SEX LIVES by Mark Baker


A Sexual Self-Portrait of America
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 One hundred confidential reports on the sexual experience in America--no more thrilling a tale than one would expect--by the author of That's How Men Are (1991), Women (1989), and Cops (1985). This is the message: as profoundly as sex is flaunted and promoted in the American culture and media, ordinary citizens aren't enjoying it that much, or even that often. Baker's interview subjects, baby-boomers for the most part, express little more than weariness as they rake through memories of their parents' chilly twin beds, of the salutary effect of the near-naked women in the movie Goldfinger, of terrifying struggles in the backseats of cars, and the pain and embarrassment suffered whether one ``did it'' as a teenager or not. Once past adolescence, many of this generation suffered performance anxiety as they tried to accommodate to the idea of free love; struggled to emulate the media's sexual ideals; got pregnant in spite of birth control; and married and divorced before they knew what hit them. Reeling from sessions in Plato's Retreat, massage parlors, gay bars, and abortion clinics, only to run up against single parenthood, middle-aged dating, and AIDS, these veterans feel lucky to have energy left over for affection, let alone sex. Certainly, much of the generally weary, regretful tone here derives from the subjects' age, and one wonders whether a younger generation's views on such issues as condoms in schools, the effect of AIDS on young relationships, and the post-boomers' expectations for marriage and family life might have added an interesting extra dimension. Though the brief chapter on alternative sex (fetishism, S&M, transvestism, etc.) may spark some interest, there's little else here that's new or surprising. No more insightful than a heart-to-heart in a cappuccino commercial: Baker's subjects often parrot what the media tells them about themselves even as they live the contradictions in its message.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1994
ISBN: 0-671-70253-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1993


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