Home > Features > The Comstock Anniversary • Bookmark   • Newsletters   • Register Search Options


The Comstock Anniversary

The Comstock Anniversary

March 5, 2008
Text size: 
Get XBIZ News
XBIZ Research
Will virtual reality boost the paysite market?
Yes, it will soon
Yes, but in a few years
Out of 179 votes. Results based on votes submitted by members of XBIZ.net social network.
The anniversary of one of the most execrable laws ever passed by Congress occurred two days ago.

The year was 1873, not the best of times for the United States, mired as it was not only in a stock market crash and resulting depression, but also the second corruption-ridden presidential term of Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant.

Perhaps to take citizens' attention off these and other national woes, Congress passed The Comstock Act, which became law on March 3 and outlawed the distribution through the U.S. Postal Service of "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" materials, including any information about birth control and abortion.

The law was the brainchild of Anthony Comstock (1844-1915, pictured above), a former dry goods clerk who, earlier that same year, had founded the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice.

A passionate defender of public morality, Comstock not only convinced Congress to pass the law named after him, but he also took personal responsibility for enforcing it, at one point even contacting the New York City police about the contents of George Bernard Shaw's play, Mrs. Warren's Profession. In retribution, Shaw coined the term "comstockery," defined as "censorship because of perceived obscenity or immorality."

The following is partial text of the Comstock Act:

"Be it enacted... That whoever, within the District of Columbia or any of the Territories of the United States...shall sell...or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish or offer to publish in any manner, or shall have in his possession, for any such purpose or purposes, an obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper of other material, or any cast instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception, or for causing unlawful abortion, or shall advertise the same for sale, or shall write or print, or cause to be written or printed, any card, circular, book, pamphlet, advertisement, or notice of any kind, stating when, where, how, or of whom, or by what means, any of the articles in this section…can be purchased or obtained, or shall manufacture, draw, or print, or in any wise make any of such articles, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and on conviction thereof in any court of the United States...he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court."

It took until 1971 for Congress to remove the prohibition on birth control. Today, we are still fighting the forces of intolerance and comstockery directed at sexual expression and identity.


Retailers Talk BDSM Shopping Trends

These days, BDSM is so mainstream that it is being depicted in everything from beer commercials to telenovelas. Floggers, paddles, ball gags and handcuffs were once considered the bad boys of adult retail;... More »

Specialty Manufacturers Talk Popularity of Handcrafted BDSM Gear

The proverbial cat is out of the bag for fetishes — and the dog, and the dragon, and a whole other slew of kink accessories that put blindfolds and handcuffs to shame. “Fifty Shades”... More »

Mainstreaming of BDSM Broadens Category, Consumer Reach

It’s been just more than 30 years since Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke lit the silver screen on fire in “9 ½ Weeks” with the film’s underlying themes of BDSM. And more than... More »
Stay informed of the latest industry developments. Get XBIZ newsletters delivered to your inbox. Subscribe today!
Enter email address:

* To manage existing subscriptions click here.

Submit your press release to
multiple news outlets with 1 click.
Subscribe to RSS news feeds or
add free content to your website.
Access XBIZ news and articles
with your mobile device.
Subscribe to XBIZ Premiere magazine, the industry's leading adult retail trade publications, delivering the most timely and comprehensive business news and information to producers and retailers of adult products.


XBIZ Retreat

May 30 - Jun 03
Miami, Florida

XBIZ Miami 2017

May 30 - Jun 02
Miami, Florida

XShow 18+ 2017

Jun 01 - Jun 03
Moscow, Russia

Cam Summit

Jun 02 - Jun 04
Lloret de Mar, Spain
Everyday thousands of business professionals browse XBIZ's industry directory for quality products and services. Not listed yet? Your company could be losing potential new business. Submit your company today!
Use XBIZ RSS feeds to stay informed of the latest industry developments or as a content syndication tool for your website!