Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's End

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9780375700538: Last Night in Paradise: Sex and Morals at the Century's End

"A brilliant and contrarian voice, à la Mary McCarthy."
--Kirkus Reviews

Writing with the unerring reportorial instinct she brought to her widely discussed The Morning After, one of our most outspoken cultural commentators chronicles our uneasy passage from the sexual revolution to the new Puritanism in a book that is one part history, one part prophecy, and all provocation.

KATIE ROIPHE depicts the inner landscape of a generation that practices condom etiquette yet fears that even the safest sex may not be safe enough. She shows how educators and ideologues have co-opted the fear of AIDS to promote their own moral agenda. Roiphe also writes about her sister Emily, who is herself HIV-positive, with a candor that makes Last Night in Paradise as much a personal document as it is a barometric reading of our sexual climate. Gripping, incisive, and at times incendiary, the result is a work of reportage in the tradition of Joan Didion's Slouching Toward Bethlehem--a portrait of an era that will be read and debated long after that era has passed.

"Resonant . . . I look forward to hearing from Ms. Roiphe again."
--Jennifer Grossman, Wall Street Journal

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Review:

Katie Roiphe made quite a name for herself a couple of years ago with the publication of The Morning After: Sex, Fear and Feminism,which explores the issues of date rape and sexual harassment on college campuses, both of which the author regards as problems that exist mainly in the minds of strident feminists. In her Last Night in Paradise, Roiphe widens her scope from college to the culture-at-large. AIDS figures prominently in this book as the author chronicles the sexual revolution of the '60s and its aftermath in the '90s. Where once (or so the mythology goes) young women took the pill and fell joyfully into bed with a number of lovers, today they are constrained by fear of sexually communicable diseases and death.

Just as a previous generation remembers where they were the day JFK was shot, so Katie Roiphe's generation recalls the day Magic Johnson announced he was HIV-positive. A new wave of puritanism is sweeping the country, Roiphe posits, and in Last Night in Paradise she recounts the forms it takes, from "secondary virginity" to high-school health class discussions of masturbation as an alternative to sex. But more than just a report on the sexual state of the union, Last Night in Paradise is also a meditation on sexuality, morality, and a nation's yearning for new rules to replace the social anarchy of the past three decades.

From the Back Cover:

Last Night in Paradise is an eye-opening look at an age in which sexual liberation and one-night stands have been replaced by caution and fear. In the tradition of Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Roiphe blends autobiography and cultural criticism to give us a vivid portrait of the sexual puritanism sweeping the nation. She also captures the shadowy sense of unease that lies behind a generation's search for safety and rules, and the national yearning for a new moral order to replace the social and religious structures we have lost. Here for the first time is the history, personal and cultural, of the most profound shift in our national life in the last three decades: the movement from a wild-eyed ethos of sexual freedom to the new conservative morality of the nineties. In prose as absorbing as a novel, Roiphe gives us the inner landscape of a generation that remembers where it was on the day Magic Johnson announced he was HIV positive the way previous generations recall the day JFK was shot. We meet right-wing prophets of sexual abstinence in Washington, D.C., and public high school students and their teachers in suburban New Jersey. We enter the world of Alison Gertz, the Park Avenue debutante, and Magic Johnson, the ebullient point guard for the Lakers who boasted of satisfying six women at once, whose stories have imprinted themselves on the national imagination as moral parables for the uncertain and often terrifying age in which we live now.

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