Today is the historic anniversary of the passage of the Comstock Act of 1873: America’s congressionally-authorized package of censorship laws against sexual free speech. Without indulging in a lengthy and detailed history, Anthony Comstock, for whom the act was named, type-cast all erotic material as "a deadly poison, cast into the fountain of moral purity." By the beginning of the twentieth century, he bragged about his career totals in his annual report for the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, which included:
- arresting 2,385 individuals;
- destroying 73,608 pounds of books, including a sexually explicit marriage manual for newly married couples who asked for bedroom advice;
- destroying 877,412 "obscene" pictures;
- 8,495 negative film reels for making "obscene" photos;
- 98,563 articles for "immoral" use of rubber;
- 6,436 "indecent" playing cards;
- and 8,502 boxes of pills and powders with the purpose of carrying out abortions.
So where do we stand today?
- In 2007, 0.6% of the population of the US had been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. That's 1,200,000 people in the US alone. (www.globalhealthfacts.org)
- In the seven years between 2001-2008, the US saw an increase in chlamydia cases by 45.6% to 496.35/100K population. (http://wonder.cdc.gov)
- If the marriage and divorce ratios remain the same as they were in 2008, 49% of marriages will divorce. (Centers for Disease Control, 2008)
- Conservative infidelity statistics estimate that “60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an extramarital affair. If even half of the women having affairs (or 20 percent) are married to men not included in the 60 percent having affairs, then at least one partner will have an affair in approximately 80 percent of all marriages.” (www.menstuff.org/issues/byissue/infidelitystats.html)
- An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. (NCADV Public Policy Office)
- One in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape. (NCADV Public Policy Office)
- There are 16,800 homicides and 2.2 million medically treated injuries due to intimate partner violence annually, which costs $37 billion. (NCADV Public Policy Office)
So much for the fountain of moral purity.
This combination of inherited repression and media-based mixed-messaging is clearly a harmful cocktail. What can be done?
First, know yourself. Step aside from what society has taught you is acceptable and right, and inquire into what truly inspires you. Read and listen and learn about the many ways available to relate to others. Cliché though it may be, you must know and accept yourself before you can truly know and accept another. What would it mean for society if our children were all raised in an environment of inherent acceptance and self-worth, encouraged to inquire, challenge, and choose?
Secondly, share yourself! While society at large may frown on conversations about sex, the individuals that make up that society are hungry for it. Talk to your friends and family, take a risk, be vulnerable, and create a safe space in which they too can share. It may not be easy - it may not even be pleasant - but there is not a human being alive who is not touched by issues of sexuality in one way or another.
Who would we be as a nation if we were free to be curious about sex, to share our concerns and questions, to give up "looking good" or "looking bad" and simply BE with and support each other in this arena? What if we could simply agree to disagree with those who choose another viewpoint than ours; to create intentional intimate relationships where both partners are empowered and fulfilled? What would that freedom make possible in other areas of our lives? In our communities? Nationally? Globally?
Today is America's Sexuality Day. It is a day to celebrate sex - your sex - however you choose to have it or not. Today in particular, enjoy your sex, yourselves, your lives and your loves. Speak them freely and loudly, for our words create the world in which we live.
M. Makael Newby, 2010 - All Rights Reserved - http://mmakaelnewby.blogspot.com