A whirlwind tour of the Sexual Revolution
in America, Make Love, Not War
grew from the author's fascination with a bygone period of rebellion and experimentation whose effects linger throughout the culture. Born in 1969, David Allyn remembers "growing up with the vague sense of having missed something magical and mysterious. I remember the adolescent's agony of realizing that my parents and teachers had witnessed extraordinary social transformations, the likes of which we might never see again." Allyn's zest for his subject, and his dewy-eyed admiration of the sexual pioneers of the '60s and '70s, make him a pleasure to read, although the topic may be too large for a book of this size. There is little space to put subjects like public nudity, the demise of censorship, and the challenge to miscegenation laws into historical context. The author's more detailed discussions fare better, and he offers engaging new source material--in many cases from his own interviews--on open marriage, the joys of the Pill, gay liberation, and the sexual double standard. Although an advocate for Sexual Freedom
, Allyn notes the paradox that "perhaps, in the end, shining the light of liberation into every dark corner of daily life has made it more difficult to indulge in some sexual pleasures spontaneously and unself-consciously." We may now feel an urge to define ourselves sexually at a young age, he argues, missing out on the thrill of the forbidden, and the chance to just fool around. --Regina Marler
From Publishers Weekly
Successfully treading the fine line between a serious chronicle and sensationalism in his account of the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s and '70s in the U.S., Princeton historian Allyn mixes a smooth narrative of events (e.g., the legalization of Birth Control
, abortion and interracial marriage), the famous (Hugh Hefner, Masters and Johnson) and not so famous (Jeff Poland of the Sexual Freedom League), with occasional analytic excursions into dramatic changes in society and individual lives. The book ranges widely, from Helen Gurley Brown's packaging of sexual liberalism in Sex and the Single Girl to novels promoting sexual utopias (i.e., The Harrad Experiment), the decline of the college policy of in loco parentis, the uses of sexual liberation by suburban swingers and political radicals like the Weathermen, and the commercialization of sex. Based on interviews with participants in these activities (including such figures as Barney Rosset, Rita Mae Brown and Andrea Dworkin, as well as ordinary people), and materials from the period, Allyn ascribes full credit to feminism and gay liberation for social changes that touched almost all Americans. Readers who lived through these heady events will appreciate his fresh perspective, while those of his generation (he was born in 1969) may be amazed to learn, for example, that Birth Control was illegal in many states as late as 1965. Allyn's broad sweep occasionally gives short shrift to historical background in areas like Birth Control or obscenity in literature. And he falters badly in his final chapter, virtually ignoring the feminist defense of Sexual Freedom and putting too much emphasis on the coalition of antipornography feminists and the religious right in his recounting of the decline of sexual liberation. Overall, though, Allyn's work is as exuberant and expansive as the movement he observes. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Allyn, a writer and Harvard-trained historian, presents here a detailed analysis of the 20th-century Sexual Revolution, beginning with the publication of Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl (1962). Drawing from documents and interviews with diverse individuals such as Andrea Dworkin, Larry Flynt, Camille Paglia, and Gloria Steinem, Allyn examines acceptance of Birth Control
, greater Sexual Freedom
for women and men, experimentation in nontraditional relationships, the decriminalization of homosexuality and interracial relationships, the beginnings of the gay rights movement, and the relaxation of restrictions on pornography. Even intellectuals, judges, and religious leaders who had rejected previous attempts to regulate personal behavior, Allyn argues, encouraged these changes. But the Sexual Revolution was cut short by the economic downturn of the early 1970s and the rise of the Religious Right. In the end, although it opened new doors on behavior, it was incomplete in changing American attitudes to sex. Particularly interesting are the stories Allyn collects of ordinary people who participated in mate swapping and swinging. Detailed and well written, this is highly recommended for all libraries.
-Stephen L. Hupp, Urbana Univ. Libs. OH
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This once-over of the fabled Sexual Revolution
isn't bad, considering that Allyn is a mere baby-boomer's brat, "born in 1969." Unlike many of his subject's college-student participants, he did his homework, as 60-plus pages of notes, bibliography, and resources attest. He devotes 20 fact-and-testimony-crammed chapters to 20 aspects of libidinal liberation. He starts with the acknowledgment of female sexuality sparked by Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl
(1962); proceeds through such topics as the pill, the overthrow of miscegenation laws, gay liberation, the sexualized ideologies of Norman O. Brown and Herbert Marcuse, and group sex; and, in the twentieth chapter, reviews 1973, the year of Pat and Bill Loud's televised trip to divorce court, the Roe v. Wade
decision legalizing abortion, and Erica Jong's right-to-orgasm novel-cum-tract Fear of Flying
. A last chapter sketches the '80s counterrevolution of antipornography crusades, sexual abuse hysteria, and AIDS. Allyn eschews analysis and omits fine points but still produces a first-rate primer on its subject. Ray Olson
From Kirkus Reviews
A report of the changing values that came about when the amoral adolescent culture of the 60s brought the so-called Sexual Revolution to America. Allyn (History/Princeton) has interviewed many leading lights of the time (Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, Gloria Steinem) and consulted radical writings of the era that often vilified monogamy in the name of a drug culture that sought to shock the middle classes. The movement attacked the double standard of Sexual Behavior
that separated men and women and reaped a whirlwind. Backed by the notorous Kinsey Report, much of the Sexual Revolution was media-driven and not followed by the majority (more than 70 percent of college students cited by a survey in the book were against coed dorms because they invaded privacy). Television, radio, newspapers, and magazines gave space to the demonstrations, sit-ins, and parades. Draft dodging, considered a cowardly disgrace during WWII, became a badge of honor; the Vietnam era, a time for cosseted students to make love, not war. Millions of teenagers, according to Allyn, rejected the moral standards of their parents to indulge in promiscuity and group sex. Penicillin, condoms, and the pill insulated their users from many of the consequences of free sexual activity. Meantime, the success of the civil-rights movement gave birth to unending rights demonstrations aided by the ACLU in broad interpretations of the First Amendment: workers rights, womens liberation, rights for Chicanos, homosexuals, and abortion seekers. Allyn draws few moral conclusions from these developmentsexcept to remark that the religious right, in its attempt to maintain ethical standards, was opposing progress. Allyn displays no such squeamishness, however, in detailing clinical accounts of liberated sex. Readers should have a strong stomach, or a barf bag. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
"...an excellent historical overview...thoughtful blend of ideas and stories...graceful writing that makes it a pleasure to read..." -- The Dallas Morning News, 5/14/00
"...offers a very readable and intelligent analysis of an often oversimplified era..." -- US Weekly, 4/3/00
"...offers marvelous reminders of how zany homophobia was in its glory days..." -- Out, 4/2000
"...provides a useful and readable narrative uncontaminated by heavy postmodern conceptual folderol...Allyn fascinatingly integrates hitherto unconnected figures such as the patrician Estelle Griswold, who struggled through ever higher courts to legalize Planned Parenthood in Connecticut, and the 23-year-old Jefferson Poland, who founded the League of Sexual Freedom and had a national impact on the development of the hippie, free speech and nudist movements...Allyn...instructs us in the potent forces that have become the contemporary basis of such extraordinary surprises in human sexuality." -- New York Times Book Review, 3/19/00
About the Author
David Allyn has a Ph.D from Harvard and teaches history at Princeton University.