Two hundred seventeen years ago, Americans were given a gift almost unheard of in human history. We live in a country whose government is prohibited from restricting what we say and what we publish.
This amazing idea has even been extended to “expressive behavior”—to anything considered “art,” and to activities that can be construed as “political.” Good, that covers just about everything.
Two exceptions to this freedom have evolved:
* You can’t hurt anyone else while you’re expressing yourself.
This makes sense.
* You can’t discuss or portray sexuality in ways that offend a lot of people.
This makes no sense.
This second exception is being used today to silence and jail people, to steal people’s businesses and homes. Just last week, as the most recent example, 45-year-old Loren Jay Adams of Indianapolis was sentenced to 33 months in prison and a hefty fine for shipping “obscene” materials through the mail.
On the anniversary of our Bill of Rights, we need to ask: exactly why does the category of “obscene materials” exist? And why does the government give itself this exemption? And why, oh why, oh why do Americans support this?
How can an object be “obscene?” The whole idea sounds medieval. Ancient. Neanderthal. It recalls a time of tree gods, of voodoo amulets, of leeches and bleeding, of idols believed to have real power, of special words, numbers, and even chords that could summon the Devil. That’s what obscenity laws are about: a puny attempt to protect oneself from the Devil.
When confronted by sights or sounds they wish to reject, many adults refuse to turn their eyes or close their ears to what they reject. They can’t seem to locate the “off” switch on their TVs or computers. Instead, they claim they have a “right” to not see certain images, to not hear certain words.
Local, state, and federal government mobilize over and over to grant this pathetic “right”—when it’s about sex. In fact, many people even demand the “right” to prevent YOU from seeing or hearing what you want to if it’s about sex. They successfully use the wheels of government to accomplish this “right.”
Oh wretched people—given the gift of freedom, but too frightened to hold its fire. Given the treasures of a diverse community, but desperate to cleanse it of diversity. Given choices, and demanding to have these choices taken away.
Sexual rights are not trivial. The right to say words or share pictures of adults that other adults don’t like shouldn’t be merely tolerated—it should be celebrated.
Mindful of monarchy and tyranny, the Founders created many ingenuous barriers to future rulers stealing our rights. They needn’t have worried. Americans have spent the last 217 years pleading to have their rights limited. Sexual rights are, apparently, just too burdensome. We’d rather have the illusion of safety and conformity instead.
Our neighbors’ sexuality, of course, provides neither.