All Talk, No Action

Was the sexual revolution really this dull?

The lesson here is that the interpretation of morality can be very complex. Unfortunately, Allyn's scholarly pursuit of the sexual revolution is not. Anyway, who needs the past example of Chuck Jr. when we have wasted carbon like Dr. Laura on the radio today spewing moral invectives and promoting the display of "bottled babies" in Planned Parenthood waiting rooms?

Just as important, Make Love, Not Waralso fails to explore the idea that some of the fun, the challenge of "will he, she, or it" has gone out of the sex game. Allyn doesn't ask if the tingle of something special, something dirty, something dangerous has become a casualty of the war against repressive morality. Instead he buries the relevance of these issues in the endnotes to the epilogue. He suggests that people who entertain this sort of thinking might find that "the sexual revolution was ultimately counterproductive," and he makes belated concessions to a 1999 remark by Village Voice executive editor Richard Goldstein: "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 unselfconsciously."

Make Love, Not War is nostalgic at best, obnoxiously clinical at worst. As long as Allyn sticks to his constructs and discourse, the book is precise and believable. But as soon as he tries to make sense of his theories, the result is reminiscent of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's 1964 flaccid attempt to intelligently define the term hardcore pornography. "I'll know it when I see it," Stewart said. Like Allyn's book, that goes a long way to explain nothing.

Make Love, Not War: The sexual revolution, an unfettered history by david allyn; little brown & co. 432 pages. $26.95 hardcover.

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