This Article challenges the perception that obscenity has only recently become a riddle for the legal community. The first regularly enforced federal and state obscenity laws were enacted in a context of increasing sexual expression and contraceptive availability - the 1870s. The statutes banned lewd materials and "articles for the prevention of conception." Courts followed suit by according obscenity the broadest possible definition, one fully supported by the self-designated enforcers of the new laws. The forces of commerce and reform, however, challenged the smut-fighters, and by the 1930s, both state and federal courts began, albeit haltingly, to narrow the definition of obscenity to the point of allowing commerce in prescribed contraceptives.
Obscenity's Meaning Smut-Fighters and Contraception: 1872-1936,
San Diego L. Rev.
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