cover image What Wild Ecstasy: The Rise and Fall of the Sexual Revolution

What Wild Ecstasy: The Rise and Fall of the Sexual Revolution

John Heidenry. Simon & Schuster, $26 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-684-81037-9

Exhausting, colorful, by turns tedious and entertaining, this breezy popular history of American sexual behavior from the Kinsey Report to the AIDS epidemic bears a message spelled out on the last page: ""Sex is morally neutral. No one sexual group has any claim to the moral high ground, nor has it any business regulating the consensual adult sexual behavior of any other group."" To former Penthouse Forum editor Heidenry (Theirs Was the Kingdom), the sexual liberation of the 1960s and '70s is part of a ""permanent sexual revolution"" destined to sweep the globe. Battle-scarred veterans of the porn wars--Larry Flynt, Maurice Girodias, Al Goldstein, Ralph Ginzburg--as well as sexologists such as John Money, Masters and Johnson and Shere Hite are the prime movers in a chronicle that disconcertingly gives equal weight to magazine pornography, swingers' clubs, flesh films and sexual minorities, as if all these phenomena were part of a great sexual awakening. This is a highly informative survey nonetheless, filled with revealing intimate profiles (of, among others, Germaine Greer, Gay Talese and Hugh Hefner) and notable for its strong opposition to homophobia and its fair-minded analysis of gay and lesbian issues. (Apr.)