Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution
Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution

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Janis Joplin and the Sexual Revolution

9 ‘One of the guys’

Caught in the difficult position of female rock icon, Joplin appears to have reacted by trying to fit into the masculinised environment by attempting to be ‘one of the guys’: sexual promiscuity, swearing, drinking to excess, and taking drugs.

Activity 5

Timing: Allow approximately 15 minutes

Listen to this clip of an interviewer challenging Joplin about her sexual activity and not hiring other women to be in her bands. Please be warned that there is some swearing in this clip so carefully choose where you watch it so as not to cause offence to others.

How does Joplin respond?

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2 Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (2018)
Skip transcript: Video 2 Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (2018)

Transcript: Video 2 Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (2018)

Interviewer
It seems to bother a lot of women's lib people that you are kind of so upfront sexually.
Janis Joplin
I haven't been attacked by anyone yet. How can they attack me? I'm representing anything they say they want. It's sort of like you are what you settle for. Do you know what I mean? And you know, if they settle for being somebody's dishwasher, that's their own ******* problem. If you don't settle for that and you keep fighting, then you will end up anything you want to be. I was just doing what I wanted to and what feels right and not settling for ********, and it worked. How can they be mad at that?
Interviewer
One girl I know said, well, how come she doesn't have any women in any of her groups?
Janis Joplin
You show me a good drummer, and I'll hire one. Show me a good chick-- besides that, I don't want any chicks on the road with me.
Interviewer
You don't?
Janis Joplin
I got enough competition, man. No. I like to be around men.
[LAUGHTER]
End transcript: Video 2 Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (2018)
Video 2 Janis Joplin: Little Girl Blue (2018)
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Discussion

The interviewer challenges Joplin that some people – who he refers to as ‘Women’s Lib People’ – are bothered that she is so up-front sexually. She responds by demanding ‘How can they attack me […] I’m just representing everything they want’. When he then challenges her that one woman has asked why she doesn’t have any women in any of her groups, she first responds astutely with ‘you show me a good drummer and I’ll hire one’, very possibly alluding to the scarcity of female drummers. Then she appears to become more flippant when she claims, ‘why would I want a chick on the road with me […] I’ve got enough competition […] I like to be around men’. Could this actually mask insecurity?

While promising peace and love, the sexual revolution and the permissive society were not without their dangerous consequences. As Lucy O’Brien has noted:

In 1967, 50,000 young people [other sources state up to 100,000] passed through San Francisco, taking advantage of the free food and free housing provided by the Council for the Summer of Love. ‘Free’ became a buzzword, while love, sex, and peace seemed limitless. Haight, however, attracted not only ‘free lovers’ but hustlers, losers, and unhappy rejects seeking solace in drugs. With new psychedelic highs like STP giving people a three-day trip to hell, San Francisco General Hospital was treating 750 bad trips a month. The rate of venereal disease went up six-fold in one year. Then heroin invaded a sub-culture that was psychologically defenceless against it, because being cool was being high.

(O’Brien, 2012, p. 89)
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