Sex in Crisis: New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics

Overview

The Religious Right has fractured, the pundits tell us, and its power is waning. Is it true – have evangelical Christians lost their political clout? When the subject is sex, the answer is definitively no.

Only three decades after the legalization of abortion, the broad gains of the feminist movement, and the emergence of the gay rights movement, Americans appear to be doing the time warp again. It’s 1950s redux. Politicians—including many Democrats—insist that abstinence is the...

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Overview

The Religious Right has fractured, the pundits tell us, and its power is waning. Is it true – have evangelical Christians lost their political clout? When the subject is sex, the answer is definitively no.

Only three decades after the legalization of abortion, the broad gains of the feminist movement, and the emergence of the gay rights movement, Americans appear to be doing the time warp again. It’s 1950s redux. Politicians—including many Democrats—insist that abstinence is the only acceptable form of birth control. Fully fifty percent of American high schools teach a “sex education” curriculum that includes deceptive information about the prevalence of STDs and the failure rates of condoms. Students are taught that homosexuality is curable, and that premarital sex ruins future marital happiness. Afraid of sounding godless, American liberals have failed to challenge these retrograde orthodoxies.

The truth is Americans have not become anti-sex, but they have become increasingly anxious about sex—not least due to the stratagems of the Religious Right. There has been a war on sex in America—a war conservative evangelicals have in large part already won.

How did the Religious Right score so many successes? Historian Dagmar Herzog argues that conservative evangelicals appropriated the lessons of the first sexual revolution far more effectively than liberals. With the support of a multimillion-dollar Christian sex industry, evangelicals crafted an astonishingly graphic and effective pitch for the pleasures of “hot monogamy”—for married, heterosexual couples only. This potent message enabled them to win elections and seduce souls, with disastrous political consequences.

Fierce, witty, and brilliant, Sex in Crisis challenges America’s culture of sexual dysfunction and calls for a more sophisticated national conversation about the facts of life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Herzog (Sex after Fascism) confronts how the religious right has controlled "the national conversation about sex," dictating everything from social attitudes to legislation and HIV prevention funding. "[Their] aim is to infuse with shame all sexual expression and experience outside of heterosexual marriage," she asserts, examining the writings of evangelical sex and marriage experts whose "brand of Christian porn" exalts married, monogamous sex while deploring homosexuality, pre- and extra-marital sex, pornography, masturbation and even idle fantasy. Herzog examines the global effects of the religious right's influence on domestic sexual policies, detailing the shift from sex education in schools and the proliferation of billion-dollar abstinence-only programs to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, where an insistence on abstinence has been promoted abroad at the cost of billions of dollars in exchange for millions of lives that, she argues, might have been saved by at least an equal emphasis on condom use. This book is a disturbing, important and eloquent examination of one faith-cum-political movement's powerful-and pernicious-influence over human rights at home and abroad. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
How the Religious Right has co-opted the debate on American sexuality. The current anxiety Americans feel about sex emanates from a pernicious script promulgated by religious conservatives such as President Bush and evangelical Christians, argues Herzog (History/CUNY Graduate Center; Intimacy and Exclusion: Religious Politics in Pre-Revolutionary Baden, 2005, etc.). The discovery of Viagra in 1998 and the rise of Internet pornography have "caused confusion about the nature of desire." Both men and women seem less interested in sex overall, focusing on its perils rather than its joys, displaying a sense of inadequacy about their bodies and shame about pleasure. Where did the love go? Herzog dutifully reads and watches mainstream media, in which she finds "a deliberate promotion of paranoia" about sexuality: reports on the latest technology for spying on wayward spouses, disapproving analysis of "emotional infidelity," dire warnings about sexually transmitted diseases. This climate has been fostered by an ideological assault, led by evangelical authors such as Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker, that "play[s] on the imperfections and emotional confusion that so often accompany sex." The messages are ringing: anti-masturbation, pro-abstinence, anti-homosexuality. (Contrary to popular belief, the author notes, the Religious Right is pro-sex, as long as it's within the sanctions of marriage.) Herzog tracks the aggressive, increased federal funding for premarital abstinence programs, which focus on the "potential deadliness of sex," and the U.S. government's global export of abstinence and fidelity programs (at the expense of condom distribution) to countries dependent on American funding tofight HIV/AIDS. "Repression has been repackaged as promotion of mental health," she warns, and it threatens to undo many important achievements of the Sexual Revolution. Somewhat fevered in tone and eager to leap precipitously to conclusions, but Herzog champions essential moral concepts of self-determination and consent. Agent: Will Lippincott/Lippincott Massie McQuilkin
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465002146
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 6/30/2008
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Dagmar Herzog is Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author of two pioneering books, Intimacy and Exclusion and Sex after Fascism, as well as numerous scholarly articles on the history of human sexuality.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Anxiety Nation 1

Ch. 2 Soulgasm 31

Ch. 3 Trial and Error 61

Ch. 4 Saved from Sex 93

Ch. 5 Missionary Positions 127

Ch. 6 In Pursuit of Happiness 163

Acknowledgments 183

Notes 187

Index 233

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