How Sex Became a Civil Liberty
How Sex Became a Civil Liberty is the first book to show how and why we have come to see sexual expression, sexual practice, and sexual privacy as fundamental rights. Using rich archival sources and oral interviews, historian Leigh Ann Wheeler shows how the private lives of women and men in the American Civil Liberties Union shaped their understanding of sexual rights as they built the constitutional foundation for the twentieth-century's sexual revolutions. Wheeler introduces readers to a number of fascinating figures, including ACLU founders Crystal Eastman and Roger Baldwin; nudists, victims of involuntary sterilization, and others who appealed to the organization for help; as well as attorneys like Dorothy Kenyon, Harriet Pilpel, and Melvin Wulf, who pushed the ACLU to tackle such controversial issues as abortion and homosexuality. It demonstrates how their work with the American Birth Control League, Planned Parenthood Federation, Kinsey Institute, Playboy magazine, and other organizations influenced the ACLU's agenda. Wheeler explores the ACLU's prominent role in nearly every major court decision related to sexuality while examining how the ACLU also promoted its agenda through grassroots activism, political action, and public education. She shows how the ACLU helped to collapse distinctions between public and private in ways that privileged access to sexual expression over protection from it. Thanks largely to the organization's work, abortion and birth control are legal, coerced sterilization is rare, sexually explicit material is readily available, and gay rights are becoming a reality. But this book does not simply applaud the creation of a sex-saturated culture and the arming of citizens with sexual rights; it shows how hard-won rights for some often impinged upon freedoms held dear by others.
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abortion laws abortion rights ACLU attorneys ACLU board ACLU leaders ACLU-MF ACLU’s affiliate Amendment American Civil Liberties April argued August author interview birth control board member Board of Directors censorship Civil Liberties Union Committee Minutes complainant’s consent consumer rights criminal December defend Dennett Doty Due Process Committee Equality Committee Ernst February February 17 federal feminist free speech Freedom to Read homosexual HRC-ERC HRC-MEC issues January January 29 July June Kenyon Kinsey Kinsey’s law reform Lindey magazine Malin March Model Penal Code Morris Ernst Neier November nudist obscenity law October organization Playboy PML-ACLU PML-ACW pornography pressure groups protect rape shield laws reel Reitman Rice right to read Roger Baldwin Roger Nash Baldwin Sanger SC-ACLU second quote September sexual civil liberties sexual expression sexual harassment sexual privacy sodomy SSC-DK sterilization third quote U.S. Supreme Court Warner Watts women women’s rights Wulf York