The Decade of Decadence #3: After Dinner Debauchery

The 70s Party

The radio is blastin'
Someone's knocking at the door
I'm lookin' at my girlfriend
She's passed out on the floor

I seen so many things
I ain't never seen before
Don't know what it is
I don't wanna see no more

- “Mama Told Me Not To Come” by Three Dog Night
Parties were fun in the eighties and nineties, and they’re still fun today. But I’ll wager the best parties since Caligula held court were in the 1970s…. and by “best” I mean dangerous and depraved. I wasn’t quite old enough to host my own wicked 70s orgy, but I wasn’t blind either. There can be no debate – the gloves came off in the seventies, and all hell broke loose.

Bottoms Up!

As I’ve said many times before, cultural change is gradual, and the boundaries that define a decade are superficial and arbitrary. The process began in the late sixties by 76 million Baby Boomers pounding on the door of the status quo. It reached its zenith in the seventies, and began to fizzle out in a cocaine fueled haze by the mid eighties.

Party Time

The images throughout this post are from this time period. Every one of them looks like it’s about ten seconds away from being a porno. Indeed, any adult party during the 70s was in danger of becoming a porno at any given moment. The men and women sit among their liquor bottles and cigarette ashes poised for the inevitable – alternative eroticism, experimentation, and promiscuity. Surveys during the 1970s reported that by age nineteen, four-fifths of all males and two-thirds of all females had had sex.

The Vintage Party

The movie The Ice Storm perfectly captures the “key party”, where married couples put keys in a communal pot, and party goers blindly selected keys to see who they were going home with. It was not at all uncommon. The feeling of emptiness and regret that was felt as a consequence is handled expertly in the film.

Celebrate Good Times

A lot of factors converged in the 70s to make the sexual revolution happen. The Perfect Storm consisted of (1) widespread drug use, (2) counter-culture values permeating the mainstream, (3) the birth control pill, (4) a total embrace of the sexual revolution by the media (5) a “live for today” mentality brought on by the threat of nuclear annihilation and Vietnam, (6) the women’s liberation movement, and, finally, (7) the majority of the American population hitting their sexual prime at the same time.

No wonder the parties were incredible! And by “incredible” I mean sweaty, drugged, and often diseased.

Drinks, Smokes and Cards


  1. i WAS old enough(just)and well, it just got gross...

  2. I was a kid during this time, but I remember that there was a murder in my town sometime in the late 70s. It turned out to be this guy who ran a sex club for swinging married couples. It was right on the main road through town, and looked like an abandoned house....little did anyone know what was going on there.

  3. Glad I missed it. To those who didn't, I have two questions:

    What film would the ménage à quatre have been watching?

    Why watch with the lights on?

  4. Every single one of those photos look like the opening scene to a 70's porn. Awesome.

  5. I was way too young for this. Somehow, I remember Mad Magazine having fun with this trope with a story of a kid in a bar begging his dad to come home because Mom was wild. "Men's clothes are all over the floor!"

  6. OK,

    I hate the fact that the 70s have now receded so far back that myth and reality are mingling into one. That should be reserved for the ol' west & the days of Robin Hood. NOT for a time you can still hear music from.

    So the question must be, how prevalent in society were these sex parties and how much is the glossy magazine rendition of events?

    My Grandmother was alive in the "roaring twenties" but was not a flapper. My Grandfather ran a lumber yard, NOT a speakeasy, and never made bathtub gin.

    I have an aunt who went to college in the 60s and never burned anything. She had long hair and loved Rock, but did not participate in ONE "love in."

    Despite what Hefner wrote about the new sexual generation, more of it was on paper than under sheets.

    Yes, we have all heard the stories, and we may even have friends of friends who knew someone who was there. However I also heard the story about the bloody hook left on the car door and I put more credence in THOSE stories. Guys, after all, DO like to talk.

    So yes, the parties may have happened, but NO they were not the main staple of the 1970s young married couples. They were the fun we always WISH we would have.

  7. Umm, Lacey, the Sexual Revolution did happen... it's not an urban myth.

  8. Fantastic. That first picture has to be from Northern Europe - West Germany, I'd guess. The people and especially the hair scream early 70s. BTW, German hotels in the mid 90s were still showing old 70s German porn, and every interior looked just like these.

  9. I agree with Robert. I'm pretty sure a lot of these images are either Northern Europe / Scandinavia. (Which, incidentally is where a lot of that great 70's porn came form.)

  10. What's with the bowls of fruit? I'm STILL trying to figure that out.

  11. Yes Gilligan,

    the sexual revolution happened, but my point is, "was it more of Hefner's revolution or the one you posted in Lady's Home Journal?"

    Has the 70s receded so far in time that accept "The Last Married Couple in America" (George Segal, Natalie Wood) as a documentary, and not a romantic comedy.

    Or were things more like "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice"?

    The 60s are hopelessly lost in the baby boomer's fog of idealism. There is still hope for some reality about the 70s.

  12. Swinging still goes on today. And in the U.K., dogging is also still going on.

  13. I've heard that "key parties" as depicted in The Ice Storm (i.e. random partner swapping) were actually an urban legend, akin to today's panics over "rainbow parties." What the swing culture meant by key parties were parties in which you as a couple had to be approved, as in, given a key to the club.

  14. Brilliant use of Euro porn!!