Volume 91, Issue 57

Friday, January 9, 1998

on the rocks


Peeking under society's covers

last night in paradise: sex and morals at the century's end
Katie Roiphe
Vintage Books
$16.95/ 195 pgs.

The title of Katie Roiphe's latest book sounds like a bit of a joke. The generations proceeding the sexual revolution could argue that sexuality and morality are divorced principles. Those who indulge themselves in believing they co-exist seem to be 1950s throwbacks declaring born-again virginity whilst admonishing latter-day sluts. In her book, Roiphe interviews self-proclaimed experts on sex education, public morality and converses with ordinary people.

Roiphe understands that not everybody is playing the game, drifting in and out of bedrooms with the ease of going to a supermarket to buy a Viennese dessert. This is best demonstrated in her conversations with youth – unwilling to risk their lives for a few minutes of "hoopla." Yet the moral and social consequences of an affair, well-illustrated with Anna Karenina, have been lost.

The silent yearning for an end to the sexual revolution manifests itself in the media via "plagues." Roiphe notes the present threat of infection and death with due diligence. In the early '80s, the end of the sexual revolution was nigh, thanks to sinister, incurable herpes. Later the same decade, the era of sexual decadence was over by the threat of AIDS. Will self-preservation frighten people into abstinence? Not likely. Why worry when condoms, diaphragms and dental dams are shamelessly available on the open market?

Counterpoint: popular opinion holds that if one does anything unhealthy, the public moral environment is polluted: smoking, drinking, eating fatty foods. What about fornication? For every cry for education and abstinence, there is a counter argument for freedom of choice; followed by a pragmatic reminder of the consequences. Morals can not be rationalized, and logic is morally fallible. Every hypothesis has an Achilles heel. It's nobody's business what a person eats or who they sleep with.

Roiphe demonstrates the contraries well, but forgets that bedroom activities are best left to the bedroom.

–Victoria Barkley

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998