Every summer, I live (and often die) on the performance of my beloved Mets. I will say that these are a tenacious bunch; we need more hitting, however, if we’re going to make any noise this year…
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-=[ Unnatural Acts]=-
There’s nothing more natural than the urge to express our sexuality. Almost as reliable as that urge is the societal urge to censor these expressions. I have written before about the more than 2,000-year Christian war against sexuality. I believe sexual censorship is mostly founded on the fear of the power of sexuality to liberate us. At the risk of being slammed let me add, while I'm at it, that some of the most repressed individuals in this regard are often Christianized people of color.
In any case, who reading this can honestly say they have never had a deeply moving experience during sex (any kind of sex)?
Let me start off by noting that numerous sexual activities between consenting adults are restricted and carry extreme legal punishments. Until 1961, all fifty states had criminal laws against various forms of consensual sex between unmarried adults. While it is true that many laws were repealed during the seventies, as recent as 1997, twenty five states -- half the states in the union -- still had laws on the books criminalizing unmarried cohabitation. Fornication, defined as sex between unmarried couples, and “sodomy,” defined as oral and/ or anal intercourse, were (and some cases still are) illegal.
What does this really mean? In eleven states around the country, married couples who engage in oral or anal sex in the privacy of their own homes are committing a criminal act, usually a felony. In
Today many sex educators are leaving the educational system because they are under a tremendous amount of pressure not to talk about sex. Imagine that: not being able to talk about the very subject in which you hold expertise.
For the most part, “sodomy” laws are used to discriminate against gays and lesbians in housing, employment, and child custody cases, but they can be used to discriminate against straight unmarried couples as well. Considering the Supreme Courts resistance to upholding sexual privacy at the federal level, the best tactic for fighting oppressive sodomy laws is at the state level.
Sexual expression becomes a crime when the materials produced are legally classified as “obscene.” Obscene materials are exempt from First Amendment guarantees of free speech. The legal definition of obscenity and the manner in which this definition is interpreted, determines what sexual materials we have access to and what materials we can create.
The Supreme Court’s definition of obscenity, the de jure law since their Miller v. California ruling, allows states to regulate sexual materials according to their own community standards. These regulations must be restricted to works that “taken as a whole, appeal to the prurient interest in sex,” that portray sexual conduct in “a patently offensive way,” and that “taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Only materials found by judges or jurors to meet each of three standards of obscenity may be deemed obscene.
Yeah, I’m shaking my head too…
These criteria are astonishingly vague. For example, the dictionary defines “prurience” as “an inordinate interest in matters of sex.” Wow! That’s very specific! Who or how one determines if a photograph has serious scientific value, versus merely scientific value is a road map for First Amendment violations.
If you think this doesn’t affect you adversely, then you’re probably doing a good imitation of an ostrich defensive measure (burying its head in the sand). Sexual censorship is used as a wedge for the sexually repressed to create intolerance and disinformation. One good example is the dismantling of sex Ed courses. “Abstinence-only” sex Ed, courses that teach only sexual abstinence, actually put teens at risk sexually. Teens attending abstinence only sex Ed calluses have been shown to engage in high risk sexual behavior at higher rates than their peers and are more prone to STDs and out-of-wedlock pregnancy.
In addition, any writing or material depicting sex in an honest manner can be censored, not because of the sexual content, but because perhaps the ideas in the material are dangerous to the status quo.
Yes, Virginia, this is the 21st century and we’re still acting like juveniles.
American Civil Liberties
National Coalition Against Censorship - grassroots anti-censorship group fighting for freedom of expression.
Electronic Frontier Foundation - Nonprofit protecting civil liberties online.
Feminists for Free Expression - Anti-censorship organization
The Spectrum Institute - Nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the rights of single adults and domestic partners with or without children.