In the United States, women were given an opportunity to participate in the labor market without the supervision of the husband. They could enter careers without having to be married, and they could purchase their own homes and furnish their own apartments. They were not only free to pursue educational endeavors — and their children received an education that could not depend on the mother’s household income — they were also free to enjoy leisure, even in their leisure. In the 1920s, women could take advantage of the new opportunities created by the Industrial Revolution by attending social gatherings and other recreational activities where men were out of the home and where women could socialize with other women, enjoy entertainment and engage in recreation as leisure. Petting parties were a way for these women to socialize, even if they were in the company of other women at the time. Petting parties were not about having sex or making love. Petting parties were a means of socializing and expressing one’s affection to a friend, relative or relative’s partner. These were also opportunities for women to find out more about themselves and what they liked.
There was a growing feeling in the 1920s and the ’30s that women should be able to explore their full sexual potential without the fear of unwanted pregnancy or child abuse. Many women, particularly the most popular, popularized and influential women of the 1920s and ’30s did not share this sense of openness toward sexuality. They made public professions of sexuality and a certain amount of sexual behavior, even though it did not necessarily reflect a true sense of love and open sexual expression that existed in society during this period. Many of these women were often accused of having a “woman problem” from being more sexual than their male counterparts. However, even though there were women who felt it was good for society if women were able to express their sexuality, women who openly expressed sex in public life were still viewed as socially undesirable. These women often faced social backlash — ostracism within their own communities as well as from their friends. In addition, these women faced legal and financial backlash if they were forced to divorce, marry, be a legal wife or mother — or were even caught having sex if found out — because of society’s disapproval.
A petting party, a time for socializing, fun with friends, and relaxation, usually took place during the days before a holiday, which could be a wedding, birthday party, or celebration. It may or may not have included women taking part in a party and drinking alcohol beforehand to celebrate a
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