(Page 2 of 2)
New controversies played out alongside good old-fashioned theater. In 1972 feminists in the Chicago Women's Liberation Union—some of them also ACLU members—crashed an ACLU fundraiser held at the Playboy Mansion. The fete was so Hefner-inflected that it included nude swimming at 4 a.m. The women's liberationists bounded in with pinups of men in bunny suits, featuring slogans such as "He's got a nice ass but he's kind of dumb."
Today those Playboy-hating days, like Playboy itself, are largely passé. Inside the organization, the ACLU has since weathered further First Amendment controversies about everything from sexual harassment laws to Dworkin-McKinnonesque moves to ban revoltingly violent porn.
Through thick and thin, Wheeler believes, the ACLU's support of unfettered sexual expression has tended to polarize the public. But the trend has been on the organization's side. Opinion polls show that most Americans today oppose laws against gay sex, support legal abortion, and condemn censorship.
How did the country come to these card-carrying positions? Through the intrepid and conflicted men and women of the early ACLU, Wheeler argues. By working out their own issues in an organizational and political sphere, they stretched their sexual revolution clear through the 20th century and into 21st.