Customer Reviews of What Wild Ecstasy: The Rise and Fall of the Sexual Revolution
a fun to read, fully loaded, history book
What Wild Ecstasy; the rise and fall of the sexual revolution is a vast social survey covering the myriad ways in which sexuality was influenced by scientific, commercial, legal, creative and spiritual changes between the years 1965 and 1996. Author John Heidenry attempts to lead readers to "read more broadly and less cynically in the field of sexual literature, to see sexual issues not merely in terms of sexual politics or the inanities of pop-sex manuals, to judge sensationalist media treatment of AIDS, child pornography, and sexual abuse in a clearer light, and to regard human sexuality on all its misery and grandeur as every bit as important as foreign policy, celebrity scandals, or professional sports". Heidenry accomplishes what he attempts to, despite some prejudices and strong opinions.
The book, written in slick magazine style, gives glossy summations of the era's most notorious characters and events, interweaving longer life stories into a loose chronological structure based on the Human Sexual response Cycle. Sections are, in turn, called: desire, excitement, plateau, orgasm, and resolution. This format insinuates that the revolution chronicled is perhaps one of a larger set of social "orgasms", a crest of one wave before the next begins. In fact, Heidenry believes that the sexual revolution beginning in the 1960s is the third sexual revolution, the first occurring in Germany and Austria in the beginning of the century and the second overlapped and occurred in America with women breaking from traditional roles, Margaret Sanger, and culminating in the Kinsey reports. The fourth sexual revolution, the one we are a part of now, he predicts as a global transition based on technology whereby Western ideals of sexual equality are inducted into even the most remote of societies.
I have bought this book for several of my friends who have an interest in sexuality because it is readily accessible and full of interesting behind the scenes information while still grasping the complexity of the era and illustrating how the sectors interacted. Additionally I enjoyed the fact that his tone did not negate sexuality and in fact presented it in a very postive light.
SEXUAL REVOLUTION BOOK PROVIDES VALUABLE INFORMATION
John Heidenry, a former Penthouse Forum editor, has written one of the very few detailed accounts of the Sexual Revolution of the 1960's and 1970's. He describes the preliminary period of the 1950's and before leading into the Sexual Revolution, and also describes the depressing reaction to the sexual revolution which led to very successful efforts in the 1980's and 1990's to stamp it out so it would never return again.
The only other book which can come close to matching Heidenry's tome is MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR (2000) by Harvard scholar David Allyn (no relation to me). Heidenry was a major player in the heady days when PLAYBOY imitators such as HUSTLER and PENTHOUSE (which employed Heidenry as an editor of the PENTHOUSE FORUM) were big publishing success stories. Perhaps this is why one of the strongest offerings of his book are detailed accounts of the various sex enthusiast publishing efforts and empires, and description of such key movers and shakers as Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt.
The war on the Sexual Revolution and its successful if unethical tactics are described by John Heidenry in detail, and are the best part of his very well written book. Former Avco-Embassy Films publicist John Leo seems, according to Heidenry, to have single handedly invented the Herpes scare of the early 1980's, trumpeted forth from the pages of the secular publishing giant, TIME Magazine, and also from the pages of the Catholic Church affiliated COMMONWEAL. Leo penned articles in the early 80's for both publications ballyhooing the Herpes scare as the worst disease to afflict humankind since the Black Plague of the the Middle Ages, and seems to have done it "without a shread of epidemiological evidence." Leo is labeled one of the "principal anti-sex gurus," another of whom included George Leonard, the former West Coast Editor of LOOK Magazine. Leonard had once suggested in LOOK that sexual intercourse could and would be shown on network television, but went on, in 1982, to renounce his advocacy of the Sexual Revolution in his book titled THE END OF SEX. According to author Heidenry, Leonard had a lot of company in the world of pro-sex turned anti-sex journalists. The Sexual Revolution, he states, was largely assassinated by turn-coat media professionals.
Heidenry concludes that sexual activity continues in the world of human beings, even though the Sexual Revolution died. "As survey after survey affirms, people are having the same amount of sex. The human sex drive appears to be a constant factor in history. Most kinds and amounts of sex people are having appears to be increasing, though some forms of high risk behavior such as one night stands and wife swapping ("swinging") became, after the fall of the Sexual Revolution, highly unfashionable."
The Sexual Revolution was an important cultural event in American and world history. Very little has been written about it recently, and John Heidenry's excellent book is a wonderful exception. Every person who desires to understand the subject of sexual relations should obtain and read this book.
I found that once I picked this book up, I could not put it down. I'm 51, graduated from high school in 1967, and lived through all of the time period this book covers. I remember Linda Lovelace and Deep Throat, but not until I read this book did I have a sense of what it meant. I remember Hustler and Larry Flynt, I remember much of this stuff. What I don't remember, and never knew, was the Hellfire Club, Marco Vassi, and even Annie Sprinkle. ......When I was finished I asked myself, "Where WAS I during all of this."
A great book on a great but terribly misunderstood subject. From the ridiculous (and almost repugnant) to the sublime...a really interesting survey of the creative force in life as it was unleashed in the recent past. Recommended.
Not for the squeamish or closed-minded
This well-researched, well-written and overall stunningly crafted book will knock any preconceptions clear out of your head if you aren't careful. Via a very scholarly look at the role of sex in American (mostly) culture, Heidenry has crafted an eminently readable history book that reveals not just the tawdry and touching nitty-gritty, not just the overarching sociological trends, but a deep and multifaceted understanding of how we see sex.
People coming to this book with their opinions pre-formed will not enjoy this book. As a porn advocate, it very nearly lost me when it told me the incredibly ugly story of Linda Lovelace in great detail. But people who cling to any conservative values about what sex is and isn't may find they've upset the applecart as well. That's the kind of book this is: committed to telling all the different angles to give the fullest possible picture.
Very thorough and very intelligent. Five Stars.