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One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History Paperback – July 3, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Well reasoned, well written, and well documented.” ―Booklist

“Those looking for salacious details will find them, but Flynt and Eisenbach favor analysis over sensationalism, providing a new perspective of the men and women who have shaped our nation.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Dig into the unwholesome side of American history to uncover how the sexual peccadilloes of the men we elect have transformed the world for good and ill.” ―The Stranger

“Only liars will pretend that this book isn't absolutely fascinating.” ―Buffalo News

“Presidential hanky-panky is as old as the nation itself. But no one can bring it to life quite like Larry Flynt.” ―Steven E. Levingston, Washington Post

“The book is unapologetic, assertive, and sure to be controversial.” ―The Philadelphia Inquirer

“It is amazing that this inherently salacious subject could be treated in such a thoughtful and documented fashion, scholarly even, and yet be such a great read.” ―Robert Scheer, author of The Great American Stickup

“Americans often like to think that extramarital sex – or even a strong libido – is somehow a sign of poor character in our presidents. One Nation Under Sex explodes that myth. From Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson onward, our most respected leaders have always engaged in bedroom behavior that would outrage the cultural commissars--at no harm to the republic. You don't have to agree with all of Larry Flynt's and David Eisenbach's readings of history to enjoy this sex-filled tour through more than 200 years of scandal.” ―David Greenberg, presidential historian, Rutgers University, and author of Nixon's Shadow

“Larry Flynt has waged a lifelong battle against hypocrisy and prudery: shattering every propriety and slaughtering every sacred cow. The political classes have never been safe from his special brand of satire. Now he turns his rabble-rousing sensibility backwards with a similar imperative. No more whitewashing! Smash decorum! Bring down the elites!” ―Laura Kipnis, How To Become a Scandal and of Against Love

“As a Washington, DC, investigative reporter for two decades, I was certain the secret personal lives of politicians had an unappreciated affect on public policy and, eventually, history. Here's the book that documents it.” ―Rudy Maxa, former Washington Post reporter and columnist

“Teaming up Larry Flynt with Columbia University historian David Eisenbach seems like an odd match but Flynt and Eisenbach have combined their talents and perspectives to produce a unique book that transgresses the holy empire of American history by providing a serious investigation of the sex lives of the Presidents. Be warned: this is not smut; this is an important and thorough historical excavation of how sex built the White House and our nation.” ―Jim Downs, Professor of History, Connecticut College

About the Author

Larry Flynt is the legendary publisher of Hustler magazine and has been a famous crusader for First Amendment and privacy rights for over three decades. His landmark Supreme Court case, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, is taught in law schools throughout the United States. A former political candidate, Flynt remains active in his longstanding campaign to expose sexual hypocrisy in politics and transform the national political dialogue. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

David Eisenbach, Ph.D., is the host of "Ten Things You Don't Know About . . ." on H2. He is an award-winning historian who teaches American political history at Columbia University. He was the creator and host of the two-hour History Channel special, The Beltway Unbuckled, about how presidential sex shaped American history. He lives in New York City.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (July 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230339921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230339927
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,594,000 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on March 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Larry Flynt gets his name in bigger type than his co-author (I wonder why?), but I suspect most of this was written by Eisenbach, who is a serious and well-respected historian. The emphasis is not so much on the titillation of revealing sex scandals over the centuries (actually, not much new is revealed anyhow), but in showing how these antics made a difference in the course of American history, from the Founding Fathers (and Mothers), up to Bill Clinton and beyond (to Vitter, Craig, and whoever the next rascal will be). Benjamin Franklin (still randy in his seventies) made a major contribution to the Revolution through his escapades in Paris. And the relationship between Buchanan and former vice-president William Rufus King almost certainly contributed to Buchanan's bungling of the secession crisis. Like most people, I knew about Harding's naughtiness, but not about Woodrow Wilson's, which actually had more important consequences.

The book also gives a good account of the changes in journalistic ethics over the decades. It explains how the notoriously gay Buchanan could, amazingly, get elected. And gives an excellent account of the switch from "access journalism," which allowed Roosevelt and Kennedy to get away with things that got politicians in trouble in the post-Watergate era of "gotcha journalism." The book isn't perfect: it perhaps lingers a bit too long in the Kennedy era, though I confess that I found the description of Jackie Kennedy's love affairs to be a fascinating subject that we had no idea of at the time! And the authors sometimes aren't quite as clear as they might be when they present material that is second and third (and sometimes fourth) hand. But I enjoyed reading this a lot, and recommend it to anyone with an interest in the seamier side of our country's history.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When Bill Clinton and his cigar were being impeached for a little lewd behavior, I just couldn't understand what the big deal was. Powerful people often have powerful libidos, and I couldn't imagine that sex and politics hadn't always gone together, like peanut butter and jelly. I don't know how many times I said so, either, eyes involuntarily rolling skyward.

But I didn't have much in the way of facts to back up what I felt was true: I just knew the usual tales about Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, and JFK. Then One Nation Under Sex gave me every fact (and possibly-fact) my heart desired.

Historian David Eisenbach and Hustler tycoon Larry Flynt include those famous stories and provide more detail than I've ever seen. The section on the Kennedys was a major eye-opener. JFK's non-stop randiness evidently drove Jackie to some affairs of her own and after her husband's funeral, she lost no time in hooking up with future husband Aristotle Onassis. But I couldn't blame her when I read about JFK's selfish exploits.

Further back, the story of James Buchanan and Carolina senator William King was fascinating. The long-term affair made Buchanan soft on slavery and secessionists. Dolley and James Madison are covered in fascinating detail, as are Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's multiple affairs and enduring relationship. Abe Lincoln loved to sleep with men. Back then, this wasn't considered odd, nor was it questioned by the press.

And that's something I absolutely loved about this book. As much as it's a terrific compendium of the dirty deeds that shaped history, it's a chronicle of the media's part in the public's perception of our leaders.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Before reading this book I knew a bit about American sex scandals. I knew about Ben Franklin's notorious visit to France, about Buchanan's alleged gayity, about JFK's numerous affairs and more about the sex lives of Bill Clinton and J Edgar Hoover than I ever possibly wanted to know. But I didn't know a lot of the back story, and I underestimated how important sex and sex scandals have been in forming our nation's history.

This book is really fascinating. It dragged a bit before it got to the parts on James Buchanan, but from there it went off like a shot. And the bits on Buchanan were really interesting! I'd gone in as a skeptic about his sexuality (he was never married and shacked up with another man for most of his time in Washington), but this book really drove home the point that, yes, Buchanan was gay. I was even more skeptical of the notion that Lincoln was gay, and while this book didn't change my views of that subject, it did at least offer some interesting arguments in favor of the notion.

The bits on FDR and Elanor were equally fascinating. I'd known she was rumored to be a lesbian, but hadn't known she'd lived with a lesbian couple for a while and had spent quite a bit of time with a lesbian reporter. I was also interested to read about her relationship with Franklin and how, after she found about him having an affair, it turned into a marriage quite a bit different from most.

Even more compelling was the severe damage to this nation done by J Edgar Hoover, a man who was obviously a self-loathing homosexual. His obsession with everyone's sex lives and the way he blackmailed people was truly appalling. Again, this is a story where I'd known bits and pieces, but I never realized how wide his scope was and how powerful it made him.
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