Sex and Morals at the Century's End
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 Roiphe weighs in on her generation's AIDS panic; unlike her often ill-reasoned 1992 screed on campus date-rape hysteria (The Morning After, 1993), this volume is witty and shrewdly observed. Noting that among drug-free heterosexuals AIDS has not spread as predicted, Roiphe asks: Why are straight young Americans so panicked, and why do safer-sex educators send them such hysterical messages? She convincingly argues that much of the alarm is not really about the disease at all, but about anxiety over sexual morality and the meaning of intimacy in a world with few limits; it's about the very American notion that irresponsibility and pleasure must have a price. She effectively shows, through examination of pop culture and the media, that even before AIDS, there was a sense that the sexual revolution's permissiveness was going to have some ominous outcome. Her examples of AIDS as a substitute for old-fashioned taboos are well chosen; she perceptively compares France's idealization of filmmaker Cyril Collard and his semi-autobiographical Savage Nights (about a bisexual Don Juan who, knowing he's HIV-positive, continues his promiscuity) with the total moral condemnation heaped on it by critics and the public in the US. Roiphe visits high schools in which kids condemn the girl who sleeps around for putting herself at risk; she notes that such judgments do not sound so different from 1950s anxieties about the class slut's ``bad reputation.'' Roiphe often brings the personal and political together in a single, telling detail; describing a visit with Beverly LaHaye, founder of the far-right Concerned Women for America, she notes that LaHaye speaks slowly, deliberately, ``perhaps hoping that if she talks slowly enough, the world might slow down with her.'' An insightful contribution to the national conversation on AIDS and sexuality--a conversation characterized too often by irrationality and unarticulated fears.

Pub Date: March 20th, 1997
ISBN: 0-316-75439-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1997


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