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Here are two rather different approaches to exploring contemporary sexual practices. In America Unzipped, journalist Alexander travels the country meeting perfectly ordinary people who sell sex toys, create amateur porn, or immerse themselves in bondage or fetish cultures. Along the way, he takes a job at a sex superstore in Tempe, AZ; accompanies a Passion Parties consultant to house parties in Shawnee, KS; and (in a particularly explicit chapter that may disturb some readers) spends a day observing BDSM porn videos being created in San Francisco. Alexander notes the uneasy but possibly symbiotic coexistence of social/religious conservatism and sexual adventurousness, which both nurture their communities by self-defining as countercultural. Though himself a sex columnist (for MSNBC's "Sexploration"), Alexander identifies as "vanilla" and seems initially nonplussed at so much sex of such a kinky variety. His narrative persona may comfort some readers and annoy others, but his willingness to go where his research leads him (short of participation) is to be admired regardless.
Sociologist Bogel's is a qualitative, interview-based study of the sexual experiences of undergrads and recent alumni of two colleges. It contrasts the boy-asks-girl-out "dating script," once a mainstay of the collegiate social scene but now relegated to high school and adulthood, with the now-dominant practice of "hooking up" in which people in group settings such as bars and parties pair off for no-strings-attached experiences varying from kissing to intercourse. Bogle notes that hooking up benefits those interested primarily in immediate sexual gratification and not those looking for a sustainedrelationship. She concludes that despite many changes from the dating era to the hooking-up era, including increased sexual freedom for women, a double standard benefiting men continues to prevail. Contrasting with Alexander's informal findings, Bogle also notes that sexual activity on campus is less rampant and promiscuous than many observers (including college students) presume. So is everyone else really doing it, and how and with whom? We still don't know, but we know more than we did before. Both books are recommended; Bogle's is of greater interest in academic settings and Alexander's for tolerant general audiences. [For Alexander, see Prepub Alert, LJ9/15/07.]
—Janet Ingraham Dwyer
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Eye-openingly smart . . . Picking up where Sallie Tisdale’s Talk Dirty to Me left off in the ’90s, Brian Alexander’s America Unzipped appreciatively unpacks our culture’s last remaining sexual taboos. (Apparently, we’ve still got a few!)”
—Genevieve Field, cofounder of Nerve.com
“Alexander has written a book that reflects our next sexual revolution and goes behind the scenes to put a human face on this most recent development in our journey toward sexual enlightenment.”
—Barbara Keesling, Ph.D., author of The Good Girls’ Guide to Bad Girl Sex and Sexual Healing
“Entertaining, funny, shocking, smart, provocative, and extremely thoughtful . . . Alexander gains entry into some of the most bizarre worlds—think Alice in Wonderland meets Dante’s ‘Inferno’—and takes us along for the ride.”
—Candida Royalle, erotic film director and author of How to Tell a Naked Man What to Do
“With humor and curiosity, Alexander creates a powerful and entertaining look at what is really going on in the American bedroom—and sex club and adult store and even church—and demands we think about how to move ahead to create a sexually healthier society."
—Eli Coleman, Ph.D., editor of the International Journal of Sexual Health
“A clearheaded and open-minded look at the sexual revolution’s final stage.”
"A swift, smooth, contemplative and frequently hilarious travelogue through America's surprisingly mainstream nether regions."
—Arthur Salm, Books Editor, San Diego Union-Tribune
“[Alexander’s] voice is sensible, humorous and largely unbiased, even when he is aghast.”
“Navigating each episode with both humor and reflection, Alexander see exhilarating liberation but also a kind of ‘kitschy banality’: Where’s the excitement when our thrills are no longer taboo?”
“Scintillating…The author's thoughtful observations on the need for contact at all costs in an increasingly virtual society ring true.” —The Washington Post
“For anyone curious about the state of sexuality in America, this smart, intriguing tour will scratch your (intellectual) itch.” —Publishers Weekly
“Engaging….The point Alexander…drive[s] home is that sexual repression and explosions of sexual ‘deviance’ need each other to exist, and tend to flourish in society simultaneously. While adult sex shops are undergoing a Costco-style corporate homogenization in order to better seduce mainstream suburbia, right-wing social policies are ostensibly trying to stuff the post-Goldwater sexual revolution back into its girdle.” —San Diego Union-Tribune
"Alexander himself is at least as interesting as the people he observed and interviewed...America Unzipped is entertaining. Alexander has a gift for narrative, and he' s not afraid to put himself in the story."
From the Hardcover edition.
Introduction: What Have I Been Missing? 1
Chapter 1 The Sex Mogul of Hillsborough, North Carolina: I Explore Phil Harvey's Empire 15
Chapter 2 What Would Jesus Do?: I Say Hallelujah as Christians Kiss the Missionary Position Good-bye 43
Chapter 3 The Gonzo, Vibrating, Futurotic Pleasure Dome: I Go to Work in a Sex Xanadu 76
Chapter 4 From the Bedroom to the Bank: I Caddy for a Sex Toy Sales Titan 115
Chapter 5 You're a Naughty Daddy: I Discover That Virtual Sex Isn't Always Virtual 155
Chapter 6 Beat Me, Shock Me, Call Me Artist: I Watch Porn Artistes Try to Make Sex Avant-Garde 188
Chapter 7 Apple Pie Days, Latex Nights: I Learn the Ropes at a Fetish Convention 230
Chapter 8 Playing with Fire: I Dress Up, but at a Sex Club, Clothes Do Not Make the Man 262
Chapter 9 America, Unzipped 290
Posted January 1, 2012
No text was provided for this review.
Posted January 11, 2010
No text was provided for this review.