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Anthony Comstock: American Prude

[ 72 ] February 15, 2012 |

When I started writing over here, I had planned to run a series of my best posts at Alterdestiny since no one read them at the time. In fact, that’s why I had so many “Most Prominent Politician” posts when I first started–I was just taking them from over there. Speaking of which, look for Ohio to come out later today if I get enough grading done.

Anyway, writing about John Nance Garner yesterday, I was reminded that I used to post all the time about historical Americans I hated. I could make such a thing a series, but I don’t want to commit myself to a lot of long, work-intensive posts about U.S. history. “This Day in Labor History” is tough enough to keep up on and you’ve seen how sporadic the “Most Prominent Politician” posts are. Which reminds me that after I finally get through that series, which at this rate will be in 2019, I am going to do a series on the vice-presidential candidates on losing tickets.

I actually had the need to remember one of those old posts about Americans I hated, because tomorrow I am teaching about the lovely Anthony Comstock in my Gilded Age/Progressive Era course. So I thought I’d run this old post about the man who might be the douchiest American to ever live. I think it still holds up. It’s a bit long, but forgive the excess. Comstock may also be the inspiration for the Catholic bishops today; in a county that is now debating access to birth control, a little historical lesson might do some good.

———————

Has there ever been a more loathsome American than Anthony Comstock? The self-appointed regulator of American morality, Comstock acquired great power during the late 19th and early 20th centuries through taking advantage of the anxieties of the upper classes to pass anti-obscenity legislation and prosecute those he thought were smut-peddlers. Loathed even in his own time, but with powerful protectors, Comstock represents the worst of puritanical America. His pernicious influence still lives with us today.

Comstock was born in New Canaan, Connecticut on March 7, 1844. He grew up as a Congregationalist. I don’t think the Congregationalists can engage in postmortem excommunications, but they may want to rethink this policy for Comstock. He enlisted in the Civil War, fighting for the Union between 1863 and 1865. He started his moralizing crusades while in the military, protesting against the use of foul language by his fellow soldiers. By all accounts, the soldiers that served with Comstock ridiculed him mercilessly, seeing him for the uptight bastard that he was. He poured his own daily ration of whiskey on the ground, which would have convinced me to ridicule him too.

After the war, Comstock took a job with the YMCA in New York City. He saw a city teeming with prostitutes and pornography. While he was right about this, he was also disturbed that people might also enjoy sex. Even by this early date, the YMCA was a center for gay men to hook up, though I am not sure how aware Comstock was of this. While working at the YMCA, Comstock managed to prosecute two men for peddling pornography. One of the men later slashed him with a knife, leaving a good sized scar on his face. Like during the Civil War, Comstock managed to survive, helping to show that evil is hard to kill.

Comstock’s first bit of fame came in 1872 when he attacked the feminist Victoria Woodhull after she reported a story detailing an affair famous American preacher Henry Ward Beecher had with one of his congregants. Woodhull was already famous in America in 1872. She declared she was running for president and convinced Massachusetts Senator Benjamin Butler to make a statement on her behalf before Congress, claiming that as citizens, women already had the right to vote. Woodhull also advocated free love, making her scandalous at the time. Woodhull’s belief that sex might be a good thing brought Comstock’s wrath upon her. Woodhull was arrested under obscenity statues for this story. She correctly argued that if she was a man, she would not have been arrested. But for Comstock, women talking about sex was even worse than men talking about sex. A technicality got Woodhull off, but Comstock became famous around the nation. He also destroyed Woodhull in the process. She lost her backers, moved to England, and married a proper gentleman, retreating into a traditional Victorian marriage.

Comstock frequently referred to himself in typical modest fashion as “the weeder in God’s garden.” In 1873, Comstock continued his national career of prudity by creating the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. Through his powerful congressional benefactors, Comstock pushed through Congress in 1874 the notorious Comstock Law, which made illegal sending “obscene, lewd, and lascivious” material through the U.S. mail. Examples of such material included information on birth control and biology textbooks that showed accurate representations of the human body. Comstock believed the birth control devices caused lust to rise in the human body and lewd behavior to follow. It was primarily to stop birth control from being propagated that Comstock fought for the law that bears his name. Soon after, 24 states enacted similar laws to prevent the dissemination of birth control on the state level. The worst of these laws was in Comstock’s home state of Connecticut, where even the use of birth control was a violation of the law. Married couples could be prosecuted for using birth control in the privacy of their own homes and sentenced to a year in prison.

Comstock saw all erotic material as, “a deadly poison, cast into the fountain of moral purity.” Erotic books “breeds lust. Lust defiles the body, debauches the imagination, corrupts the mind, deadens the will, destroys the memory, sears the conscience, hardens the heart, and damns the soul. It unnerves the arm, and steals away the elastic step.”

Comstock used to brag about how 15 people had killed themselves because of his attacks. Among them was Ida Craddock. Craddock has been convicted violating the obscenity laws for authoring sexually explicit marriage manuals and sending them to paying couples who needed help in the bedroom. On the eve of reporting to federal prison for such a heinous crime, Craddock killed herself, leaving a lengthy note blaming Comstock for driving her to this. It was one of his proudest moments.

Comstock also had other obsessions. For instance, he managed to shut down the Louisiana Lottery, the only public lottery in the United States at the time. He really loved burning books too. He claimed to have arrested more than 3000 people and burned 15 tons of books in his career. He also fought against abortion and went after abortion providers with all the power he could muster. But abortion had many proponents during the Gilded Age. For instance, he had Sarah Chase arrested five times for violations of the Comstock Law because she was sending birth control through the mail, as well as for providing abortion. She was convicted only once, when a patient died after an abortion. Chase fought back too, suing Comstock for $10,000 after her 1878 arrest. She didn’t win, but she continually outfoxed Comstock through their dual careers. Birth control and abortion were widely sought after in America, even though people had to go underground to find it.

Many of Comstock’s contemporaries held a special place in their heart for hating Comstock. George Bernard Shaw coined the term “comstockery,” meaning “censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality,” after Comstock attacked his play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” Shaw said, “Comstockery is the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States. Europe likes to hear of such things. It confirms the deep-seated conviction of the Old World that America is a provincial place, a second-rate country-town civilization after all.” Comstock, showing all the class you would expect, simply referred to Shaw as an “Irish smut peddler.”

As the historian Andrea Tone writes,

After 1873 others, too, let their own views on morality and privacy guide their assessments of contraceptive criminality. Although Comstock took solace in blaming repeated acts of clemency on the ineptitude of officials or the treachery of his enemies, it was the reasoned deliberation of those who made up the court system, not its corruption, that returned birth control proprietors to the streets. To be sure, the leniency accorded birth control offenders may have been related to widespread loathing of Comstock, the man. Comstock’s belligerence and courtroom histrionics offended judges, alienated prosecutors, and prompted a steady stream of derogatory editorials, cartoons, and poems in turn-of-the-century newspapers and journals. But, although the frequent ridiculing of Comstock may help explain support for violators of the Comstock Law in general, it cannot account for the special leniency accorded birth control offenders in particular. Rather, those entrusted with the responsibility for enforcing contraceptive laws made choices that bespoke tolerance of birth control and compassion toward those who sold it, a willingness to see as gray what Comstock could see only as black-and-white. The judicial decisions of an age when popular attitudes toward criminal behavior and reproductive control are often difficult to gauge index broad-based support of bootleg birth control. Such support had economic ramifications. Favoring acquittal almost as often as conviction and light sentencing as a rule, judges and jurors created an environment in which black market birth control could thrive.

Emma Goldman, the famous anarchist and feminist, loved Comstock almost as much as Shaw did, calling him the head of America’s “moral eunuchs.” Many local police officers and judges hated Comstock’s laws as much as Shaw and Goldman and just refused to enforce them. Only 16 out of 105 people arrested for birth control violations between 1873 and 1898 were sent to prison. In virtually all the cases they were guilty of the violating the law, but sympathetic judges and juries usually either dismissed the charges, found them not guilty, or suspended the sentences. Ulysses S. Grant, who signed the Comstock Law, also felt sympathy and went out of his way to pardon 5 of the 12 people sentenced to prison during his presidency. His successor, Rutherford B. Hayes, also pardoned at least one person.

On the other hand, Comstock did have his followers. One big fan was J. Edgar Hoover. I guess cross-dressing wasn’t so obscene in those days. I’m sure Comstock would have agreed.

Comstock died on September 21, 1915. His health suffered in his later years after an anonymous attacker whacked him in the head. Unfortunately, his assailant failed to kill him.

Immediately after his death, the young birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger began her campaign to overturn these laws. In 1916, she opened the nation’s first birth control clinic, in New York City. She was arrested for violating the Comstock Laws. In 1918, courts sided with Sanger, making it legal for women to use birth control devices, though only for therapeutic purposes. In 1936, Sanger pushed a case that resulted in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in United States v. One Package that made it legal to distribute contraceptives across state lines. This made it legal to mail birth control devices around the nation.

Modern day disciples of Comstock must include former Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft used his time in the office to fight against sex any way he could, including in 2002 covering up the semi-nude statue “Spirit of Justice” at the cost of $8000 of taxpayer money. The statue was in the press conference room in the Justice Department. The site of a nude breast on a statue was too much for Ashcroft to bear.

This information comes from a variety of places. Several websites to be sure. I also looked at Nicola Beisel’s Imperiled Innocents: Anthony Comstock and Family Reproduction in Victorian America, published by Princeton in 1997, Heywood Broun and Margaret Leech’s 1927 biography, Anthony Comstock: Roundsman of the Lord, which is more critical than you might expect, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s article, “Victoria Woodhull, Anthony Comstock, and Conflict over Sex in the United States in the 1870s,” published in the Journal of American History in September 2000, and Andrea Tone’s excellent piece, “Black Market Birth Control: Contraceptive Entrepreneurship and Criminality in the Gilded Age,” also published in the Journal of American History in September 2000.

Allow me to say how much I enjoyed researching and writing this post. May you all do something obscene tonight and dedicate it to the memory of Anthony Comstock, American Bastard.

Comments (72)

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  1. Danton says:

    Jeez, I’m from New Canaan and never realized Comstock was, too.

  2. rea says:

    What a tragedy the man died in 1915–he could have been the long-awaited not-Romney around whom the Republicans will unite, if only he were alive today.

  3. Murc says:

    Until this moment, everything I knew about Comstock only came via “Cryptonomicon.”

    I feel smarter than I did before reading this.

  4. Hanspeter says:

    The Ashcroft story with the “Spirit of Justice” statue is supposedly even funnier than presented here.

    Ashcroft kept giving all these press conferences about obscenity this and obscenity that and the press kept making sure to put a breast in the background (apparently a game for many years even before Ashcroft). According to Wikipedia and other reports, it was Monica Goodling who actually ordered the drapes, because nothing makes you forget that someone has an obscenity obsession like covering up a semi-nude statue.

    • strannix says:

      It’s worth pointing out that, under this version of the story, Goodling was basically right to cover the statues up because the press couldn’t stop acting like third-graders about them.

      • witless chum says:

        If Ashcroft wouldn’t act like a grownup, why should bored photographers forced to shoot boring pictures of a boob at a lectern? And sometimes a statue’s breast.

      • If that’s acting like a 3rd grader, then 3rd graders know how to act. He needed to be humiliated for his obsession with sex.

        • Anonymous says:

          Right. Or to put it slightly differently: on some (rare) occasions, acting like a 3rd grader is actually a better choice than the alternatives.

    • BigHank53 says:

      An even further addendum: according to some DC photographers, the way to get the AG framed properly with the breast over his shoulder required the photographer to lie on the floor in front of him and wriggle into position. Hard to conduct a press conference with photographers constantly behaving like fish out of water right in front of you.

  5. Charlie Sweatpants says:

    “Even by this early date, the YMCA was a center for gay men to hook up, though I am not sure how aware Comstock was of this.”

    I’ll bet he was plenty aware. A quick read and Ctrl-F on his Wikipedia page doesn’t show a wife, an engagement, or anything. Right down to today, the moral guardians who say shit like “Lust defiles the body, debauches the imagination, corrupts the mind, deadens the will, destroys the memory, sears the conscience, hardens the heart, and damns the soul. It unnerves the arm, and steals away the elastic step.” tend to be the kind with personal knowledge who can’t get over their own hangups.

    • Malaclypse says:

      1Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.

      2Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband.

      3Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

      4The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

      5Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

      6But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.

      7For I would that all men were even as I myself. But every man hath his proper gift of God, one after this manner, and another after that.

      8I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I.

      9But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.

      St Paul, who was not at all a self-hating homosexual. I mean, sure, he may have had a wide stance down at the bathhouses, but that is not at all the same thing, because just shut up – this is a saint we are talking about.

  6. c u n d gulag says:

    Also too – Will H. Hays, of the infamous “The Hays Code.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Production_Code

    After too many film directors got closer and closer to showing some ta-tas, asses, or people too close to the actual sexual act, it was Hays to the rescue of America’s morality!

    And, until TV started to bleed the film industry dry in the late ’50′s, the code was pretty strictly adhered to.

    Finally, Hays’ code was abandoned in 1968, and the also infamous MPAA film ratings came in to, again, rescue America’s morality! So, if adult people wanted to see some nudity, they could shelter their children.

    Since I was born in 1958, I think I remember the first ta-tas I saw on the big screen – I’m pretty sure it was in “Serpico.”

    So, Comstock led to Hoover, who led to Hays.
    And then according to our reactionary Conservatives, the nation went to Hell in a handbasket.
    Too much T&A, and not enough Lords Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance.

    And now, Santorum is vying to be the nations Moral Scold… er, uhm, President.

    • rea says:

      Say what you will about Comstock, he would not have supported forced abortions in Saipan like Santorum.

    • Vance Maverick says:

      Strangely, nudity and sex are still highly radioactive by the MPAA’s Geiger counter — violence hardly registers.

    • Njorl says:

      After too many film directors got closer and closer to showing some ta-tas, asses, or people too close to the actual sexual act, it was Hays to the rescue of America’s morality!

      I remember watching “Babyface”, one of the last films made before the Hays code. It was a bit of a surprise. I had always thought that there was a cultural shift which gradually alterred film, but no, it was like someone threw a big switch.

      • Erik Loomis says:

        Oh yeah, those pre-code films can be super racy. I recommend Red-Headed Woman with Jean Harlow from 1932 as another great example. She quite literally sleeps her way to the top. And not much is hidden in that process. It’s pretty awesome for that, though not a great movie.

        • Sharon says:

          TCM has a series, Forbidden Hollywood and both of those films are on those DVDs.

          My favorite is Norma Shearer in the “Divorcee, all star early talkies’ cast with an especially creepy performance by Robert Montgomery, (The dad in Father Knows Best) as the deceitful best friend of the cheating husband.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        They did pull a big switch.

        Watch some of the late silent films, and the first ‘talkies,’ and you’ll see a huge difference once Hays was allowed to become the head of the American Decency Police.

        Hell, we’re still partially under the same moral scolds. Remember the controversy over Janet Jackson’s loose nipple, and some bare asses on TV in prime time in the last few decades?
        Of course, it’s the same sh*theads calling and writing over and over again to complain.

        And look what they did to poor Benny Hill’s shows when they were showed here!

        At least Monty Python was able to get away with some female nudity back in the early 70′s. Thank goodness for PBS, R-rated movies, and finding your Dad or your Uncles Playboy stash, or else we male teenagers wouldn’t have know what ta-tas looked like – except for the teenage streakers, of course! Some of the cutest girls decided to streak, back in the day – part of some anti-establishment feelings, of course. And the homeliest guys – so I felt sorry for the girls in my class.

    • Lee says:

      As bad as the Hayes Code was, the alternative wasn’t a US with no Hayes Code. The alternative to the Hayes Code were filmakers, Hollywood and otherwise, dealing with myriads of local and state regulations ranging from non-existent to practically everything censored.

      The Supreme Court held that film wasn’t protected by the First Amendment and censorship was polticially possible in many parts of the country. This meant that local and state regulation of the film would happen.

      The only viable alternative would be for the film makers to censor themselves. This was a wise decision. One code is better than a myriad of local and state codes. Plus, whatever codes that local and state politicians came up with would be much worse than the Hayes Code.

      • c u n d gulag says:

        Lee,
        True.
        I’d forgotten about that.

      • The other viable alternative would be for the First Amendment to mean what it says, and the various prudes, reactionaries, and slack-jawed backwater Bible-thumpers to go take a hike.

        The entire argument presupposes that morality police are acceptable to begin with. They’re not.

        • LeeEsq says:

          In 1915, before the Hayes Code was instituted, the Supreme Court held that movies were not protected by the First Amendment. This didn’t change until the early 1950s. This meant that censorship of films was kosher according to the Supreme Court and millions of voters were calling for censorship of movies. If millions of voters are calling for something than politicians are going to give it to them.

          The First Amendment is very nice but if at least a decent plurality of the public wants something censored than politicians are going to try to do it, if only to ensure re-election.

        • Lurker says:

          It does not assume the acceptability of morality police but assumes that it is inevitable. The starting assumption is: “Movies are not protected by the 1st amendment and there is widespread support for censorship.”

          And in fact, the Hayes code was rather liberal in many ways. In my home country, Finland, American detective movies were routinely censored in the 1940′s and 50′s for two reasons: showing corrupt or violent police officers or too detailed techniques of crime or police investigation.

          • LeeEsq says:

            Lurker, in 1915 the Supreme Court of the US specifically held that films aren’t protected under the First Amendment and did not change their opinion till the 1950s. This meant that censorship of film was kosher.

            THe funny thing about your anecdote was that the Hayes Code specifically prevented filmmakers from depicted imitable crimes. Apparently Finnish censors thought otherwise.

  7. Bart says:

    ” Erotic books…unnerves the arm, and steals away the elastic step.”

    But that soon subsides.

  8. Sev says:

    “prudity” -would that involve opposition to nudery?
    Sorry- couldn’t resist.

  9. Sev says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._L._Mencken

    In 1926, he deliberately had himself arrested for selling an issue of The American Mercury that was banned in Boston under the Comstock laws.[23]

  10. Epicurus says:

    I am only surprised that Santorum has not adopted this man as one of his role models. Once and for all, leave consenting adults to their own devices, please! And let’s stop interfering in medical decision-making, while we’re at it. Hope you enjoy your slow descent into obscurity, Ricky.

  11. Njorl says:

    Once and for all, leave consenting adults to their own devices, please!

    Just don’t let them send those devices through the mail.

  12. Great article, Loomis. I guess I got up too late to make “you spelled ‘Santorum’ wrong” jokes.

    Consider this a late entry.

  13. rm says:

    Is that their actual seal, showing an arrest and a book-burning? Good lord, it’s a parody of itself. Goes to show that some things don’t really change.

  14. Nathan Williams says:

    There’s an interesting change in attitudes – or an interesting split between the legislative and judicial branches – if he gets 24 states to enact birth control bans, but in short order they aren’t being effectively enforced or prosecuted.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      My sense from the literature is that there was a real split between legislative and judicial branches as well as legislative branch and public. Juries didn’t want to convict, judges didn’t want to throw the book at those who were convicted. And even if they were convicted, Grant and Hayes might pardon them anyway.

      • LeeEsq says:

        The thing that I always wonder about Comstock and similar figures is if they are successful because of public approval or despite public disapproval. Its often very hard to gage this.

  15. Regarding the Margaret Sanger case, what I love most about it is that the full caption of the case was: “United States v One Package of Japanese Pessaries”.

    Since the law she was breaking involved importing the pessary (similar to a diaphragm) from overseas, the case originated with the Customs Office, which officially arrested and tried the package itself. Absurdity deserves absurdity.

    • Holden Pattern says:

      That’s a pretty standard in rem case name. The government was exercising its right to seize property, and that’s how those cases are titled.

    • Karen says:

      Thereby joining “United States v. 20 Cases of Good Scotch Whiskey” as every law student’s favorite citation. (Can anyone tell me how the federal district court knew that the whiskey was “good?”)

  16. Aaron Baker says:

    Ah, your “Worst Americans” series. I’ve always enjoyed it, and I’d like to see more installments (though not if you find them a chore to produce).

    I think I once suggested the late Joseph Sobran to you as a subject. I found him even more loathsome than an ordinary Holocaust denier because of his coyness on the subject–”palling around” with denialists without being quite brave enough to commit himself dispositively. Truly a poisonous toad in human form.

    I gather you have an importance threshold (your examples are often influential politicians). Probably too insignificant, but breathtakingly evil, was the University of Illinois Classics professor, Revilo Oliver–viciously antisemitic and anti-black, a completely straightforward Holocaust denier–and, unfortunately, a prolific author of hateful screeds that really have to be sampled to be believed.

    I’m sure I can think of other worthy candidates; maybe you should throw this open to a vote to see whom your readership loathes the most?

  17. bloviator says:

    Interesting that he was from New Canaan. I’ve had the displeasure over the years of knowing a particular contemporary, obnoxious, righteous “religious” scold from New Canaan who is also – wait for it, it’s a surprise – a long time stone dirty hypocrite.

  18. Matt Stevens says:

    Alright, Comstock’s bad, but is he as much of a monster as Jewel?

  19. Dave in Northridge says:

    Thanks, Erik. You’ve actually inspired me to start a series at dailykos.com, US before 1865: What’s Bugging Me, in which I discuss the subjects of each week’s lectures that really set me off. I just ran the first one, on 1607, and it went over amazingly well. Next one, next week, will be the Puritans and the Puritans who settled Plymouth and Boston.

  20. mark k says:

    Have you seen this documentary?
    http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/bennett-truth-seeker/

    Just watched it the other day. Comstock supposedly bragged that he had driven 5 people to kill themselves. Only Dick Cheney is as low on the Scumbag American Hall Of Fame

  21. burritoboy says:

    We shouldn’t ignore that Comstock had some very powerful backers indeed – JP Morgan being the most prominent. Comstock was an incredible douchebag, but he was the Establishment’s douchebag. If Comstock hadn’t been around, the Establishment would have found somebody else (and there were any number of enthusiastic people who would have volunteered) to do the job.

    Just as, in a later era, Hoover was an incredible douchebag, but a douche who was backed by some of the most powerful men in the world.

  22. [...] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Thinking about Anthony Comstock and Gilded Age sexuality this week, I was reminded of the woman Comstock destroyed, the fascinating [...]

  23. [...] gives them away. They know it’s coercive. That’s the whole point.Erik Loomis: “Anthony Comstock: American Prude“Has there ever been a more loathsome American than Anthony Comstock? The self-appointed [...]

  24. [...] at Lawyers, Guns and Money wrote a great piece on the self-appointed censor of the Gilded Age: Anthony Comstock. Comstock was one of the great enemies of free thought, free love and free expression, and his [...]

  25. ribtlewo It’s a nice post. ribtlewo

  26. [...] since Anthony Comstock, the biggest prude America ever produced, had we seen such moralizing and uptight thinking against [...]

  27. Αρετή says:

    Thank you for bringing Mr. Comstock’s story to a new generation.
    I wish we had one like him today to speak the law to this nation!

  28. dick smegma says:

    I believe if you shoved a lump of coal up this dudes ass 2 weeks
    later you have a diamond.

  29. Dominick says:

    Anthony Comstock was a true hero. He almost single-handedly won a battle against obscenity. He rightly understood the battle.

    We have departed today from the good family values that used to prevail in the United States since obscenity has emerged. Pornography has helped succinct many unlawful desires and those desires became sins. People are now divorcing more than ever, pre-marital sex has increased incredibly, abortions are at an all time high and fornicators are found everywhere. But in order to allow obscenity to be largely accepted, the depraved thinkers of the Birth control league or Planned Parenthood had to attack the contraceptive issue first. They had to make contraception acceptable to the public’s eyes.

    Here is an interesting quote by Scott Brown who makes a great analysis of the situation and what Anthony Comstock rightly understood:

    « Comstock had taken note of at least two things which are overlooked today. First, he saw obscenity,[1] contraception and abortion as linked together, as a sort of continuum. Since contraception has since been accepted, and thus delinked from obscenity and abortion, the progression has been lost. Yet, it is easy enough to envision how illicit images and materials foster a desire for extra-marital relationships.[2] And when that temptation is contemplated in the mind, often that desire turns to action.[3] Contraceptives are needed to suppress the fruit of those relationships so that they may remain hidden from the public eye. When contraceptives sometimes fail and pregnancy ensues, the final recourse is abortion; so abortion is also needed. Obscenity, contraception, and abortion all begin and end with the same attitude, recreation without procreation. They are parallel roads to the same destination.

    Secondly, Comstock warned that if just one of these three were not effectively suppressed, the other two would eventually follow. And he believed that the “prevention of conception would work the greatest [loss of morals].”[4] In other words, he strongly felt that contraception was the lynchpin for the other two; it was the key battleground. It is counter-intuitive, but it was contraception and not obscenity that brought about the attitudinal sea change. During the 18th century, there was broad cultural agreement on the evils of obscenity and abortion, even contraception. But, to the public, the most rational case could only be made for contraceptive use within marriage, between husband and wife in a lawful relationship. The American public would not have favored liberalized obscenity or abortion laws, or even for contraceptive use outside of marriage. If the concept of limiting family size took hold and those who were married lost their vision of multigenerational family life; if children were no longer considered a blessing but rather a burden, Comstock saw that this would inevitably lead to a breakdown in the values of family, and thus open the door for acceptance of the other two. »

    I think Comstock was right all the way. The first step to the moral decline of America was to introduce contraception as an acceptable thing. That way, people could fornicate in secret. Many years later, we are now far from this battle. Since contraception has been widely accepted, obscenity, adultery, fornication, divorce and sexual crimes have increased dramatically. Those are facts.

    Anthony Comstock has been able to delay the decline of american family values for a few decades. I think we should go back to what this great man acheived in order to prevent what is happening today. Could it get worse if we do nothing? I think so.

    Let’s reclaim our nation’s culture and purity!

    I know that most of you will not agree with my comment. We all have a conscience but we do not all wish the same things. I would prefer to live in a place where pornography, prostitutes, divorce and abortions are in decline instead of raising in numbers. This is my opinion. Feel free to disagree. But I still think the Duggar family (example) is a greater blessing to America than all those who encourage the sex industry.

    Peace!

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