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Delirium: How the Sexual Counterrevolution is Polarizing America Hardcover – February 7, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In an election year when so many Americans are out of work and worried about finances, the next congressional and presidential election will be driven disproportionately by issues having to do with sex, specifically gay marriage, birth control, and abortion. Historian Cohen analyzes the huge influence of sexual counterrevolutionaries on politics over the past 40 years. Revolting against the changes that ushered in greater sexual freedom, feminism, and gay rights, the Christian Right has taken up the counterrevolution. Passionate but polarizing, they help form a strong and reliable base but alienate most other voters, even among Republicans. The movement has affected Democrats as well, making them timid about standing up for progressive causes of cultural and sexual tolerance, advancing the right-wing position by avoidance of controversial issues. Cohen draws heavily on statistics and public-opinion surveys showing attitudes on issues from gay marriage to birth control to abortion that indicate a more moderate perspective on sexual freedom than that taken by the Christian Right. This is an insightful look at the history of sexual mores and politics and how we got to such a contentious place. --Vanessa Bush


Praise for Delirium

"A thrilling and prescient story of America today." —Mike Davis

“An insightful look at the history of sexual mores and politics and how we got to such a contentious place.” —Booklist

“In her critique of bipartisan extremism, historian Cohen expertly details its rise within the Democratic and Republican parties by mining seven presidential elections … Cohen uses quantitative evidence to claim, quite cogently, that the sexual counterrevolution has overplayed its hand and that “cultural progressivism is the new American way,” making this book an impressive contribution to the political dialogue.” —Publishers Weekly

“Nancy L. Cohen narrates the history and continued salience of the sexual backlash with the wisdom of a fine historian and the passion of a liberal activist. Delirium is an indispensable source for understanding how profoundly the politics of the body has swayed the body politic.” —Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation

“With abortion rights, birth control, and gay marriage still roiling American politics, it is obvious that the conservative reaction against the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s remains a powerful force in our world today. Nancy L. Cohen, a lively writer and excellent historian, places our current situation in historical perspective, tracing how over the past forty years the sexual counterrevolution has helped shape the political landscape. A fascinating and disturbing book.” —Eric Foner, Columbia University

“Nancy L. Cohen’s Delirium is a provocative and original examination of the politics of equality—those who believe in our basic rights, and those who do not. She deftly takes us through forty years of history to explain why our country feels so divided, and, more importantly, how we can find our way back to rational political discourse. Anyone who cares about civil rights and the future of the country needs to read this book.” —Lisa Bloom, legal analyst and New York Times bestselling author of Think

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582438013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582438016
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,456,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nancy L. Cohen is a historian and author, specializing in women and politics. Her books include the soon to be released Breakthrough: The Making of America's First Woman President, Delirium: The Politics of Sex in America, and The Reconstruction of America Liberalism, 1865-1914.

Nancy has been a featured expert on women and politics on NPR, MSNBC, and many other broadcasts, and she speaks frequently at literary festivals, universities, nonprofit events, and conferences about women's leadership and U.S. politics. Her articles and commentary about contemporary American politics have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New Republic, Playboy, the Guardian, Rolling Stone, and elsewhere.

Nancy is currently a commissioner on the Los Angeles County Women's Commission. She lives in Los Angeles with her two daughters, husband, and four stepchildren. Join her on twitter @nancylcohen or read more at

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Penny Thoughtful on February 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Cohen lays out the history of the sexual revolution, largely (but not entirely) made possible by the birth control pill. Then she explains what that has to do with today's politicians' obsession with abortion, homosexuality, and, yes, birth control, even as they ignore the larger problems of war, poverty, and unemployment. When 62% of Americans believe first-trimester abortion should be legal and over 50% support gay marriage, why do both Democrats and Republicans go out of their way to woo a loud minority? This book explains it all. Timely and fascinating stuff to be read BEFORE the 2012 presidential election!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By ganddw42 on November 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Delirium" by Nancy L. Cohen. As seems to be a habit these days, I watched an interview with the author on Ed Shultz's show on MSNBC where the book was discussed. It sounded extremely interesting because the sexual revolution that eventually brought these people to power in the Republican party, so I bought it. Maybe it's because of my age, I am 70 this year and well remember when most sex in this country was hidden in the closet and no one mentioned it. When basically religion controlled everyone's behavior. I really hate the thoughts of a era like that returning. Because it was not a great era like a lot of Christian Fundamentalist's like to paint it as being. It was an era of intolerance, bigotry and racial hatred running rampant through the countryside. But, it looks like to many American's are taking their sexual freedoms for granted and imagine they will always be there. The strides that were made in the 60's and 70's are starting to slip away again. They don't seem to comprehend that people's fundamental rights to privacy are under all out assault by religious zealots via politician's these days. By voting the wrong kind of people in office, they could very easily lose them. So they are allowing the beast to grow and gain more power.
The book has proven to be well worth the money. Some at the beginning at the book were things I have read elsewhere so was a little dull. And I got stuck a few times. But, it really started getting interesting and took off during the Bill Clinton era. Possibly because I remember all too well what the social conservative's did to Clinton and his wife out of pure unadulterated spite and malice. It was totally uncalled for and the paranoia that still reigns supreme today and began to take over the party.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By justinjpogue on November 7, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I came upon Nancy Cohen's name and a reference about her work via a platform that was very, very new to me: Re-tweets on Twitter of things she said by people that followed her. Given that she was tweeting on subjects that interested me, and that I saw several links to articles she had written, I became interested in the lady. With the publication of DELIRIUM, I thought what-the-hell and bought a copy for my Kindle.

That was well, WELL worth it. Having been raised fundamentalist and left it far behind long ago, much of what she had to say about the movement was familiar. While she never castigated the people who hold those beliefs, she did absolutely expose the cynical manner in which congregations were turned into "voting populations" and manipulated with issues that had not before been issues: medical abortion and contraception. The outgrowth of this is the sex-negative homo-phobia focused stance that the Sexual Fundamentalists hold today...not evolutionarily, but through utter contemptuous manipulation by soulless political operatives on an increasingly irrelevant neo-conservative Right Wing.

Impeccably sourced and referenced, this is NOT an opinion piece, but rather a post-Doctoral dissertation on the one subject that America STILL doesn't talk about: Sex (and how it MUST be evil, stopped, and controlled)!

If you read political writings, and enjoy behind-the-scenes exposes of how we've gotten where we are; if you read sociology texts, and enjoy how sex and/or fear of sex drives political movements, then this should be on your list of Top 5 for 2012. Buy it! There ain't much of 2012 left!

(Besides, the Election is over...what else have you got going on?)
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By lynda on July 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
An amazing chronicle of how America's obsession with sex and its control has impacted our political system. As one who is a peripheral observer of political matters - it sucked me right in! A really fascinating, eye-opening read.
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