Free Love is Not Free

A Review of Make Love, Not War: The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History
by David Allyn

Author Biography

David Allyn, born April 30, 1969, earned a Ph.D. from Harvard, never dreaming of writing books like I Can’t Believe I Just Did That, a book about overcoming embarrassment and personal shame, or Make Love, Not War. Although not a first hand account of the information detailed in this book, Allyn did extensive research, interviewing many that lived during the time of the sexual revolution.

In 1962, Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl was published, the sexual revolution was launched, and “there was no turning back.”1 The 1960s sexual revolution was possibly one of the most revolutionary movements in American history, from the most basic ideas, such as equal pay for equal work, to the most revolutionary ideas, like group sex. This period represented a massive step forward, away from the conservative, Freudian views, which originated before our nation’s founding.

Helen Gurley Brown sparked much controversy with her book Sex and the Single Girl, but never dreamed it would spark a revolution that would take over a decade to slow down. She was the first to, in print, admit she that had lost her virginity before marriage and that she had enjoyed a long history of casual encounters throughout her premarital life. Even more controversially, she was the first to condone premarital sex, saying in her estimation “not having slept with the man you’re going to marry [is] lunacy” and reminding readers “sex was here long before marriage.”2 Hough Hefner, a lifelong champion of the right to privacy, founded Playboy magazine— the first magazine to include photographs of naked women— as well as the Playboy Club. The birth control pill was a way for women to control contraception, and for those who saw nothing morally wrong with it, to have a night of simple carousing, as they felt all men did. It was, although not explicitly stated so in the Bible, railed against by Catholics, as well as those who followed the logic of Dr. Sigmund Freud, who felt that this kind of power, if given to women, would put them in the position of domineer, rather than men, who were naturally suited to the job. William R. Baird, after witnessing the worst results of a self induced coat-hanger abortion, took his living room with him through poorer, less educated areas informing people about birth control. This was achieved with a faux fireplace, wood walls, and drapes put up in an old UPS van, so he could “create an atmosphere that… you were in Bill Baird’s home” to give them a more comfortable environment in which to talk about very uncomfortable subjects.3 For this, he was arrested eight times in five states. Naked Lunch is among, if not the most controversial novel to date; so much so that even Playboy banned it. Massachusetts, one of the states with the most stringent censorship laws actually granted Naked Lunch full First Amendment protection, marking a turning point in freedom of literature. These many firsts paved the way for the future of far more jarring and controversial literature and creations.

Marriage was, and is, a source of heated controversy, whether it is homosexuality or more than two to a marriage, nobody ever seems to be able to agree. Robert Rimmer’s The Harrad Experiment typified the views of a sexual utopia; in a liberal college, students are paired with a person of the opposite gender, and assigned readings such as the Kama Sutra, which teach them to “rise above possessive inclinations” and create a “new sexually oriented aristocracy” by separating sex from love.4 This novel became a must have on college campuses, and became something close to the Bible for many who saw the problems of the world in the same way Rimmer did. Although group marriage was not persecuted as a distortion of the institution of marriage, it never became a mass movement. Be this as it may, it was a perfect reality for many, and an unattainable dream for many more. Interracial marriage is a different story entirely, however. In thirty states, before World War II, laws existed against interracial marriage, some calling for sentences of up to ten years. These, in 1966, were abolished in the state of Virginia by the Unites States Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, stating, “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides within the individual.”5 The double standard between men and women had been an issue that was not strongly questioned before the start of the sexual revolution, but once it had started, there was no stopping it. At Barnard college, an all women’s school, Linda LeClair lied to the admissions office so she could live off campus with her boyfriend, which was against school policy. The principal expelled her over a school Judicial Council’s vote against it. Many students purposely violated school rules in protest of Linda’s unfair expulsion. Oh! Calcutta! was a model of the sexual revolution. The name was a “play on the French expression ‘Oh! quell cul tu as!’ (Oh, what a nice ass you have)”— a title that was not misleading in the slightest.6 Including a scene where a boy and his father speak conversationally about his orgasms, it is little wonder that it was met by loathing from many. Some people went so far as to protest against the theatres it was shown in, or called for violence against the theaters. It grossed $360 million. Not only was promiscuity frowned upon, masturbation was also seen as unwholesome, and was given fictional side effects, such as a shorter life span, insanity, or blindness. Few actually followed this rule of society, as exemplified in Portnoy’s Complaint, where Philip Roth tells of his life “spent locked behind the bathroom door…in dread that [his] Loathsomeness would be discovered” probably by his parents, who instilled this thought that the act of self stimulation was such an unwholesome act.7 As interracial marriage was socially and legally reprimanded, so was homosexual marriage. Police formed frequent stings on gay bars, and the bartenders and drag queens would be arrested; all others would be taken in for the night, or an attempt would be made to “identify, prosecute, and ‘cure’ them” of their terrible disease.8

Not all of the literature during the sexual revolution benefited it. There were some, like David Reuben, who published all of the unfounded, idiotic, inaccurate, pseudo-scientific superstitions and myths that people grew up hearing, in his piece of literary garbage Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex… But Were Afraid To Ask. When he appeared on the tonight show, he brought with him fifty-three percent of the ratings. He also reinforced every myth about homosexuality there had ever been, such as their insatiable love of odd sex, or that they were all child molesters; he even created the rumor about “a doctor who had extracted a rodent from the rectum of a gay man.” Even this obvious lie was widely circulated as fact. This was a pitiful step back all the way to the Freudian thoughts before the revolution started. Some, as one group instituted by President Johnson, stuck to scientific grounds for their research on facts and science. This group studied adult bookstores and bookstores with adult sections, and 89% were white, 74% were twenty-four to forty-five, and 51% wore business suits and ties, shattering the ‘dirty old man’ stereotype. They also found that only two percent of Americans ranked pornography in the top three most important problems in America. Possibly the portion of the movement with the most difficulty was the lesbian movement. Not accepted into the woman’s movement and disgusted with the Gay Liberation groups, lesbians forged ahead on their own under the leadership of Robin Morgan, a child star. Lesbians saw in gay men a group of single-minded imbeciles who, rather than finding serious relationships or seeking public recognition, “thought life was a fuckathon.”9

Allyn’s thesis in his novel Make Love, Not War is to give the information he had gathered on both the difficulties and benefits of the sexual revolution in America. Allyn remembers growing up with “the vague sense of having missed something magical and mysterious,” not having been able to participate in the sexual revolution.10 The author, therefore, has no first hand accounts of the era, which in fact aids the book in its credibility, because all of the information present in the book was given to him by others. This removes the possibility for it to be distorted by one man’s general opinion of the era. His point of view, therefore, is kept to strictly one of a historian, reporting on the information gathered from others. The 1990s, the time when Allyn took on the daunting task of summarizing objectively the entire sixties sexual revolution, was a time of general prosperity—a perfect time for writers—and a time of openness about sexuality following the sexual revolution. The writing of this book was done around the time of many occurrences that fit precisely with the book’s subject matter, almost all of which lead Allyn to a more conservative viewpoint, such as the Monica Lewinsky scandal. This was also the time that many of the college students who comprised a strong portion of those involved in the sexual revolution came of age enough to share their embarrassing personal accounts with a novelist.

“No other book gathers together this array of material” on the sexual revolution, from underground leaders of the revolution, like Plato’s Club and Stonewall, to publicity based leaders, such as Hough Hefner and Betty Dodson.11 This is a very sweeping novel that covers some of every material imaginable. There is no subject in the social spectrum of the time that is not reviewed. However, “Allyn is best on trees, not the forest” as far as the book as a whole.12 The entire thing taken at once is a quick sweep through a decade with thousands of details that could never be covered, but those topics deemed important are given complete thought and attention, and are developed thoroughly and concisely. While he “occasionally gives short shrift to historical background,” it is rare, and needs to be more frequent.13

The novel, as a historical piece goes, is very well planned, and very well researched. The way many things are tied together within chapters, as well as between chapters, adds fluency to the Allyn’s book. Allyn usually ends each chapter with a tie-in to what the next chapter is about. However, many of the chapters are incorrectly combined or separated. A perfect example of this is chapter 14’s, titled “Medicine and Morality,” a topic spoken of at length in chapter three in respect to ‘the pill.’14 The book as a whole seems lacking in a certain aspect that is not quite discernable, but, reading each chapter as an individual unit, the novel is a wonderful, informative and true to form historical novel, with all the natural drawbacks of its genre.

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and early seventies was a watershed in American history second only to the American Revolution. The decade was one of radicalism in the most exact definition of the word. With poles like the Freudian scholars and the Catholic Church, to the Plato’s Club owners and Hough Hefner, few remained in the middle about any subject. This is with the possible exception of pornography, on which many simply took an indifferent stance. All of the sixties’ sexual revolution had to choose between privacy and individuality, or governmental and religious control over their own, and other’s lives. Socially, what is considered accepted changed drastically, in large part due to the sexual revolution. Politically there may have been even more changes, as the definition of allowable censorship and other laws of the kind were set, such as that, for the first time, “interracial marriages [were] legal” in all states. The sixties sexual revolution was one of the closest things to a complete watershed in American History.15

The sexual revolution of the 1960s and early seventies, according to Allyn’s own words, was not a very strong watershed in American history. He explains all of this, in detail, in the epilogue. Although nude beaches exist, and gays and lesbians are able to be free legally, there are still stigmas about being ‘easy’ or ‘loose’ with one’s body; birth control still remains expensive and abortion providers are afraid for their lives at all times. America trails pathetically far behind liberal nations of Europe, such as England and France. While interracial marriages are recognized, gay marriages and group marriages are not. Even the word gay is odious in itself, as are its synonyms. Nudity, outside of sexual euphemisms, is unseen in family films as well as in public. The sexual revolution was a watershed, but only mildly, and is slowly still going on today.

The 1960s sexual revolution was one of the most revolutionary movements in American history, from the most basic ideas, such as the right to choose one’s marriage partner, to the most revolutionary ideas, such as personal privacy from the government. This period represented a massive step forward, away from the conservative, Freudian views that had been established long before our nation’s founding.

review by Brian Fox

  1. Allyn, David. Make Love, Not War The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History. Boston: Little, Brown And Company, 2000, 10.
  2. Allyn, David 10.
  3. Allyn, David 35.
  4. Allyn, David 72.
  5. Allyn, David 92.
  6. Allyn, David 119.
  7. Allyn, David 137.
  8. Allyn, David 147.
  9. Allyn, David 251.
  10. Allyn, David 3.
  11. Tiger, Lionel. “Tuned In, Turned On, A history of the Sexual Revolution.” The New York Times 19 Mar 2000. 01 Jun 2006. .
  12. Tiger, Lionel
  13. Tiger, Lionel
  14. Allyn, David 175.
  15. Allyn, David 296.

© 2006 Irvine High School

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