Burning Desires

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As the 1980’s began, America was still caught up in the most exuberant sexual carnival of modern times. But while the decade was still young, the country was suddenly swept by a wave of sexual terror.” And yet, journalists Steve Chapple and David Talbot report, “The sexual revolution was transformed by the 1980’s, not terminated.”

Chapple and Talbot base their findings on hundreds of interviews they conducted across the nation. They divide their report into three sections. The first, “Repression,” addresses the hypocritical manner with which the Reagan administration treated sexual issues. It also describes the sobering effect that the spread of AIDS had on three formerly sexually permissive cities; Key West, Florida; Aspen, Colorado; and Chico, California.

The second section, entitled “Sex Wars,” outlines the increased conflict between the sexes during the last decade. This hostility made satisfactory heterosexual union even more difficult.

Finally, the “Rebirth” section explores the way Americans have changed their sexual habits to overcome modern problems.

Unfortunately, Chapple and Talbot attack their subject without much psychological insight. For example, they puzzle over Germaine Greer’s declared lack of interest in sex, though it seems obvious that she is depressed or ill. However, sex is always an interesting topic, and BURNING DESIRES is an entertaining read.