Sexual Liberation or Sexual License?: The American Revolt Against Victorianism

Overview

Until roughly 1900, Americans agreed on stringent standards of sexual propriety that were rigorously enforced by a "conspiracy of silence" about sex. But the twentieth century brought the beginnings of mass culture, and with it dance halls, movies, advertising, bohemian rebels, and commercial operators who began to expand the boundaries of sexual display. The century-long struggle over these boundaries is the subject of Kevin White's rich account of American attitudes toward sex. Considering the record with the ...

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Overview

Until roughly 1900, Americans agreed on stringent standards of sexual propriety that were rigorously enforced by a "conspiracy of silence" about sex. But the twentieth century brought the beginnings of mass culture, and with it dance halls, movies, advertising, bohemian rebels, and commercial operators who began to expand the boundaries of sexual display. The century-long struggle over these boundaries is the subject of Kevin White's rich account of American attitudes toward sex. Considering the record with the practiced eye of a social historian, he chronicles the transformation in American life from Anthony Comstock to the "hootchie cootchie girls," from Margaret Sanger through Alfred Kinsey, the Beats, and the Playboy bunnies to gay liberation, Jerry Falwell, and Bill Clinton. Mr. White shows how the Progressive movement fought a rearguard action before the rise of the flapper in the 1920s swept Victorian traditions aside. In depression and war, Americans seemed to return to values of home and hearth, but soon the Kinsey Report and the rise of rock and youth culture turned a trickle into a tidal wave, sweeping aside the old sexual certainties in the 1960s. Since the mid-seventies, Mr. White observes, battle lines have been drawn around AIDS, date rape, pornography, and sexual escapades at the highest levels of government. In a lively and engaging narrative analysis, Sexual Liberation or Sexual License? explores this great and continuing cultural conflict in the full context of Americans ambiguous dialogue with their Victorian legacy.

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Editorial Reviews

CHOICE - A.O. Edmonds
Provocative and well written.
John C. Burnham
At last—an incisive and authoritative narrative history of sexuality in modern America.
The Washington Times - Colin Walters
Engaging.
William L. O'Neill
A brave and highly readable study that deserves the widest possible audience.
CHOICE - A. O. Edmonds
Provocative and well written.
The Washington Times
Engaging.
— Colin Walters
Choice
Provocative and well written.
— A.O. Edmonds
CHOICE
Provocative and well written.
— A.O. Edmonds
Washington Times
Engaging.
— Colin Walters
Colin Walters
Engaging.
Washington Times
A.O. Edmonds
Provocative and well written.
Choice
Kirkus Reviews
An unfortunately dull and banal history of American sexuality from the Victorian era to the dawn of the 21st century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566633062
  • Publisher: Dee, Ivan R. Publisher
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001
  • Series: American Ways Series
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin White has taught history and American studies at the Ohio State University and now teaches at the University of Sussex. He has also written The First Sexual Revolution.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Victorian America 3
2 Bohemia, the War, and Birth Control, 1910-1920 27
3 Flappers and Philosophers: The 1920s 54
4 From Depression to War 82
5 A Return to Victorianism? 105
6 The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s 134
7 "When the Hangover Strikes": Sexual Morality at the Turn of the Century 183
A Note on Sources 209
Index 221
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