Yesterday was the anniversary of the Comstock Act, enacted March 3, 1873. Its Sunday occasion prompted the 2013 theme "Holy Sex ! What Do Americans Hold Sacred?" for America's Sexuality Day, a struggling, little campaign that tries to promote sexual understanding against censorship each 3/3 and continuing throughout the year.
Sex, religion and politics are eternally entwined bed fellows. No matter how you might want to clothe it, your sexual beliefs and lifestyle are sourced from and impacted by the long traditions and policies within this indivisible trinity. But America doesn't empower them equally. While religious and political speech are protected under the First Amendment, sexual speech, that which attempts to understand the societal complexities of the very mechanism that forms our physical being, is not.
So, regardless of your belief, what do you hold sacred in your sex?
The meanings of sacred sex, for that which is taboo, forbidden, concealed and that which is held dear and precious, can overlap for someone who is not religious, just as much as it does for a devout practitioner. The word "religion," rooted from Latin religare (to "reconnect," "rebind") and relegere ("reread," "re-legislate"), implies a continual reexamined pledge to understand universal knowledge. There's a tight but dynamic line between societal freedoms and protections on the journey to seeking wisdom.
Is it a stretch, then, to say that atheists can be sexually religious about separation of religion and free speech? Can porn have sacred elements? Like celibacy, many Eastern practices have revered transgenders and sacred prostitution for millennia, should our society ever regard asexuals, LGBT and fetish devotees not just acceptable in a multicultural society, but honored for following difficult and often deeply profound paths?
While the majority of formal religions are patriarchally biased to varied degrees, mandate strict rules against unmarried sex and homosexuality, and run counter to our modern sexual lifestyles, many of their ancient texts and doctrinally accepted writings are distinctly erotic. The irony is that America seems not to have included sacred texts in any banned books list, while in the past few years legislatures in Oregon and Indiana passed laws to fine stores for books on their shelves that mention sex. Except for drug use, religious ceremonial tools haven't been legally questioned by any state, but the private right to sell and use sex toys in the privacy of our own homes have been under a legal circus the past decade in Alabama and Texas.
The Comstock Act criminalized sexual health education and sexual expression in the arts and lifestyle. Portions of it are still on the books, but most importantly is its effect on spawning every local, state and federal sexual law we've ever had.
Like everything else, the corporate influence on sexual religious politics was evident in the Comstock Act, which famously used the pious do-gooder Anthony Comstock as figurehead, while in actuality it was back-room-dealed by Wall Street's J.P. Morgan and industrialist Samuel Colgate
In our own times, the corporate public square is our omnipotent congregational forum. In a misguided attempt to protect children, social media companies remove and permanently delete individual and group profiles for artwork as pure as a mother breast feeding. Part of the problem is that pornography opened the door for sexual speech, then dominated sex as a category, making sexual education, health and art associated as its subsets, not the other way around.
Consider this week to ponder, meditate, pray about your sex. Read erotic verses from the world's sacred texts. (The WiFi cafe I used to submit this censored that link.) View phallic and yonic art online and at a your nearest museum (The same WiFi café allowed me to see this link). Watch a controversial movie that focuses on sex and religion. Invite someone with oppositional viewpoints from you, to a respectful, co-learning experience about each others beliefs of sex and the sacred.
And ask yourself what if the sexual expressions you hold sacred becomes illegal? Shouldn't Congress and the Supreme Court affirm sex and its free speech -- along with religion and politics -- to be equally sacred to our First Amendment?
Crystal Syben Haidl is the founder of America's Sexuality Day. @SexDayUSA