In 1998, President Bill Clinton's confession that he had had an inappropriate relationship of a sexual nature with White House intern Monica Lewinsky started a national discussion about how a politician's personal moral standards might affect his or her ability to lead. Clinton's indiscretions also sparked public debate about sexual ethics in the United States. Some observers lament that Americans have largely abandoned conventional sexual values that discourage casual sex, premarital sex, promiscuity, and adultery. However, Clinton's promiscuity was lightly overlooked by politicians and after a matter of months, the promiscuity disappeared. Have sexual ethics in America always been like this? What were the sexual ethics in the nineteenth century and how were those ethics compared to the twentieth century concept of sexual ethics? The focal point of this research paper is to draw the disparity of sexual morality between the nineteenth century and the twentieth century as well as to describe the economic structures, norms, values, and social conditions that have led to such transformation in America's society. However, due to the limited allowance of space designed for this particular assignment, the context of it will be mostly and tersely presented chronologically strictly within the scope of history from the Victorian period to the contemporary society.
During the nineteenth century, the "nuclear family" structure dominated in American cities; with husbands working in factories and businesses to earn income and women remaining at home to raise children and attend to household duties. Most middle-class families attempted to adhere to the so-called Victorian sexual ideals of the day. Named after Queen Victoria, whose reign in England lasted from 1837 to 1901, Victorian values underscored the importance of male strength, female purity, and the restraint of sexual desires.