America's War On Sex: The Attack On Law, Lust and Liberty by Marty Klein

What aspects of sex are under assault in America? Who is behind these attacks? And what are the ramifications for the rights and atmosphere of America? These are some issues raised in Marty Klein's AMERICA'S WAR ON SEX, an exploration of the current movements to ban or limit sexuality in America.

According to Klein, the main culprits for this war are erotophobes ("those who fear and hate sexuality"), mainly represented by the religious right, the govermnent willing to pander to the religious right, and news media eager for salacious, conflict-driven stories. The targets in this war are everything: sex education, reproductive rights, television, the Internet, adult entertainment, even adult lifestyles. The techniques used on the war all involve fear and often blatant misinformation.

And the damage done isn't simply to pornographers or smut peddlers, Klein says, but to the rights of all Americans. He says that these attacks hurt children by giving them misinformation (such as abstinence-only programs supported by unverified exaggerations of the unreliability of condoms), remove Americans' right to choose what they buy or what they do, and move America further towards theocracies like Iran than towards the nation founded on each person's right to decide and act for themselves. This war also stifles public discussion, as fears of censorship and indecency lead to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and SCHIDLER'S LIST not being shown on network television since stations couldn't be sure they wouldn't be fined for indency.

The main strength of AMERICA'S WAR ON SEX is Klein's extensive support of his arguments. He documents and references numerous elements of this attack on sexuality, from the millions spent by the government on programs that don't work to the legal cases prosecuting people for exploring their sexuality legally. Klein tries to be neutral -- he's not promoting promiscuity, but rather people's right to pursue their sexuality -- but his outrage flows with his words.

I would have liked AMERICA'S WAR ON SEX more if Klein had provided more of a historical background to this war. He is so busy exploring the current battle that he provides little historical context for when this battle began or how it has been pursued to the current day. (An excellent exception: When discussing the Internet, he illustrated how the growth and attack of sexuality online mirrors that of many technologies.) Klein can quickly dismiss anything he disagrees without without support (like the Amber Alert system or the current sexual harassment laws), and he even adpots the "sympathetic story"technique, which he criticizes as emotional but meaningless support for porn addiction, to support his case of discrimination based on sexual lifestyle. And for all the details Kelin provides on the assaults on our rights, he provides few solutions, such as organizations fighting censorship or ways for voters to let the government know where they stand.

AMERICA'S WAR ON SEX is a frightening look at the attacks on sexuality happening today in America. This book may be a little too focused on the present a the cost of the background to this war, but Marty Klein does an excellent job of reporting how sexuality is under attack -- and what the stakes of losing are for everyone.

Overall Grade: B+

Reviewed by James Lynch

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