Erotica Readers & Writers Association
Home | Erotic Books | Authors Resources | Inside The Erotic Mind | Erotica Gallery
Adult Movies | Sex Toys | Erotic Music | Email Discussion List | Links




'08 Authors Insider Tips


Everything About Epublishing
by Angela James
Epublishing: A Different Way
Choosing an Epublisher
Your Milage May Vary
Understand Your Contract!
Reasonable Expectations


FictionCraft
by Louisa Burton
The Publishing Biz
Critiquing: To Give and ...
Commerical vs. Literary...
Antiformalism for Fun &...
So You Want to Write a Novel
The Story Idea
Planning Your Novel...


The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister
5 Steps to Success
Inspirational
Opening Passages
Let's Get Critical
Writer's Block
Learning Lessons


Two Girls Kissing
by Amie M. Evans
Be a Finisher ...
Listen to Your Characters
Conferences: Act Now ...
Starting an Erotic Story
Exercises & Writing Prompts
Revising & Rewriting
Copy Editing
The Manuscript Critique
How to Submit Your Work
Reading as Craft


Guest Appearances

Adventures in e-Publishing
by Lisabet Sarai

For the Love of Man
by Laura Baumbach

How to...Influence Editors
by Alison Tyler

Marketing your e-Book
by Brenna Lyons


2008 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
Role Play
Busy Doing Nothing
Picture of a Fish & Chip...
What I Did With My Summer


Cooking Up A Storey
by Donna George Storey
Naughty Cookies...
Tie Me Up, Please …
The Smut-Writer’s Holiday
Never Trust the Narrator ...
Compare and Contrast
Following the Pen
Naked at the Farmers Market
Iím Easy, But Iím No Slut
Good Girl Gone Bad
Pleasures of the Dark Side
Slow, Spare and Sexy


Get All Worked Up
with J.T. Benjamin
Raising Daughters
Jamie Lynn
Utopias
Lust
The Good Old Days
Election '08
Traditional Marriage
Campaign 2008
Free Will


Pondering Porn
with Ann Regentin
Masturbating on SSRIs
Sex and Disability
Besides Ourselves
Adjusting our Contrast


Sex Is All Metaphors
by Jean Roberta
Sex Is All Metaphors
Turn-ons and Squicks
Sexual Truth
Fickle Muse
Porn, Erotica & Romance


Provocative Interviews

Between the Lines
with Ashley Lister
Alison Tyler
Ashley Lister
Debra Hyde
Donna George Storey
Jeremy Edwards
Kristina Wright
Rachel Kramer Bussel


Erotic Hot Spots
by William S. Dean
Interview with Tilly Greene
Interview with Devyn Quinn


Getting Graphic
with William S. Dean
New Times for Readers...
The Future in Words ...
Interview with Fantagraphics


On Writing Erotica

The Accidental Pornographer
by Lisabet Sarai

The End of Innocence
by Lisabet Sarai

Get Them Off in High Style
Helena Settimana

So, You Want To Write Erotica?
by Hanne Blank


Web Gems
Hot Movies For Her

Dishonorable Passions:

Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003
by William N. Eskridge Jr.

Book Review by Rob Hardy

 

Sodomy LawsTo some Americans, it seems obvious that consenting adults should be able to have sex with whomever they want; to others, it seems obvious that such things should happen only in marriage.  Not only should homosexuals not be sleeping together, say some in this latter group, but also if our laws don’t restrict such activities, the homosexuals are going to be recruiting our children and who knows what else will happen.  Theological and legal restrictions and punishments for sodomy go back for millennia, but American laws about sodomy came into their own in the nineteenth century, and have persisted, although they have recently lost much of their power to proscribe behavior.  In Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America 1861- 2003 (Viking), William N. Eskridge Jr. has given a big and exhaustive history of such laws.  A law professor himself, he filed an amicus brief for the judgement in Lawrence vs. Texas whose 2003 date indicates it is the climax of his book.  Eskridge documents a change in national legal philosophy whereby adult sexual activity was acknowledged to be best regulated by the conscience of those involved, and for many reasons is best left alone by the government.

Blackstone referred to “the infamous crime against nature” and this particular wording is well known.  The nature of this particular crime, however, has always been vague, allowing the definition to be expanded as those in power wished.  Biological studies have shown that there is nothing unnatural about homosexual activity, as it appears all over the animal kingdom, and with special exuberance in our bonobo cousins.  While many would insist that the Bible is clear in its proscriptions in Genesis, Leviticus, and the Epistles, it is not exact about what specific physiological encounters are the “shameless acts” between men, and it is even less informative about acts between women.  Eskridge tries to explain why such acts have proved to be so worrisome, but he cannot penetrate far into that mystery.  Sexual activity that cannot produce a pregnancy disgusts or horrifies some people; some religions even insist that it is sinful for married people to have sexual fun if the chance of pregnancy is nil.  That people have heterosexual encounters far more often for fun than for an effort to produce a pregnancy seems not to matter.  “Crimes against nature” has even included masturbation in some jurisdictions.  There has been a longstanding fear (most loudly voiced by Florida Citrus Commission spokesperson Anita Bryant thirty years ago) that homosexuals would recruit children or even adults, and such recruitment would lead to the doom of our society.  Such fears now seem quaint and undocumented within recent history.  The destabilization of society that was predicted to be the result of allowing sodomy (whatever the definition is) has not happened, for instance, in Britain which decriminalized consensual sodomy in 1967, or in the states which decriminalized around the same time.

Eskridge may not be able to make clear the  motivation for laws against sodomy, but he is exceedingly diligent in making clear the different steps and stages of the laws.  The seventeenth century was marked by aggressive enforcement of sodomy laws, with capital punishment for violations.  The states of the new nation eventually revoked the death penalty, but kept sodomy or “crime against nature” laws, most of which had to do with the insertion of a penis inside a rectum; thus, women could not commit sodomy, nor could men practicing fellatio.  Eskridge says that in the late nineteen hundreds, people flocked to cities, they had better facilities for hygiene, they had more public parks and restrooms, and they had newly-invented zippers, all of which made fellatio more popular.  Since it was not classed as a crime against nature, however, there was little those in authority could do.  Little to do, that is, except make it part of the crimes against nature; in 1879, Pennsylvania had the first English-language law anywhere to class oral sex as sodomy, and other states followed.  Incorporating cunnilingus under sodomy happened with less regularity; sometimes it was made illegal only when a man did it to a woman, perhaps reflecting that the state legislatures did not worry about or did not want to think about homosexual activity between women.  Sometimes there was no allowance for being married, so that married couples who enjoyed oral or anal sex were breaking the law, although no state went after these particular miscreants.  The new laws were seldom used, too, on unmarried heterosexual couples except for purposes of prosecuting prostitution, so that the laws against sodomy were in fact laws against homosexual behavior.  Politicians found it convenient to link homosexuality with other practices thought nasty at the time: “... the Russians are strong believers in homosexuality,” said one representative during the McCarthy period.

As the twentieth century progressed, legislators leaned more toward the nineteenth century utilitarian ideas of Jeremy Bentham who wrote that British sodomy laws restricted pleasure (however much non-participants were disgusted by the idea) without giving social benefit.  Thinkers like Margaret Mead and Dr. Alfred Kinsey (both of whom had some personal knowledge of the subject) went on record as opposing consensual sodomy laws.  The famous jurist Learned Hand in 1955 got consensual sodomy dropped from a Model Penal Code, and dozens of states adopted the code.  Nonetheless, some states kept the laws.  In 1982 in Atlanta, Michael Hardwick was arrested for oral sex with another man, and local ACLU attorneys filed suit on his behalf.  In 1985, the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia had acted properly.  Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote, “To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching.”  Eskridge explains how Burger’s view was incorrectly reasoned (including the idea that homosexuals were recruiting others and contaminating society) and how it was evaluated that way by many experts at the time.  It was not until 2003 that the Supreme Court got a chance to change the decision.  It was a more conservative court at that time, and the country had gone through a spell of politically powerful Christian conservatism.  The most conservative members would have kept the sodomy laws in action in considering Lawrence vs. Texas, but they were in a 6 - 3 minority.  It was yet another case in which police had conducted a search of questionable ethics and legality into the apartment of one John Lawrence, and found him in bed with another man.  Justice Anthony Kennedy in his majority opinion wrote, “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today.”

Much of Eskridge’s book is of legal analysis deeper than many layman will enjoy, but there are details here of the lives of, say, Bowers and Hardwick, and not just their legal cases.  There are descriptions of lawyers on both sides of issues, and the judges who ruled on the cases, so that the book provides a picture of how the law works and how it has come to allow consensual sodomy today, while still capably prosecuting forced sex or sex upon minors.  Given the subject, there are flashes of humor in what is otherwise a solidly serious tome.  For instance, in the 1961 decriminalization debate in the Illinois capitol, one exasperated representative exclaimed that the only way sex would in the future be illegal in his state was “... if you’re doing it on the front porch and blowing a bugle!  And you can do it with either sex!”  Eskridge notes that there was an embarrassed silence, and then bill for decriminalization was passed.  All the battles are not now won; Eskridge writes, “The state can no longer legislate gay people as outlaws, but neither must it treat sexual variation as completely benign or neutral... The United States has not become a nation of moral liberals generally, and certainly not as regards homosexuals.”  The current controversies are over gay marriage or partnership agreements, and the controversies rage, but at least the era of legal persecution for the act of sodomy itself is over.

Rob Hardy
October 2008


Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003

(Viking Adult; May 1, 2008; ISBN-10: 0670018627)
Available at: Amazon.com  / Amazon UK


_______
© 2008 Rob Hardy. All rights reserved. Content may not be copied or used in whole or part without written permission from the author.



About the Reviewer:†
Rob Hardy is a psychiatrist who lives in Columbus, Mississippi, with his wife, two terriers, five cats, and goldfish.

He reviews nonfiction for The Times of Acadiana, but has been reviewing books as a hobby for years before that.
WebBio: Rob Hardy



  E-mail this page


Search ERWA Website:

Copyright © 1996 and on, Erotica Readers Association, Inc.
All Rights Reserved World Wide. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or
medium without express written permission is prohibited.

'08 Movie Reviews

Almost Perfect
Review by Oranje

The Fold
Review by Ashley Lister

Two
Review by Spooky

Fallen
Review by Spooky

'08 Book Reviews

Anthologies

Best Bisexual Women's Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Fantastic Erotica
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

Bound Brits (ebook)
Review by Ashley Lister

Deep Inside: Extreme ...
Review by Cervo

Dirty Girls
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Hide and Seek
Review by Ashley Lister

Hurts So Good
Review by Ashley Lister

J is for Jealousy
Review by Ashley Lister

K is for Kink
Review by Ashley Lister

Lust Bites
Review by Ashley Lister

Open for Business
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Possession
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Rubber Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Rubber Sex
Review by Victoria Blisse

Seriously Sexy
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex & Candy
Review by Ashley Lister

The Shadow of a... (poetry)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Spanked
Review by Victoria Blisse

Tasting Her
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Tasting Him
Review by Ashley Lister

Tasting Him
Review by Kathleen Bradean

White Flames
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Yes, Ma'am: Male Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Yes, Sir: Female Submission
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Novels

The Art of Melinoe
Review by Ashley Lister

Demon by Day
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Gemini Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

Gothic Heat
Review by Ashley Lister

The Hidden Grotto Series
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The House of Blood
Review by Lisabet Sarai

In Too Deep
Review by Ashley Lister

In Too Deep
Review by Victoria Blisse

Incognito
Review by Donna George Storey

Nicholas
Review by Victoria Blisse

One Breath at a Time
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Out of the Shadows (ebook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Phantasmagoria
Review by Ashley Lister

Reckless
Review by Rose B. Thorny

Seduce Me
Review by Ashley Lister

Seduced by the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Serve the People!
Review by Donna G. Storey

Signed, Sealed and Delivered
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sunfire (eBook)
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Templar Prize
Review by Angelika Devlyn

The Wicked Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Wild Kingdom
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Backdraft
Review by Vincent Diamond

Best Gay Romance '08
Review by Vincent Diamond

Hard Hats
Review by Vincent Diamond

Leathermen
Review by Kathleen Bradean

Lesbian Erotica

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Donna George Storey

Best Lesbian Erotica '08
Review by Ashley Lister

The Night Watch
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Non-Fiction

America Unzipped
Review by Rob Hardy

Best Sex Writing '08
Review by Rob Hardy

Bonk: The Curious Coupling
Review by Rob Hardy

The Book of Love
Review by Rob Hardy

Casanova: Actor Lover ...
Review by Rob Hardy

Dishonorable Passions
Review by Rob Hardy

Flagrante Delicto (photos)
Review by Jack Gilbert

The Flesh Press
Review by Rob Hardy

Geisha, Harlot, Strangler, Star
Review by Donna G. Storey

The Humble Little Condom
Review by Rob Hardy

Instant Orgasm (sex guide)
Review by Ashley Lister

Man O Man! Writing M/M...
Review by Vincent Diamond

The Not So Invisible Woman
Review by Ashley Lister

Swingers: Female...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Who's Been Sleeping in...
Review by Rob Hardy