Censorship

"Hounded to her own grave for the crime of urging married couples to enjoy sex"

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Writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, former Reason staffer Bill Kauffman reviews a new biography of the forgotten sex activist and free speech hero Ida C. Craddock:

Craddock peddled sexual advice manuals with such unerotic titles as "Helps to Happy Husbands" and "Right Marital Living." She found "a decent customer base for her writings" but ran afoul of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose leader, Anthony Comstock, stamped out smut as a special agent of the U.S. Post Office. Comstock was not a believer in moral suasion: The society's logo featured images of a man in handcuffs being pushed into a cell and a top-hatted swell tossing books onto a pyre. Craddock's Manhattan apartment was raided by Comstock himself, who removed 600 offending publications. He even swiped her typewriter.

"I am taking my stand on the First Amendment," declared Craddock in the face of Comstockery, but that stand collapsed, and so did Ida Craddock. In October 1902, awaiting sentencing for the federal crime of sending "obscene" literature through the mails, she slit her wrist and bled to death. She left a poignant note to he mother: "Some day you will not be ashamed of me or my work. Some day you'll be proud of me."

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  1. Sex Therapy by I. C. Craddock? The Yellow River by I. P. Daily.

    1. Uh, dude, The Yellow River was written by I.P. Knightley. Maybe next time you can do a little research before posting, ok?

      1. Christ Almighty, it’s by I.P. Frehley.

        1. No, no, no. It was I.P. Lotts.

          1. IP Controversy (TM).

    2. A craddock sounds really hairy.

  2. There are countless reasons I’m thankful to be alive in the 21st Century, but one of the big ones is our modern attitude towards sex and marriage. The thought of marrying somebody you don’t love (while still a teenager, no less), only having sex to procreate, and then having very boring, missionary-position sex is about as bleak as it gets.

    1. I have a feeling that people did plenty of the stuff they do today; they were just really, really careful to keep it under wraps. People are people, and most of them like sex–a lot. And they like it different ways. There’s no way some fucking scold would keep them from it.

      1. they were just really, really careful to keep it under wraps

        nah

        They just didn’t write about it. It was probably easier to find a brothel in 1902 then it is today in the US.

        In fact I have my doubts they even exist today out side of Nevada.

        Of course i am talking about straight sex or circus shows with bestiality. Gays probably had to hide it.

        1. Now that Craigslist can’t run their ads any more, I guess so.

    2. That sounds exactly like my first marriage.

    3. … only having sex to procreate, and then having very boring, missionary-position sex is about as bleak as it gets.

      Couldn’t have been too bad – most of my ancestors over the last 400 years had anywhere from 5 to 10 kids, not counting the ones who died at birth or shortly after. The sobs bred like rabbits. 😉

    4. While most people did not marry for love throughout history, they did enjoy their sex. Strangely enough, it was the Victorians who gave us both marrying for love, and being ashamed of sex.

  3. [Ida] Craddock peddled sexual advice manuals with such unerotic titles as “Helps to Happy Husbands” and “Right Marital Living.” She found “a decent customer base for her writings” but ran afoul of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, whose leader, Anthony Comstock, stamped out smut as a special agent of the U.S. Post Office[.]

    Craddock… Comstock… Are these real people or are you reteling repressed memories of some dime novel you read time ago?

    1. Craddock… Comstock… Are these real people.

      The 1920 flu epidemic killed all the people with funny English last names.

  4. Thank heaven we live in an age where there are no government agencies who persecute people mercilessly for acts that don’t harm others.

  5. Comstock is on the list to get junk-punched when time travel gets going. He’s loathsome and a good, hard punch in the junk probably won’t totally screw up the time stream.

    Some history nerd will probably go back and fix it, but my memory of it will still be treasured.

    1. Watch out. He may be prepared.

      1. How a man with such a fine mustache was that much of a dick is beyond me. I’ll shave the fucker too, leaving him smooth-faced as a mark of his shame.

        1. It’s too bad you don’t have the superpower of removing his mustache by punching him in the junk. It’d save a step.

          1. I’ll work on it.

          2. Depends on how hard you punch him…

        2. According the little history I was able to scrounge up on Comstock, he spent the majority of his life as a self-righteous asshole. Back when he was a soldier in the Civil War, he complained that swearing among the troops was bad for discipline and morale.

          1. I’m reminded of one of the many great Robert Mitchum stories. On the movie Rachel and the Stranger, he acted alongside Loretta Young, who was known as one of Hollywood’s more devout Catholic women (this despite getting knocked up out of wedlock by Clark Gable, going to Europe to have the baby, and then “adopting” the baby).

            Young didn’t want any bad language on the set, and kept a “swear jar” on location as a way to keep cast and crew from swearing. This was naturally tough for Mitchum, but he managed to make it through the shooting without swearing.

            On the final day of shooting, he put a $20 bill in the swear jar, saying something to the effect of, “That’s for all the times I wanted to swear at Loretta!”

            1. The Loretta Young swear jar anecdote I’ve heard is an actor saying “Loretta, here’s $10, now go fuck yourself.”

              I don’t think it was Mitchum, though.

        3. … aaaand clicking on that link brought me an ad for “Gaydar.net” thankyouverymuch.

          … Hobbit

    2. Great. Another one. And I suppose you want to go back and eliminate Hitler, too?

      1. Just the nerds I was thinking of.

  6. I support a libertarian/ghost-fucking hysteric alliance in principle, but…

  7. Damn those redneck fundies Yankee progressives!

    1. Holy fucking shit, dude; can’t you not KULTUR WAR just once?

      1. Book burning was very cosmopolitan back in the day.

    2. SIV, I’m dedicating tomorrow’s blog for you. Epi don’t worry; when I do my article on little dicks you’re the man boy!

      1. What happened to you to make you like this, rectal? Was it head trauma? Fetal alcohol syndrome? One chromosome too many? A combination of all of them?

        1. Epi baby, can you do me a favor over here?

          1. A combination, then.

  8. The society’s logo featured images of a man in handcuffs being pushed into a cell and a top-hatted swell tossing books onto a pyre.

    C’mon, post a picture of this logo! It sounds Too Good To Be True!

  9. It is one of the great tragedies of American history that Comstock wasn’t thrown out of a tenth-story window.

    -jcr

    1. Maybe his remains should be dug up and displayed inside a large jar of urine? Not so much as punishment to him, but as a warning to those who still admire him.

    2. Defenestration would have been the perfect way to rid the world of Comstock.

  10. Jeebus. That’s a tough-luck story. It’s not like she mentioned a candidate by name sixty days before an election or anything like that.

  11. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice was extremely interested in finding and destroying what it described as “microscopic charms” and “rubber devices.”

    Even in the 19th century, someone was selling skin mags, condoms and dildos through the mail.

    1. “microscopic charms”

      I give up. What were/are they?

      1. “microscopic charms”

        I’m not certain, but they may have been microscope slides, jewelry or such with “dirty pictures” on them, viewable only under magnification.

        1. “Microscopic charms” were small pieces of jewelry that would hang from a watch chain. “Obscene” or “Libidinous” charms were miniature nude sculptures in gold or silver. They were referred to as “microscopic” because they were too small to see clearly unless they were brought to your attention.

          It might win the award for most ludicrous moral panic ever, “backmasking” being its only real competition.

  12. If the Society had stuck around, they would eventually have had to ban their own logo, since it featured a man in handcuffs…

  13. Many thanks for the great posting. I am glad I have taken the time to see this.

  14. Yet another example of why the unwritten constitutional clause “unless it is really important is the root of all evil.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. (Unless it is really important)

    That last little phrase written in invisible ink allows them to claim that the first amendment doesn’t apply to obscenity. And it doesn’t apply to private golf clubs and dinner associations. And it doesn’t apply to business owners. And, and, and….

    The same goes for Article I, Section 8, Clause 3:
    “[The Congress shall have Power] To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes; (and anything else they deem important)

    See, there’s that pesky invisible ink parenthetical. Without that we wouldn’t have the farming quotas, welfare, medicare, medicaid, the DEA, the FDA, corporate bailouts, corporate nationalization, etc….

    And of course there’s that pesky tenth amendment:
    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.(just kidding)

    1. We have those glasses that allow us to read the invisible ink, or didn’t you see National Treasure?

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