by Dagmar Herzog
Basic Books, 2008
Review by Natalie Kelley-Wilson on Jul 28th 2009
This book is very straightforward in its purpose from the beginning. Early in the introduction the author reveals that the purpose of the book is to analyze the influence of the Religious Right on the way that sexuality is viewed and discussed in modern society. It also aims to provide a history of the steps that the Religious Right has taken to influence societal views of sexuality in the recent past. Each chapter works toward the main purpose of the book while focusing on different themes. Chapter one explores the way that Viagra and increased Internet pornography have affected the way that society relates to sex. This is especially apparent in the way society has pathologized sexual "dysfunction". Chapter two explores in detail how the Religious Right has insinuated its values into modern society by portraying sexuality which does not conform to certain values as being somehow inferior to sex sanctioned by God, i.e. sex between those who are married. Chapters three through five explore the different groups that have been used by the Religious Right in order to move forward its cause; homosexuals, adolescents and Aids victims. The final chapter provides a review of the efforts of the Religious Right to entice people with a promise of enhanced pleasure if one conforms to "God's will". It also compares American sexual values to those in Europe and mentions grassroots resistance to the current trends with hope for the future.
The intended audience is obviously an educated one. This includes liberal minded academics or simply people who question the Religious Right and its current views of sexuality. It would not be enjoyed by a person with very religious convictions, regardless as to his or her education. The author maintains a mostly objective attitude throughout though at times there are mild tones of sarcasm when discussing a situation that seems utterly unreasonable to one who does not find himself or herself convinced by the Religious Right's views on sexuality. The author provides thorough notes and references for each chapter, which enhances the legitimacy of the arguments and drives home the authenticity of some of the more disturbing references to recent history.
The book is very much an eye opener and provides a view into some little known aspects of history. While being very informative and at times disturbing the author managed to maintain an almost conversational tone throughout. The language of the book is simple and easy to comprehend, though with enough of an academic tone throughout to make the reader take the information seriously. I would highly recommend this book for classes on the psychology of sexuality and gender, history of sexuality, LGBT history and rights, or for any educated person who finds the topic of interest.
© 2009 Natalie Kelley-Wilson
Natalie Kelley-Wilson graduated from Allegheny College with a BA in English Lit. and from Clarion University with a Masters in Library Science. Currently she works at her town's public library and the county historical society. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org