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

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

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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Beginning in the mid-1960s, the spectacle of sexuality appeared on the streets and in the public places of large cities throughout the United States in ways that had been unimaginable at any other moment in the nation’s history. the increasingly public nature of sexuality—a critical dimension of a larger moment in history that we call the sexual revolution—was rapturous for sexual revolutionaries. It was empowering for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals who could finally express their affection, though never truly free from fear; it was liberating for unmarried women and men who “shacked up” before marriage, often to the wagging consternation of their older neighbors. It was ecstatic for the young men who crowded around—and even occasionally paid to enter—the thousands of strip clubs, sex shops, and massage parlors that dotted the urban landscape like a neon constellation. and it was profitable for the small armies of female and male prostitutes who swarmed from the hinterlands to the nation’s big cities, recognizing that sexual freedom need not be free. Sharing their profits in the highly sexualized metropolis were legions of pornographers, whose wares, once relegated to the back rooms of only the seediest skid row stores before the sexual revolution, were now displayed prominently in storefront windows throughout the cities, and even in the suburbs. For so many, the sexual revolution was an extended engagement with, and celebration of, the human libido.

But Fred Methner was definitely not celebrating. Since assuming the role of Secretary and official spokesman for the East & West of . . .

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