Because of his matter-of-fact treatment of homosexual relations in such books as The City and The Pillar, Vidal is often seen as an early and unrelenting champion of sexual liberation. Sexually Speaking: Collected Sex Writings, a representative sampling of his views, contains literary and cultural essays that document his long campaign to mock and subvert conventional American attitudes toward sex. Vidal was an early supporter of the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). 
The main character of City rapes and murders a man who resists his sexual advances. The hero of Myra Breckinridge also rapes a man.
Vidal is also known for his series of novels concerning American history—
- Washington, D.C. (1967)
- Burr (1973)
- 1876 (1976)
- Lincoln (1984)
- Empire (1987)
- Hollywood (1990)
- The Golden Age (2000)
— and for his political essays, many of which were collected in two volumes:
- United States: Essays 1952-1992 (1993)
- The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 (2001).
In 2009, Vidal received the National Book Foundation's award for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
- Interview, The Paris Review, 1978