Sex Almanac for ProtozoansnGay Talese: Thy Neighbor’s Wife;nDoubleday & Co.; New York.nby Herbert I. Londonn1 o the publishing world—where thenbottom line is seemingly all that countsn—the arrival of Gay Talese’s Thy Neighbor’snWife is described as a major event.nThat this book has received so much attentionnis more of a commentary on thisnnation’s values than on Mr. Talese.nWandering through the forest of pornographynand perversion, Mr. Talese,na self-proclaimed sexual pioneer, discoversnhis Eden of liberation. In thisnEden people do what they want unrestrainednby morality, satisfying others,nstandards of conformity or common decency.nThis portrayal of America’s darknsecret — wife-swapping, promiscuousnsex, perversion—is brought to the surfacenas a dream come true, nirvana in anmassage parlor. No longer is there anholding back; now both literally andnfiguratively one can let it all hang out.nIf two teen-agers had arrived at thisnconclusion after a superficial readingnof Wilhelm Reich, it would be understandable.nIf two members of the “newnclass” had written this book as a responsento Mike Nichols’s Carnal Knowledge, itncould be forgiven. But to think that anjournalist with Gay Talese’s reputationnwould write such a book is more thannany well-developed imagination can accept.nThis book takes us on the EdennExpress to ineffable pleasures. All onenhas to do is relax the code of moral proprieties,nturn the clock back to prehistory.nIn fact one should—according tonTalese’s prescription—give in to urgesnhowever primordial they may be.nThis argument, which appears to benas ingenuous as Candide facing the veritiesnof life, ignores the totality of humannexperience. It is as if Gay Talese thinksnDr. London is dean of the Gallatin Divisionnof New York University.nhe has discovered Somerset Maugham’sn”New-Found-Land” only to find it isnSodom and Gomorrah. His view ofnliberation is like Charles Reich’s ConsciousnessnIII, where any restraint isnconsidered a trick of the establishmentnto ensure social order. Of course evolutionnof a conscience does translate intonorder; but it is as much a trick of thenestablishment—whatever that is—asnthe belief that concentration in ordernto learn something is a trick of the FBInsubordinated to feelings of satisfaction.nIn reading the section of Talese’s booknthat deals with the community, I wasnreminded of the hero of ClockworknOrange who is a prototype for the “newnfreedom.” His cruel acts make him feelngood, so why not do them? The Sandstonendescribed by Talese does not legitimatensadism, but what he ignores is thenobvious conformity demanded by thensocial norm in that setting. Like charactersnout of Aldous Huxley’s novels, then”. si-hdlarlv. rcadahli’. and ihoiou^hlv LTUirrfaininj; book wiih cnDUtili sf to .sari.stynanc)ni- . . . I.aiidiiiark informaiion . .n— Virginia Johnson-.Mastcrsn•’Tali’sc.”.’! iVM-aivh lia.s an awi-soim- soliditv alx)iit ii.n— PfiLT .S. Prt’scotinScw.wcckn”U: has a siTinus inli-rtst in vaii4iinj; Ills ffllow human bi-injis . . .”n— RobiTt Colesnyiciv York Times Root liericwn”In asiMisc. dicliixik rcprcMMii.sGav’striiinipliovcMlicpuriianicalstrifimvsof tXcann(;it, siricTuii’.s ihai .so iiiiiihircd him ihaf lii’ didn’t even masiurliaU- until liis sc-condnyear in lollc^c.”n— Vrijfuento keep you out of trouble.nIf desire is not harnessed, the pleasurenprinciple is subject solely to utilitariannstandards. Consider this extrapolation,none that Talese would certainlynappreciate: if in the act of rape, thenrapist derives twenty units of pleasurencompared to ten units of displeasure heninflicts on the person being raped, hisnfreedom to act seems socially desirable.nThe syllogism is logical, but the assumptionnis absurd. There are simplynsome acts that shouldn’t be condonednregardless of the pleasure obtained.nTalese accepts the adolescent beliefnthat doing what you want makes whatnyou want worth doing. In the process anstandard of “anything goes” prevails. AtnSandstone, a community where sex isnexchanged like handshakes, morality isnnnSandstone crowd is composed of seedyndecadents who would prefer to be caughtnin the act of adultery rather than facena charge of provincialism.nWh ere is the liberation to whichnTalese is so fond of referring? Is it possiblenfor the pilgrims in the promisednland of blissfully free sex to reject thenprevailing expectations? And if so, atnwhat price? It seems to me that liberationnnow masquerades as the new rigidncode of conformity. Can one be a dissenternat Sandstone? Can a college studentntell her friends that she is not readynfor sexual experimentation without thenoften-cruel criticism of her peer group?nTalese tells us that his generation wasn”up tight” about sex; it was caught innthe bourgeois trap of religious and moraln11nJuly/August 1980n