We are sex-crazed Puritans, scandalized by President Clinton's indiscretions but eager to read, while waiting on the supermarket checkout line, the women's magazine article entitled "Twelve Dirty Words That'll Drive Your Man Wild." Twenty million people a year visit Las Vegas, where strip shows and "exotic dancers" who make house calls are as plentiful as slot machines, but we elect neighbors to school boards who will ban Toni Morrison's novels from the high school library. Men, women, and children are bombarded hourly with pornography on our computers, much of it via e-mail, unsolicited I read one morning in my inbox, but in many school districts, sex education classes are as popular as needle exchange programs. In Georgia, Alabama, and Texas, it's illegal to own a vibrator but not a gun.
The truth is that different populations, religions, and interest groups have different values—and many of us are full of internal erotic conflict, engaged in a struggle between what we desire and what is permissible or possible. A snapshot of the culture at this moment suggests that we want it all: sex, titillation, true love, and family values.