Did You Know The ACLU Was Founded By A Bunch Of Pervs?
Any book that discusses both civil liberties and sex is one I want to read:
...she has assembled a story about men and women working through their own sexual passions and contradictions as they shaped a legal and political practice for the entire country. She reveals how activists pushed, slouched, and pushed some more to arm their fellow citizens with sexual rights, even as those rights provoked further conflicts, including among ACLUers themselves.
Did you know that the founder of the ACLU was repeatedly raped as a child? I had no idea:
Wheeler's story starts in the 1920s, as young, educated men and women flocked to Greenwich Village to partake of a modernist cultural revolution with heady new ideas about the nature and purpose of sex. One of these migrants was Roger Baldwin. As a 12- or 13-year-old in the 1890s, he had been seduced by his family's Irish servant. He'd spent the next few years having sex with her, learning, as he put it, "everything that was to be known, even how to prevent getting her pregnant."
Oh, I'm sorry. "Seduced." That's usually what we call adults having sex with pre-teens, right? Anyway:
In the Village, Baldwin met Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who had spent her youth wondering if she was physically attracted to women rather than men. By the 1920s, she was in love with Baldwin. The couple wed in the new style, sans ring or vows. And Baldwin founded the ACLU.
Baldwin was a proponent of "free love," believing that living a "creative life" required "many loves shared together openly, honestly, and joyously." Like other women she knew, Doty agreed that her husband could have lovers, but she was reluctant to take her own. She became accidentally pregnant at least once by Baldwin. She managed to end the pregnancy, though it's not clear how.
We learn that it was in this milieu that the push for birth control education was launched. I can imagine that would help Baldwin continue his lifestyle. Then this:
The early ACLU leadership vacationed together at Martha's Vineyard. On isolated beaches there, many practiced nudism. Nudists today are largely winked at if not ignored. But in the 1930s and '40s, they saw themselves as an avant-garde movement. Going undressed, they believed, would strengthen democracy by challenging the class distinctions so visible in clothing. They also thought the sight of people casually strolling in the buff would cool the frisson of obscenity.
OK, now they've lost me. Nudists are the worst! But if it's for challenging class distinctions, maybe it's better?
Anyway, the ACLU's support of pornography and abortion are discussed as is the conflict between gender rights and civil liberties (e.g. rape-shield laws).
As Nathan points out, whatever conflicts have arisen, "the ACLU's support of unfettered sexual expression" has been supported by the public:
How did the country come to these card-carrying positions? Through the intrepid and conflicted men and women of the early ACLU, Wheeler argues. By working out their own issues in an organizational and political sphere, they stretched their sexual revolution clear through the 20th century and into 21st.
And I think we can all agree that the culture is so much better now that we have an army of Baldwins free to spread their seed across the land without worrying about babies or other entanglements.
I wish there were more civil libertarians who simply pushed for greater freedom on philosophical grounds, not because of their own deep-seated behavioral issues. I can't help but wonder how a liberty movement grounded in virtue would differ from one grounded in vice.