‘For my generation’, writes Linda Grant of the Sixties, ‘sex was a political act.’ Smashing monogamy would help smash the state by undermining its bourgeois conventions. Plus, through sexual freedom one found personal freedom, a metaphysical oneness with all creation. It was ‘physical liberation, psychic liberation, almost a tool for world peace.’
Today, in the era of Aids, such visionary hopes have gone out of style. But Grant seeks, if not to revive them, at least to subject them to respectful scrutiny. Surveying the communes, love-ins and sex reformers on both sides of the Atlantic, Sexing the Millennium provides a lively, readable journey through the Sixties and Seventies, after the mass-marketing of the Pill and before the onset of Aids, when, very briefly, we glimpsed utopia: sex disconnected from danger, freed from both pregnancy and disease.
The value of Grant’s study lies in her insistence on the seriousness of that utopian vision. Far from an exercise in ‘mindless hedonism’, the sexual revolution was impelled by ideas. She finds those ideas in the most unlikely places- even in the wacky activism of San Francisco sex radical Jefferson Poland. Founder of the Sexual Freedom League and high priest of the Psychedelic Venus Church, Poland