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Sin Sex Subversion: The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal  by David Rosen

Published by Carrel Books (February 2016)

During the tumultuous 1950s in America, sex was as threatening to the nation’s moral order as communism. New York was the capital of the post–World War II world and the epicenter of a fierce culture war over music, theatre, movies, fashion, and literature, as well as birth control, homosexuality, adolescent sex, pornography, and prostitution. Over the last half-century, America’s social life—especially notions of culture, sexuality, and politics—has fundamentally changed, and what were once sinful or subversive sexual practices have been integrated into the marketplace, irreversibly changing American moral values; the once illicit has become an industry of more than $50 billion.

Drawing on first-person interviews, unpublished memoirs, newspaper accounts, contemporary studies, government documents, and recent scholarship, Sin, Sex & Subversion argues that “deviant” sexuality was subversive, and that unique New York “outsiders” of the 1950s set the stage for the following decades and the world we know today. In each chapter, author David Rosen examines a critical moral issue through an in-depth profile of figures such as Liberace, Samuel Roth, Bettie Page, the Rosenbergs, and others. Through these individuals, Rosen shows how those who operated outside the law or who challenged popular values, even if they were silenced in their time, ended up paving the way for a new normal.

"The method of instruction in these chapters is fantastic . . . Sin, Sex & Subversion is a decent primer for students and laypeople unfamiliar with the history of human sexuality in the United States."

New York Journal of Books

"No matter how one reads Sin, Sex & Subversion, they will walk away with a greater sense of where America’s culture wars came from and why so much of the US right wing continues to equate subversive politics with what they consider to be sexual deviance."


"Rosen takes the reader on a grand and entertaining tour of New York’s underbelly in the 1950s. By turning his incisive lens on the sexy, sinful, and subversive elements of that society he provides a clearer view of our own."

—James F. Wilson, author of Bulldaggers, Pansies, and Chocolate Babies: Performance, Race, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance

David Rosen writes the “Media Current” blog for Filmmaker magazine and contribute articles on media, technology and public policy to AlterNet, Huffington Post, MediaChannel, FilmInFocus, Harvard-Neiman Watchdog, Hollywood Reporter, San Francisco Focus and Red Herring online.

He also contributes articles on sexuality, popular culture and politics to CounterPunch, Brooklyn Rail, Z Magazine, Sexuality and Culture, Eureka Street (Australia) and Counterpoint (India).

Professionally, David is a business-development consultant with twenty years experience having served on the management teams taking public two high-tech start-ups, launched worldwide the first CD-ROM system and provided executive-level strategic consulting services to major U.S. and international for-profit corporations and non-profit organizations, start-up ventures and independent media makers.

This is his second book.