Looking can reveal a lot about the culture’s broader

Looking for Mr. Goodbar was released at the peak of the sexual revolution (and the cusp
of the backlash) during a time when the movement was questioning social norms regarding
marriage, sex, and reproduction. The novel chronicles a young woman’s search in singles bars
for sexual gratification, but on a deeper level the story concerns the dangerous consequences of
her refusal to follow her prescribed gender role. Through a tight, historically grounded close
reading, this paper examines the role of Looking for Mr. Goodbar as a cautionary tale that
explores the dangerous consequences of deviating from conventional standards of gender, and
sexuality. Like the tabloids before her, Rossner reconstructs the murder of a single apparently
liberated white woman engaging in casual sex as a dangerous and inevitable consequence of her
actions and, more broadly, the sexual revolution. The novel deserves attention because its themes
of gender, identity, sexuality, and violence offer a glimpse into some of the fears and anxieties
revolving around women’s liberation and sexual freedom during the 1970s. Rossner’s depiction
of female sexual desire as well as violence against women within the novel can reveal a lot about
the culture’s broader fears and concerns regarding sexual self-liberation. Her representation of a
society of sexual variation remains important as issues of sexuality, women’s rights, and
violence against women continue to influence public attitudes and conceptions.

In her book, Feminism and Its Fictions: The Conciousness-Raising Novel and the
Women’s Liberation Movement (1998). Lisa Maria Hogeland examines the relationship between
the writings of the women’s liberation movement and novels by individual female authors in
shaping public attitudes regarding sexual self-determination. Hogeland argues that the era’s
“consciousness-raising” novels such as Jong’s Fear of Flying, Marge Piercy’s Woman on the
Edge of Time, and Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room, were important in circulating feminist
ideas and influencing political change. Studying such works alongside Women’s Liberation,
Hogeland claims, can reveal a great deal about the fears and anxieties that were present within
the movement. In her essay, “Sexuality in the Consciousness-Raising Novel of the 1970s,” she
makes the case that feminist fiction contributed to reconstructions of sexuality, and that while the
authors did not all agree on what constituted freedom, their narratives offered insights into what
they agreed it was not.10 Along similar lines, Elaine Showalter examines the increasing concern
with rape as a national problem in women’s novels during the 1970s in her essay, “Rethinking
the Seventies: Women Writers and Violence.” Showalter focuses her analysis on Spark’s The
Driver’s Seat, Rossner’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar, Gail Godwin’s The Odd Woman, and Lois
Gould’s A Sea Change, to trace the shift from 1950s and 1960s novels in which the protagonist
typically experienced a mental breakdown or committed suicide to one in which they ended up
being raped or murdered or both. She argues that while violence (both physical and sexual) is not
new to American culture, its incorporation in women’s novels is emblematic of the sense of
panic and uncertainty women were feeling during the 1970s.11 Jane Gerhard explores the
relationship between depictions of sex and writings from the women’s liberation movement in 

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