What Wild Ecstasy

Overview

In many respects, the Sexual Revolution was the catalyst that set in motion social life as we know it at the end of the twentieth century. Yet many of us have difficulty remembering - or never knew - just when and where the first shots were fired, how the battle was waged, and who fought on its front lines. In this first popular history of the turbulent last three decades of American sexual culture, journalist John Heidenry completes our sexual education. His startling you-are-there account takes us behind the ...
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Overview

In many respects, the Sexual Revolution was the catalyst that set in motion social life as we know it at the end of the twentieth century. Yet many of us have difficulty remembering - or never knew - just when and where the first shots were fired, how the battle was waged, and who fought on its front lines. In this first popular history of the turbulent last three decades of American sexual culture, journalist John Heidenry completes our sexual education. His startling you-are-there account takes us behind the closed doors of clubs and courtrooms, research labs and bedrooms, to find out who did what to whom - and how, when, where, and why - in the wide world of human sexuality. In cinematic style, the narrative jump-cuts dramatically between story lines, covering a dazzling array of people, places, and events - both little-known and headline-making - as Heidenry expertly navigates the currents of sexual manners and mores. We witness the coming of age of the science of sexology; the burgeoning of popular culture, in which magazines such as Screw and films such as Deep Throat won fans and fanned controversies over freedom of expression; the movement for the rights of gay men, lesbians, and other sexual minorities; and the effect of all these innovations and upheavals on the general public, which gained a new sexual awareness even as it lost its consensus on premarital sex, abortion, and virtually every other sex-related issue. All in all, it was a cultural earthquake whose aftertremors can still be felt - in science, the arts, business, media, and the day-to-day lives of ordinary mortals, for whom sex is, in Heidenry's phrase, "the poor woman's or poor man's grand opera." Now, at last, a watershed era has found a writer who does justice to its impact and its aftermath.

From the former editor of Penthouse Forum comes a landmark history of the turbulent last three decades of sexual culture--a startling you-are-there portrait of America in upheaval in every aspect of public and private erotic life. 416 pp. Print ads. National author publicity. 3-city tour. 35,000 print.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Exhausting, colorful, by turns tedious and entertaining, this breezy popular history of American sexual behavior from the Kinsey Report to the AIDS epidemic bears a message spelled out on the last page: "Sex is morally neutral. No one sexual group has any claim to the moral high ground, nor has it any business regulating the consensual adult sexual behavior of any other group." To former Penthouse Forum editor Heidenry (Theirs Was the Kingdom), the sexual liberation of the 1960s and '70s is part of a "permanent sexual revolution" destined to sweep the globe. Battle-scarred veterans of the porn wars-Larry Flynt, Maurice Girodias, Al Goldstein, Ralph Ginzburg-as well as sexologists such as John Money, Masters and Johnson and Shere Hite are the prime movers in a chronicle that disconcertingly gives equal weight to magazine pornography, swingers' clubs, flesh films and sexual minorities, as if all these phenomena were part of a great sexual awakening. This is a highly informative survey nonetheless, filled with revealing intimate profiles (of, among others, Germaine Greer, Gay Talese and Hugh Hefner) and notable for its strong opposition to homophobia and its fair-minded analysis of gay and lesbian issues. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This is an interesting, well-written account of an aspect of popular culture that still generates controversy-the so-called sexual revolution that began in the Sixties. Heidenry, former editor of Penthouse Forum, writes an entertaining account of the developments in the field of human sexuality from 1965 to the present. He discusses sex research, pornography, sexual minority groups, and contemporary sexual movements and their adherents and opponents. Readers will learn about the pill, abortion, Kinsey, Masters and Johnson, and Ted McIlvenna, as well as Annie Sprinkle, Bob Guccione, Hugh Hefner, Al Goldstein, and Larry Flynt. The author strives for balance in presenting the views of religious fundamentalists and both liberal and radical feminists, along with those who favor total sexual freedom. He also provides an extensive list of sources. At a time when the First Amendment and personal civil liberties are threatened, this timely book is highly recommended for all collections.-Barbara M. Bibel, Oakland P.L., Cal.
Kirkus Reviews
A detailed and engrossing history of the sexual revolution, though at points marred by an uneven understanding of the landscape.

Heidenry (Theirs Was the Kingdom, 1993), former editor of Penthouse Forum, chronicles some 30 years of our changing sexual culture—sexology and sex therapy; gay liberation; pornography and censorship; controversies over the female orgasm; swinging; sadomasochism, and much more. Heidenry has an eye for a good story, and there are plenty of stories here—including gossip about figures on the sexual landscape from author Gay Talese to porn star Annie Sprinkle to legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon. But Heidenry indulges in more than his share of wild exaggeration. He claims, for instance, that Andrea Dworkin and MacKinnon were, respectively, Marat and Robespierre "in the radical feminist Reign of Terror against men that was to wash over the country." Similarly absurd is his claim that in the '80s the sexual revolution "shut down altogether"; certainly there was and is conservative backlash, but the changes continue, and popular morality will never be the same again. Also, it is clear that Heidenry is an outsider—albeit generally sympathetic—to gay and feminist struggles; this leads him to some odd choices. He begins his gay liberation chapter, for instance, with a lengthy account of a transsexual's personal torment and eventual operation, even though he knows perfectly well (and states later) that transsexuals and gays have always been politically and socially separate, even at odds. Also, there is not always enough interpretation to lend shape to this rather sprawling narrative; at too many points he lets his anecdotes stand on their own, without speculating on their social significance.

Plenty of pleasurable encounters, though not always satisfying.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743241847
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 3/22/2002
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 1.01 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

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