San Diego Law Review


Elizabeth Hovey

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



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.

Included in

Law Commons