Lust on Trial
Censorship and the Rise of American Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock
by Amy Werbel
Pub Date 10 Apr 2018
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In Lust on Trial, Werbel provides a detailed and colorful journey through Comstock’s career that doubles as a new history of post-Civil War America’s risqué visual and sexual culture. Born into a puritanical New England community, Anthony Comstock moved to New York in 1868 armed with his Christian faith and a burning desire to rid the city of vice. Werbel describes how Comstock’s raids shaped New York City and American culture through his obsession with the prevention of lust by means of censorship, and how his restrictions provided an impetus for the increased circulation and explicitness of “obscene” materials. By opposing women who preached sexual liberation and empowerment, suppressing contraceptives, and restricting artistic expression, Comstock drew the ire of civil liberties advocates, inspiring more open attitudes toward sexual and creative freedom and more sophisticated legal defenses. Drawing on material culture high and low, courtroom transcripts, and numerous examples of the “obscenities” Comstock seized, Lust on Trial provides fresh insights into Comstock’s actions and motivations, the sexual habits of Americans during his era, and the complicated relationship between law and cultural change.
A Note From the Publisher
This book has a color insert that is not available in NetGalley.
"Amy Werbel probably now knows more about Anthony Comstock than anyone alive today. (And oh, how deliciously unpleasant some of that knowledge is!) There’s a sense of discovery that keeps this narrative moving."
-Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason