It's instructive for people concerned about the current erosion of our civil liberties in America to know what's come before us, i.e., how the infamous Anthony Comstock in the 1870's led attacks against not only the mailing of supposed "obscene" materials, but against the mailing of articles "aiding" contraception and abortion, as well. Keep in mind that today's whole Jesse Helms/Randall Terry (Operation Rescue)/Katherine McKinnon crowd also opposes sexual education/explicit material and birth control/reproductive freedom alike. This is not simply deja vu: it points up the fact that the historical rise of censorship attempts sees a concurrent rise in attempts to hold back the progress of women; i.e., today's yammerings about "morality," so-called "family values," etc., ad nauseum, are all mostly simply so many smokescreens for keeping women in their place."
Through things like the Comstock-sponsored "Act for the Suppression of Trade in and Circulation of Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use," the adoption of the Hays (film censorship) Code in 1934 and formation of groups like the Roman Catholic Church-funded Legion of Decency, repressive forces continued to ride roughshod over freedom of expression in the U.S. throughout the early part of the century. By the 1950's, however, the censors' game (of representing a supposed 'Moral Majority') was exposed to the light of day with the publication of Alfred Kinsey's studies of human sexual behavior in 1948, which basically blew the lid off the fact that Americans were not only 'doing it' more but 'doing it' in infinitely greater variety of ways than heretofore suspected (or admitted to). Combined with Hugh Hefner's visionary publication of PLAYBOY in 1953--called by one writer "the first major challenge to the marriage oriented ethic of sexual liberalism"--together with Helen Gurley Brown's book Sex and the Single Girl, the exoneration by the U.S. Supreme Court of Fanny Hill and more, the proverbial leash was slipped and the stage set for the veritable Rennaisance which was the decade to follow. Here Comes the 60's!
Following are some highlights of major players and events, and anti-censorship battles fought--during that halcyon period. Enjoy! --R.P.