Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Affirming Sexual Freedom as a Fundamental Human Right

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Resources

Rereading Sex: Battles over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth Century America

A lively, scholarly, and often startling exploration of 19th-century American attitudes toward sexuality — what we felt, thought, wrote, and said about the human body; about love, lust, intercourse, masturbation, contraception, and abortion; about the power of sexual words and images.  Horowitz shows us a many-voiced America in which an earthy acceptance of desire and sexual expression collided with the prohibitions broadcast from pulpit and printed page by evangelical Christian elements. She describes the new sensibility that placed sex at the center of life; visionaries like Robert Owen, espousing free love, and the lively new commerce in erotica — including newspapers like The Sunday Flash and, most famously, The National Police Gazette (which featured a legal way to write explicitly about sex). We see a rising opposition instigated by conservative New Yorkers who feared the corruption of young male clerks living in boardinghouses, deprived of parental influence. And we see how this movement led into an era of suppression — pitting Anthony Comstock, who succeeded in banning sexual subject matter from the mails, against the new dissenters committed to free speech — and into the opening battles of the national cultural wars that continue to this day.