Mikey B.'s Reviews > Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America's Origins to the Twenty-First Century

Sex and the Constitution by Geoffrey R. Stone
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it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary-society, erotica, gender-studies, history, journalism, religion, united-states

This is an excellent book outlining the control that religious groups have exerted over sexual behavior – be it contraception, abortion, gay rights, and let us say sex in general (sex outside marriage, consensual adult sex, reading “forbidden” books...).

The author gives us a short history of Christianity and how it brought shame, guilt, and repression to all forms of sexuality. The Christian faith and their various offshoots were able to do this for over one thousand years until the Enlightenment.

Page 80 my book

The twentieth-century historian Crane Brinton once quipped that in the sexual realm we now permit “much that the nineteenth century forbade”, but whether we have yet returned “to eighteenth century standards is a nice point of critical discussion.”


The author then goes on to demonstrate how religious forces in the U.S. have constantly exerted a very strong influence over government legislation. It began in the 19th century with Anthony Comstock who devised a successful campaign to arrest anyone dealing with “lewd” literature, contraceptives, and abortion. What was once legal became a criminal offense. Women no longer had access to abortion, and some, in desperation, resorted to methods which caused many to die.

What is also interesting is how religious forces continually organize to combat what is legal at State and Federal levels. Prime examples are the legality of abortion (obtained in 1973) and the growing acceptance of Gay marriage. Over the years they have constantly narrowed down the parameters by which a woman can have an abortion.

By religious groups I am referring to fundamentalist churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Their use of rhetoric against abortion and gay people has grown increasing vitriolic and hateful.

The author successfully predicts the recent Supreme Court decision on a bakery being permitted to refuse to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because the bakery felt it violated their religious beliefs. Where does this all end? I will not cut your hair because it offends my religious beliefs, I will not work with a Muslim individual because of their beliefs, a male will not work with a female because it is against their religion. More and more the religious world is impinging on the secular world. Many religious groups equivocate sin with crime.

The author exposes how different judges on the Supreme Court are being chosen or refused due to their beliefs. Barack Obama had a Supreme Court nominee (Chief Judge Merrick Garland) voted down by Republicans because his views were too moderate (or liberal).

The U.S. is becoming increasingly polarized between conservative-religious states and liberal-tolerant states. This divisiveness continues to grow.

Nevertheless it is truly remarkable the progress that sexuality has made since the 1950’s. Much of this is due to the constant pressure that women’s’ groups made (which also included support from men) to control their lives and bodies. The same can said for the advances Gay people have made. In many ways sex, in all its wonder, came out of the closet. All this is due to long fought efforts against religious and government forces.

I am constantly perplexed by the religious adversaries who want to control other people’s sexual lives.

Of course this book being about sex is very readable and entertaining. Some of the constitution stuff is interesting too!
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
June, 2018 – Finished Reading
June 12, 2018 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-17 of 17 (17 new)

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message 1: by Greta (new)

Greta “Some of the constitution stuff is interesting too!” Haha
Great, passionate review Mikey!


Mikey B. Greta wrote: "“Some of the constitution stuff is interesting too!” Haha
Great, passionate review Mikey!"


THANKS Greta!


message 3: by Darlene (new)

Darlene Fascinating review, Michael! :) This IS interesting, isn't it? When I read your review and you spelled it out so nicely, it is truly amazing the U.S. has come as far as it has.. despite the religious zealots. I would love to answer your 'why' question but these people are as foreign to me as they are to you! :) I wanted to point out that I believe that Obam's last nomination for the Supreme Court never actually even received a vote. I think Congress just quietly left Merrick Garland waiting until Obama's term ended. It's such a great country, isn't it?


Mikey B. Darlene wrote: "Fascinating review, Michael! :) This IS interesting, isn't it? When I read your review and you spelled it out so nicely, it is truly amazing the U.S. has come as far as it has.. despite the religio..."

Thanks Darlene!! - and for the correction too!
You said It's such a great country, isn't it?
Someone quoted to me recently
"If you elect a clown, expect a circus."

But you have such a weird country too - which such a variety of values. You have Utah with its Mormons right next to the state of Nevada with its casinos and legalized brothels!!


message 5: by Greta (new)

Greta "If you elect a clown, expect a circus." Great quote!


message 6: by Darlene (new)

Darlene That IS a great quote! :) Sadly, half of us did NOT elect this particular clown and that is what's so depressing, frustrating and yes, frightening! There ARE a lot of different belief systems and values here.. it's a huge country.... just not so much UNITED!


Mikey B. Often we refer to you as the "States" anyway! As in I went to the States last weekend.

I always try to remember that over half of you voted for her and not him! It makes me feel a little bit better...


message 8: by Darlene (new)

Darlene Yes, that sounds better because you know 'United' has always been a bit of a misnomer.. or maybe just wishful thinking!! :)

There ARE many people who do not approve of the Clown-in-Chief and who did not vote for him! I think the people who DO approve of him are perhaps just a bit louder and maybe better at drawing attention to themselves....


message 9: by Greta (new)

Greta The Irish referendum on the Constitution - which bans abortion (while many women simply go abroad anyway) - a while ago was interesting, and exciting. I heard on the news there were American pro-life and right-wing organisations that tried to influence the outcome with their campaigns and donations. That really angered me. Why do they always want to meddle in foreign affairs?


message 10: by Darlene (new)

Darlene Don't you know, Greta? :) The United States is the morality enforcer around the world! I'm surprised troops weren't deployed to restore moral order in Ireland!


Mikey B. Darlene wrote: "Don't you know, Greta? :) The United States is the morality enforcer around the world! I'm surprised troops weren't deployed to restore moral order in Ireland!"

That's Funny!!


message 12: by Greta (new)

Greta Good one! :)


message 13: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca There isn't anything simple about about going abroad: until the 13th and 14th amendments you could be imprisoned for it. It is prohibitively expensive for many. It results in countless women flying home in no condition to do so. Many immigrants cannot go aboard because of visa restrictions. And parents who have to go abroad to receive healthcare for miscarriages often can't afford to bring their much wanted children home to be buried. This is still the case until the new legislation comes in, and the no-campaigners are fighting to keep it out. :(


message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca I think what upset me most about the Americans here was they were completely uninformed. They did not understand how strict and sadistic our laws are and they didn't know about the women who've died as a result.


message 15: by Darlene (new)

Darlene It isn't that they don't understand, Rebecca... they simply don't care. They are the same here in the U.S.. Various states are passing more and more restrictive laws regarding reproductive rights and these people are behind the push to eventually overturn Roe v Wade... or that is their stated goal. They are zealots and believe that they are on the moral high ground and it is their responsibility to police other people's bodies and what they choose to do with them. They always speak very vehemently about how they are protecting the rights of the unborn. What they don't say is how little they care about these babies AFTER they are born. They are infuriating and frustrating!


message 16: by Greta (new)

Greta Rebecca wrote: "There isn't anything simple about about going abroad: until the 13th and 14th amendments you could be imprisoned for it. It is prohibitively expensive for many. It results in countless women flying..."

Hey Rebecca.
Thanks for your clarification. You are of course right. It isn’t simple to go abroad for an abortion. And you perfectly exemplified this.
What I really meant was that despite this ban on abortion, in reality many women obtain it anyway.
In my opinion, laws should reflect reality, otherwise it aren’t good laws.
We don’t live in an utopian world. Women get raped. Unwanted children get abused.


message 17: by Greta (last edited Jun 13, 2018 10:18AM) (new)

Greta Rebecca wrote: "There isn't anything simple about about going abroad: until the 13th and 14th amendments you could be imprisoned for it. It is prohibitively expensive for many. It results in countless women flying..."

I didn’t know that this ban also applied to women who are having a miscarriage? It’s extremely painful and dangerous if it’s not being taken care of. Such a restrictive interpretation of the ban is indeed inhuman and sadistic!


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