Putting the Blame on Prostitution & Contraceptives
Imagine a world where a woman had no choice but to either have children or risk their lives giving themselves an unsafe abortion in their prime years.
In 1873, the Comstock Act passed in the United States prohibiting advertisements, information, and distribution of birth control and allowing the postal service to confiscate birth control sold through the mail. The act empowered the U.S. Postal Service to refuse to handle through the mail erotica; contraceptive medications or devices; abortifacients; sexual implements, such as the ones used in masturbation; contraceptive information; and advertisements for contraception, abortion, or sexual implements. It made the use of the post for those purposes illegal and punishable. This act was first thought of by Anthony Comstock, who went on crusades and gave police information about the obscene advertisements and actions by strangers around him in New York City. Soon advertisement companies that made ads for contraceptive his number one target because he believed they were explicit and contributed to the behavior of the societies’ members.
The statute was the first of its kind in the Western world, but at the time, the American public didn’t pay much attention to the new law. Soon after the federal law was on the books, twenty-four states enacted their own versions of Comstock laws to restrict the contraceptive trade on a state level. The most restrictive states were the New England states. In Massachusetts, anyone disseminating contraceptives — or information about contraceptives — faced stiff fines and imprisonment. But by far the most restrictive state of all was Connecticut, where the act of using birth control was even prohibited by law. Married couples could be arrested for using birth control in the privacy of their own bedrooms, and subjected to a one-year prison sentence. In actuality, law enforcement agents often looked the other way when it came to anti-birth control laws, but the statutes remained on the books. With this new law in effect, family size declined between 1800 and 1900 from 7.0 to 3.5 children. In 1900, six to nine of every 1000 women died in childbirth, and one in five children died during the first 5 years of life. Needless to say, people didn’t have sex unless they were in a marriage and were procreating or were engaging with prostitution.
Around the 19th century sexually transmitted diseases started to show up among societies. The growth of prostitution and especially of “red-light” districts led to a concern over venereal diseases. W.W. Sanger, a New York Physician, led the side favoring regulation of prostitution—this standpoint wanted to require obligatory medical exams and confine the practice to the red-light districts and on the other side, an English reformer Josephine Elizabeth Butler greatly influenced the standpoint of abolishing prostitution altogether. Some cities abandoned the hope of legal prohibition and instead hoped that they could bring it under real control; they argued that real control of prostitution would reduce the crime rate and disorder that accompanied brothels, and that having designated areas would protect neighborhoods.
At the same time, police and physicians were concerned with controlling venereal diseases, sanitation, and crime, while other doctors had claimed that without prostitutes men would seduce or rape innocent women and long abstinence for men would result in physiological disorders and insanity. Other arguments for regulating prostitution included the fact that many respectable people made a large income with this big business and that the side to abolish the occupation offered no alternative means of living for prostitutes. Reformers and Christians not only wanted to abolish prostitution altogether, but also wanted to educate children to stay away from it because moral tradition and social concern believed it was the ultimate social evil. This moral crusade wanted to prevent the spread of venereal diseases as well in order to protect the American family. The movement to outlaw prostitution gained momentum when venereal specialists of the time decided that the consequences of gonorrhea and syphilis were so horrible that traditional views and attitudes were forced to change, and because of venereal diseases the American Social Hygiene Association formed and gave scientific backing to the movement to abolish prostitution. The debate over prostitution continued throughout this century, and in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, an increasing number of cities and states started acting to restrict prostitution.
Today, while there are still many people against contraceptives, such as Mitt Romney, and believe that the government should regulate obscene things in society, such as prosit utile or half naked pictures of people on advertisements; women and men are allowed to use any different form of birth control. They now have the choice of how many children they want, or if they even want children at all and are definitely protected from most of the STD’s that are present. While prostitution is still illegal and there is more freedom for choice to use contraceptive, there is still many people who have to face more sexually transmitted diseases that are trying to be prevented today than there were in the past. Sex is no longer an act of love, but now an act of lust and no self-control for most individuals and people use it for their own benefit or some have simply become addicts. With that being said there are more abortions being done (safely) and the contraceptive manufacturing companies, the porn industry, strip clubs, and free clinics are booming now. This is important because in the past people believed the cause of most crime were these obscene things when in the reality of today crime rates are skyrocketing, almost everyday there’s a story on the news about a girl or woman being raped or abused by a man.
By no means should society as a whole go back in time and live like people did in the 19th century, but things such as what children are learning from video games or television and how many partners one person has had would certainly not be a big concern for most individuals if they did and maybe some people would stop pointing fingers at the wrong things in society and stop grasping for straws where there are none instead just taking the responsibility for what they do in their every day life. Banning one obscene thing over another, or even banning both didn’t change society for the good.
So I started this journey AGAIN for the LAST time at the beginning of August.. I’ve haven’t posted much because I’m busy with school & finally having a life haha but I just wanted to say that when I do get on here I find some much inspiration from you girls & I wanted to say THANK YOU!!