countries in the western world were hit by the second wave of the women's movement .

At the same time, the 1968 movement turned "free love" into a slogan that demanded social acceptance of premarital and extramarital sexual activity. Many apologists for free love cited Wilhelm Reich , who had already argued in 1932 that sexual suppression was responsible for the neurotic misery of humanity.

Free love in the sense of the 1968 movement

With free love is called an attitude of people who love and sexuality without the observance of traditional social norms act out because they feel this as a restriction or intellectually as such define.

This includes that relationships according to the idea of sexual self-determination are defined exclusively and in partnership by those involved and are otherwise not subject to any requirements. This means that gender identity and the number of participants do not play a role, the duration and type of each individual relationship are not determined and the latter can be changed at any point in the relationship.

Conventional life concepts such as marriage are criticized as possessive , purely economically justified and unfree. Historically, there has been a development from originally more free sexuality to more free love today .


The concept of free love was increasingly established in the 1960s by supporters of Wilhelm Reich and representatives of the communal movement.

Since love is understood as a phenomenon inherently connected with freedom, representatives of free love are usually referred to simply as “love”, since the term “free love” is a pleonasm .

A popular proponent of this view is the psychologist Peter Lauster . He understands love as a psychological phenomenon, a perception-bound appearance that is experienced at the moment (i.e. does not represent a permanent state) and cannot be forced, but rather unfolds extremely badly under duress. Lauster understands institutions like marriage as outmoded constructs. In general, permanent phenomena - classic relationships - are potentially a hindrance to the unconditionally open, judgment-free perception of the partner.


This is preceded by historical developments since antiquity and in particular from the socialist movement since the middle of the 19th century, which criticized marriage as an institution and promoted love relationships without the interference of the state.

The early socialist Charles Fourier (1772–1837) already propagated communities ( Phalanstères ) in which people should live and work together, motivated and held together by free love, among other things. Beyond the communities, however, free love in Fourier's sense also means the unrestricted decision for any type of partnership and thus also includes two-way relationships, etc.

The concept of free love was first implemented in state policy in the Soviet Union during the Russian Revolution from 1917 onwards in various regional forms. The Russian revolutionary and later diplomat Alexandra Kollontai became a key propagandist for the new social and family order and pushed through in the young Soviet Union that marriage law was relaxed and maternity protection improved. She fought for the right to abortion and proposed popular kitchens and collective child rearing.

In theory, Wilhelm Reich contributed to the idea of ​​free love with his analysis of what he termed sexual compulsory morality and his writings on the sexual revolution , as did Herbert Marcuse , who spoke out in favor of the free exercise of sexuality and - connected with it - the dissolution of the nuclear family .

Marcuse and Reich had a major influence on the sexual revolution and the hippie movement, which also called itself the love generation and protested against the established social norms with the slogan Make love, not war . These demands for free love encountered simultaneous liberalizations of social reality, in which subjects such as premarital intercourse , wild marriages , homosexuality etc. were increasingly removed from the taboo . The spread of the birth control pill and movements like “ flower power ” contributed to the establishment of many ideas of free love in society.

Examples of communes that propagated free love or were: Commune I , AAO ( Muehl-Kommune ), ZEGG , Tamera .


An open relationship includes free sexuality, but not free love in an emotional sense.

In contrast, the polyamory movement today forms a kind of subculture that emphasizes the importance of communication and consent between all those involved.

The relationship anarchy goes even further and rejects the usual norms of partnerships in principle, but unlike free love also includes long-lasting relationships and relationships without sexuality.


Individual evidence

  1. David S. D'Amato: Free Love: Victoria Woodhull. Retrieved May 31, 2016 .
  2. a b Free Speech and Headlight . In: Tiffany K. Wayne, Lois Banner (Ed.): Women's Rights in the United States. A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Issus, Events, and People . ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara, CA 2015, ISBN 978-1-61069-214-4 , pp. 98 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. Ernst Hanisch: Masculinity. Another 20th century story . Böhlau, Vienna / Cologne / Weimar 2005, ISBN 3-205-77314-4 , p. 193 ( limited preview in Google Book search).