#ThrowbackThursday: The Comstock Act, 1873

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice seal (Loyno)

The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice seal (Loyno)

Praise be for mail-order sex toys. We wouldn’t have that option if the Comstock Act was enforced.

Enacted on Mar. 3, 1873, the Comstock Act (named after the bill’s cheerleader/goody-two-shoes Anthony Comstock) made it illegal to send sex toys, erotica, and items used in abortions, as well as information pertaining to said items, through the U.S. Postal Service. All of these things were classified as “obscene, lewd or lascivious.” The full title of the act was “The Act for the “Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use”. (What a mouthful, no wonder it was cut down to the Comstock Act.)

But what exactly was banned was a bit confusing. In some cases, medical textbooks showing basic human anatomy weren’t allowed to be sent through the mail. Because of this, the Act was understandably difficult to enforce. Though it remains on the books today, aspects of it have been torn down.

Thank god, because I can’t imagine a world where Adam & Eve, The Pleasure Chest and countless other retailers aren’t allowed to exist and flourish, and send us hours of pleasure packed in a brown-paper-wrapped box labeled with discreet shipping.

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