Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Anthony Comstock: The Legacy of an Anti-Sex Zealot

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One of the aspects that most fascinates Europeans is the American preoccupation with sex- as with spending hours purveying assorted porno online – while also being the least likely citizens to enjoy regular (and satisfying!) sexual relations. More than one, since the time of Sigmund Freud, has suggested this has much to do with Americans’ Puritan background. But a lot of it may also have to do with the anti-sexual memes sown by Catholicism (which religion has also formed a cornerstone of American life.)

Those of us who attended Catholic schools, for example, can well recall (even to this day) the thrashings meted out by the nuns to those of our classmates who had the temerity to sketch or draw naked females on their notepads. (Along with the offended nuns delivering mini-sermons on how the perpetrators were destined to spend “an eternity in Hell”).

In one particular episode, I recall one Sister Regina first lifting a kid out of his seat by his ears on her discovery of a particularly lewd naked nun. (She announced this travesty to the class first). She then dragged him to the front of the class,  pinned him against the blackboard – head toward it – while delivery fifty savage lashes with a leather tawse (she kept hanging up over the chalk board.) Well, she was one of the Irish “Sisters of Mercy” but had no mercy on this wayward lad! (Get any of the movies or documentaries on the "Magdalenes"  and learn more about the history of these nuns)

Then there was the ΓΌber authoritarian Prude,  Anthony Comstock, founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, a fervent anti-sex Crusader who may well have been the most influential.  In his heyday, he proudly boasted of having taken responsibility for burning “fifty tons of books and millions of photos” – not to mention 4, 000 arrests and no less than fifteen suicides. (He always rejoiced when any sexual pervert hung himself or jumped off a ledge so money was saved on the prosecution of a smut fiend).

He engineered most of this through The Comstock Act (March 3/1873), which made it a felony to send any "obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious" materials through the mail, including contraceptive devices and information.  The materials could be as innocuous as an image of a woman in a girdle and bra. Thus, most porn purveyors today would have been tossed into stir for the images, videos they watch.

In addition to banning contraceptives, Comstock’s act also banned the distribution of information on abortion for educational purposes through the U.S. mail. The bombastic, authoritarian pig who pushed for these archaic laws,


wanted nothing less than the mind control of all fellow citizens, as well as neutering their brains and gonads.  Incredibly, though one might have thought his anti-sex jeremiads might be buried with his swine carcass, his legacy has survived and even to this day. I already noted, for example, how Mitt Romney – had he and his minions gotten into power two years ago- would have waged all out combat on any porn that didn’t meet their specification, see e.g.

But let’s back up a bit. In 1920, sometime after Comstock croaked, the Little Review magazine was prosecuted for publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses. The book, one of the epochal contributions of great literature, was banned in the U.S. until 1933 when a federal judge finally had the balls to overturn the ban because he found the book “more emetic” (vomit inducing) than aphrodisiac.

Well, humans do vary widely in their tastes, including of literature.

Meanwhile, Comstock’s legacy left other great works like D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer banned until mid-20th century when U.S. culture had become more open to sexuality and sexual expression. This was majorly helped by a LIBERAL Supreme Court decision protecting sexual expression unless “obscene” and being “utterly without redeeming social support”.

The 1960s then ushered in an era of sexual liberation (think “summer of love”) even as LBJ appointed his Lockhart Commission – ostensibly to “study the effects of pornography” expecting it to document the harm done. Two years later, however, cornpone LBJ was upset because his commission concluded that “pornography was not harmful” and called for the repeal of obscenity laws.

Of course, the Lockhart Commission’s findings were immediately denounced by Tricky Dick Nixon who “categorically rejected its bankrupt moral conclusions.” But, of course, Tricky Dick had no problems with bankrupt morality when it came to bombing Cambodia while expanding the Vietnam War, and then – in 1972, setting loose burglars to break into the Watergate complex – to try to get dope on Democrats!

But sadly, Nixon’s tirades not only summoned the usual knee-jerk conservative assholes to rail against porn, but also enlisted a large number of feminist anti-porn activists such as Andrea Dworkin. These “feminists” probably set back the women’s liberation movement for decades – since they clearly didn’t have the interests of real women at heart.

It took the sanity and reason of  (then) ACLU president, Nadine Strossen, in her book Defending Pornography, to observe that in all cultures and societies where porn has been most freely available - women have been most liberated. In all those nations and cultures where it's been most repressed, the opposite has been true. In other words, it is a key barometer for women's emancipation - apart from the fact that many women (as she noted) enjoy it too!

With Nixon routed from power by his crimes, for which he ought to have been impeached-  but was pardoned by the wimp and puppet Gerald Ford (who also altered documents of the Warren Commission to try and alter JFK’s back wounds to make it appear they came from the rear) things settled down until the Reagan administration reared its ugly head.

Then, in 1985, Reagan’s Attorney General Ed Meese convened a commission of anti-pornography crusaders under the banner of his “Meese Commission”.  These bozo conservatives actually issued a dossier on “the harmful effects of pornography” while admitting that linking aggressive and sexual violence:

“requires assumptions not found exclusively in the experimental evidence

Adding that:

The Commissioner, however, saw no reason not to make these assumptions…that are plainly justified by our own common sense.”

But, of course, "common sense"  without the use of facts and evidence - based only on "assumptions" -is as useless as teeth on chickens.

Incredibly, the Meese Commission’s distorted views continued to attract public and political support and really ramped up after the Bushites were hurled into office in 2000 by a Supreme Court overstepping its bounds, and a state (Florida) with a governor and Secretary of state who dumped black voters by listing them as felons. (See Chapter 1 of Greg Palast's book, 'The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.')

Anyway, Bushie Attorney General John Ashcroft then went the whole prude hog by actually spending $8,000 of taxpayer money to get drapery to cover the bare-breasted statue ‘The Spirit of Justice’  which stood in the Great Hall of the Dept. of Justice.  Not to be outdone, another goober – the successor to Ashcroft – Alberto Gonzalez, declared that pornography was his top priority alongside terrorism.

Yeah, right! Naked boobs and butts ranked right up there with al Qaeda bombing attacks killing thousands. No wonder the country went batshit crazy during the Bush years, unable to distinguish fantasy from reality..

Now, brace yourself for a real mind-blower:

According to a 2009 Harvard Business School study the highest per capita consumption of pornography occurs in those states with the most restrictive laws regulating access to adult content.

In other words, the “red states” like Oklahoma, Texas, Mississippi and the like.

Go figure!

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