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Sex in Crisis: The New Sexual Revolution and the Future of American Politics [Hardcover]

Dagmar Herzog

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Book Description

July 1 2008
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.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (July 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465002145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465002146
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 8.3 x 1.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,052,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

John Gagnon, Distinguished Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, The State University at Stony Brook, coauthor of "Sexual Conduct" and "The Social Organization of Sexuality""The religious right has repackaged its anti-sex messages in a secular wrapping to suit the changing cultural and social world over the last decades, but inside the box is the same old message, sexual abstinence and sexual ignorance for all, except in marriage. What is new is that if the sex you are having is not heterosexual, marital and serving God's purposes it is the source of mental and physical illness in addition to being sinful. Dagmar Herzog has carefully documented the ways in which the religious right has through distortion and falsehood taken over the language of sexual health and played upon the sexual fears of the American public and its politicians to invalidate all other forms of sexuality. This is an important book about the way in which the sexual conversation in the United States has been shanghaied to advance the religious and secular agendas of the far right."

About 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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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book: -Interesting Read May 29 2009
By David J. Roof - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an excellent book, -very interesting and illuminating.

It's not simply `against' the right or overly partisan. The book takes a critical look at left and right political policy. -Very critical of the Clinton administration.

It considers the new approach to sexuality on the right, which I think people on the right might find very valuable and insightful (if you can read outside a political orientation).

Some elements of the book are speculative (it's on sexuality) or you might not agree with the conclusions of the author, but it's a well documented and well researched book. It also deals with many emerging factors (i.e. the growth of internet porn, sexual pharmacology...). I opens many issues worth consideration in a new and illuminating light.
10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Please Be Objective Aug. 9 2008
By Leslie Bary - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Jeri Nevermind - actually I believe it is since abstinence only and other dishonest forms of sex education were instituted that the rate of unplanned pregnancies has risen so sharply. And part of actual sex education, as opposed to fearmongering and empty moralizing, would be to teach fathers responsibility, and women assertiveness (as opposed to obedience and "just saying no"). The very largest proportion of abortions, illegitimate children, etc. among my students are had by women from religious families, trained to obey men ("have sex with me!" "now abort the child, it is not convenient to me!" "but have this one, because God has told me you should!").
10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting in places but doesn't make the case Aug. 27 2008
By Alan A. Elsner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book has some interesting material but the author never manages to justify her overall argument: that the Christian right has changed the way Americans think about sex, making us all more anxious, more hypocritical and more dissatisfied.
I'm no supporter of the Christian right but not every ill in our society can be laid at their door and the author failed to persuade me of this. She begins with the claim that the invention of Viagra in the late 1990s and the sudden availability of Internet pornography fundamentally changed our understanding of sex. She states on page 10, without offering a scintilla of evidence, "Viagra changed how everyone thought about sex." It made every man even into old age a potential Lothario. Well, excuse me, I just don't buy it. Two pages later, Herzog is suddenly arguing the exact opposite -- that men in huge numbers had become bored with sex. The evidence quoted here is a few magazine articles.
That's basically the method throughout. You'll find here an enormous amount of footnotes -- Herzog has read everything and once an assertion appears in print, no matter where, it can be quoted and footnoted. But she never goes out and speaks to real people herself (or at least the book never includes their opinions). This is therefore an "academic" book for a popular audience. It falls between the stools -- not rigorous enough to be academic, not entertaining enough to be popular.
Herzog always seems to have both sides of the argument. Christian evangelicals now embrace sex but only within marriage. That doesn't seem wrong to me. What's her alternative? She never quite says.
I too oppose the waste of dollars on "abstinence only" sex education. It doesn't work. But that's the point. Far from changing the behavior of young people, or changing our societal attitudes toward sex in general, it's water off a duck's back. And now the political pendulum is swinging away from the Christian right as well as such policies.
It's true, as Herzog notes, that the Republicans spent years using homophobia to win elections. But what's the result? Public acceptance of gay marriage and gays in general has only risen.
The best chapter concerns the Bush administration's war against condoms in the international fight against HIV. There, she's on firmer ground. The United States has done enormous harm in the world with its damaging policy opposing the use of condoms to fight AIDS. As a result, people have died and societies set backward.
This book could have been a lot better without making extravagant claims. I suspect the publisher pushed Herozg to do so, thinking she could widen her audience beyond academic circles. But it's a bridge too far.
For more about me and my book Gates of Injustice: The Crisis in America's Prisons (Prentice Hall Paperback) go to [...]
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book. Nov. 16 2009
By Dr. C - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is an enlightening look at the effects on our lives of the moral tightening around topics of sexuality that comes from the powerful religious right.
6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars FOUND ALL HER HUGE ERRORS YET? July 30 2008
By Jeri Nevermind - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Herzog argues in this silly, poorly written book, that the religious right is going to take over and roll back the sexual revolution.

Yes, as everyone knows, the religious right controls television, Hollywood movies, CBS, NBC, ABC, the New York Times and all the universities.

No...wait...actually, the liberals control all these! So where have the puritans, laughed at on every sitcom, managed to grab control back? Um...nowhere, so it's difficult to see the point of the book.

She solemnly announces, "We are experiencing sex in crisis" (p 3). Then, on the same page, she disproves her theory by chattering happily about Viagra, which has meant even the very elderly can be promiscuous. Does this sound like sex in crisis?

The crisis continues in the next chapter where she talks about Evangelicals. Aiming her razor wit at the enemy, Herzog notes that, "Evangelicals incessantly...admit that they are drawn to the very things they say they despise" (p 39). I am shocked, shocked to hear that people are drawn to sin. Then, with relish, she relates every shred of evidence proving Evangelicals actually like sex and therefore are hypocrites.

By page 69, after pointless rambling, she relates the terrifying facts of the Evangelical Glen Eyrie project which was actually against gay rights and made an initiative to "Pressure politicians to commit to opposing any gay-friendly legislation" (p 69).

Christians staying by the same morals they've been teaching for 2,000 years? Let us all pause to take a few deep breaths.

Grimly, she continues with "Reports from Love in Action and similar ex-gay ministries routinely claim that reparative therapy...have a success rate of anywhere from 25 to 50 percent" (p 80). Herzog promptly exposes this nonsense by telling the story of Paulk, who claimed to be cured of homosexuality, but was later found in a gay bar.

Besides the incoherent writing and flawed logic, Herzog fails at the most basic level by not tackling the problems the sexual revolution has created.

She keeps pushing thorough sexual education as if it were a magical cure all. She's blind to the obvious: since we began sex education in our schools, the illegitimacy rate skyrocketed to around 40%, sexual diseases are so common Herpes medicines are standard commercials, and some 1,200,000 abortions occur every year.

Even in the UK, which has pushed one of the most clinical, pro-sex, pro-condom teaching given to children before they can read, sex education has been a catastrophic failure. After thirty years of intensive, intrusive sex ed, the UK has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and a soaring abortion rate.

Even the very left Alan Guttmacher Institute, a part of Planned Parenthood, shows fewer than 20 percent of all pregnancies nationwide end in abortion, 72 pregnancies end in abortion in New York for every 100 births. Funny, since New York practically throws condoms from you on every corner. So the most rigorous pro-contraception education has resorted in...why, the highest rate of abortion! Amazing.

These are common enough facts. So why won't Herzog acknowledge and discuss them?

Herzog refuses to admit that the sexual revolution has harmed people. And the people most harmed by all the collapsing marriages and freewheeling sex are the children. Children need a mother and father who will love and take care of them.

Children who live in single parent households are at huge risk for abuse compared to those children living with their biological parents. Statistically, these children will perform poorly in schools and are hugely at risk for drug and alcohol problems. Research shows they are TWENTY TIMES more likely to end up in prison, and at much, much greater risk of suicide and lifelong emotional problems than those children raised with their mother and father.

Herzog badly needs to read such books as "Abolition of Marriage" and "Fatherless America".

And it is the research--and massive, simply massive piles of it, well over a hundred thousand research studies in a variety of journals throughout the world, not to mention dozens of new books--that is so convincing. I am simply aghast that anyone who has even the smallest brush with it could believe differently, so I am forced to conclude Herzog avoided it like the plague.

The dividing line between the bright and the poorly educated right now in the US is marriage, as per "State of Our Unions 2010".

Only 10% of the Ivy league students have divorced parents, the rest are still living with their natural parents. And mind, we are talking here only about divorced parent, we are not even bothering to factor in illegitimate children.

Children raised in a single parent household end up with, on average, a lower IQ than children raised by their genetic parents. This trend is especially clear in boys. Research shows boys are more hurt than girl by being raised in a broken home.

Illegitimate children tend to have an even lower IQ than that.

And here is a really depressing finding: the children who have lived with a stepfather or stepmother do even worse than either the children of divorced or illegitimate children. I remember stumbling over this fact, and how upset I was. It became clear, as the thousands of studies on stepchildren rolled in, that they seemed to suffer more than any other group, which on the face it, seemed at first very odd.

Children raised by a single parent are much more likely to be emotionally disturbed (especially boys), and, alarmingly, this continues throughout their lives. No, they don't bounce back.

Children raised by a single parent graduate from both high school and college in much smaller numbers, and, once again, especially boys.

Children raised in a single parent household experience reading and school problems in much, much higher numbers.

Children raised in a single parent household are far less likely to take advanced classes.

Children raised in a single parent household show greatly increased odds of being having problems with drugs or alcohol.

Children raised in single parent households are much less likely to experience success in later jobs. Boys, especially.

Children raised in single parent household rarely qualify for gifted classes. And when they do, it is usually at a much lower level than those raised by their genetic parents.

Children raised in single households show a hugely increased chance of ending up in 'problem' kid classes or special ed classes. They are also twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school.

Children of single mothers cause nearly all the disturbances in school, especially boys.

Children raised in single parent households are twice as likely to be arrested, and comprise some 85% of the prison population.

Children raised by single mothers are twice likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems

Children of single mothers are twice as likely to drop out of high school.

A recent researcher, studying the data from the famous Terman study of gifted children, realized that, even among these gifted, well off children, the children whose parents had divorced were far less likely to be successful. And, strangely, they died five years earlier than those whose parents remained married.

The fact is we are simply ignoring the serious, terrible harm our culture is doing to young children.

We all have a right to live the lives we want to live, but we have no right to harm small children. And when we harm the vast majority of our children --today, only about 45% of our children grow up in intact homes--you can be sure we have caused severe damage to the future of this nation.

I would also like to point out that the research has been worldwide. We have studies from poor, rural countries, from Europe--all over. And they all say the same thing. May I repeat that? They all say the same thing. Only about 5% of the studies show any kind of encouraging result.

Some other good books on the subject include "The State of Our Unions 2010" which presents statistics showing marriage is disappearing among the poor in America, "Marriage and Caste in America" which also presents evidence on the subject, "Fatherless America", which talks about the research proving children raised in single parents households are harmed, and "The Abolition of Marriage", which has the best in-depth research on marriage, divorce, children, and single parenting.

At any rate, skip this silly book.
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