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Women and the Sexual Revolution

by Linda Grant

Pub Date: May 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8021-1549-7
Publisher: Grove

 In her first book, British journalist Linda Grant has written a lively and anecdotally rich account of sexual revolutions past and present. Though flawed, it will be of interest to all who share her egalitarian commitment to the expression and pursuit of desire. Grant argues that, throughout history, there have been two types of sexually revolutionary impulses: the libertine, which sees sex as the pursuit of individual fulfillment, with an often Sadean disregard for society (or lovers), and the millenarian, which sees sexual liberation as a crucial, though not sufficient, part of a utopian vision of a freer, more humane world. Unfortunately, Grant's narrative is at times illogical and strays from historical context; one impulsive leap from St. Augustine to John Rock (the Catholic doctor who invented the oral contraceptive) in less than half a page typifies the chaos of her presentation. This erraticism partly stems from Grant's exuberant scope, which encompasses sexual radicalism from the 17th-century Ranters to Camille Paglia. Though dispirited by the continuing sexual violence against women, the disintegration of ecstatic '60s idealism into the suburban ``swinging'' of the '70s, and, far more amusingly, Madonna's cynical, market-driven postfeminism, Grant believes that we still have the creativity and the desire ``to create an ethical society in which we would act out the passionate adventure of our lives.'' She declares the beginning of a new sexual revolution, which unlike any in the past, is about ``the mapping of the female sexual psyche by women and for women.'' Historians will, rightly, be skeptical of many of Grant's far- fetched comparisons and rash generalizations, but Sexing the Millennium does make a provocative, passionate, and entertaining contribution to current sexual debates.