Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco

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9780195377811: Erotic City: Sexual Revolutions and the Making of Modern San Francisco

Since the 1960s, San Francisco has been America's capital of sexual libertinism and a potent symbol in its culture wars. In this highly original book, Josh Sides explains how this happened, unearthing long-forgotten stories of the city's sexual revolutionaries, as well as the legions of longtime San Franciscans who tried to protect their vision of a moral metropolis. Erotic dancers, prostitutes, birth control advocates, pornographers, free lovers, and gay libbers transformed San Francisco's political landscape and its neighborhoods in ways seldom appreciated. But as sex radicals became more visible in the public spaces of the city, many San Franciscans reacted violently. The assassinations of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were but the most brazen acts in a city caught up in a battle over morality. Ultimately, Sides argues, one cannot understand the evolution of postwar American cities without recognizing the profound role that sex has played. More broadly, one cannot understand modern American politics without taking into account the postwar transformation of San Francisco and other cities into both real and imagined repositories of unfettered sexual desire.

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About the Author:


Josh Sides is Whitsett Professor of California History, and Director of the Center for Southern California Studies, at California State University, Northridge.

Review:

"A welcome addition to a rich historiography on the development of urban spaces in the postwar years. Sides's scope is comprehensive and provides a useful overview of the twentieth century's mnay different sexual revolutions and the men and women who participated in them and opposed them." --Journal of American History"Sides...does for San Francisco what cultural historians like George Chauncey have done for New York: resurrect the semi-hidden antecedents to the flourishing of sexual expression in the 1960s in adult entertainment, prostitution and public performance of sexual desire including among homosexuals...Rather than emphasize the way the city shapes sexual identity, Sides is keen to emphasize how public displays of and trade in sexual desire as well as the reaction to them--by individuals, civic leaders, neighborhood organizations, churches and those in the political and legal systems--together fundamentally defined the physical and social shape of the metropolis. This measured, fascinating and politically timely study of sex radicals and their reactionary counterparts, in a city long considered (however accurately) as a haven for libertinism, will prove a vital and welcome addition to the study of urban culture in general and San Francisco history in particular." --Publishers Weekly Online"Sides, an urban historian, argues that San Francisco's legacy has been shaped as much by sexual culture wars as it has been by class, ethnicity or earthquakes. For the scavenger-hunting neighborhood historian, his book is catnip for its footnotes, primary sources, the quick ride through police blotters and mayors' desks of a hundred sex scandals." --San Francisco Chronicle"Sides has a knack for showing how the city's sexual and cultural evolution has not occurred linearly, but instead through an intense series of pendulum swings and other contrary movements...This being a history book, written by a professor and published by a university press, it "Sides...does for San Francisco what cultural historians like George Chauncey have done for New York: resurrect the semi-hidden antecedents to the flourishing of sexual expression in the 1960s in adult entertainment, prostitution and public performance of sexual desire including among homosexuals...Rather than emphasize the way the city shapes sexual identity, Sides is keen to emphasize how public displays of and trade in sexual desire as well as the reaction to them--by individuals, civic leaders, neighborhood organizations, churches and those in the political and legal systems--together fundamentally defined the physical and social shape of the metropolis. This measured, fascinating and politically timely study of sex radicals and their reactionary counterparts, in a city long considered (however accurately) as a haven for libertinism, will prove a vital and welcome addition to the study of urban culture in general and San Francisco history in particular." --Publishers Weekly Onl

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