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Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America's Origins to the Twenty-First Century
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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Selection


A "volume of lasting significance" that illuminates how the clash between sex and religion has defined our nation's history (Lee C. Bollinger, president, Columbia University).


Lauded for "bringing a bracing and much-needed dose of reality about the Founders' views of sexuality" (New York Review of Books), Geoffrey R. Stone's Sex and the Constitution traces the evolution of legal and moral codes that have legislated sexual behavior from America's earliest days to today's fractious political climate. This "fascinating and maddening" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) narrative shows how agitators, moralists, and, especially, the justices of the Supreme Court have navigated issues as divisive as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and contraception. Overturning a raft of contemporary shibboleths, Stone reveals that at the time the Constitution was adopted there were no laws against obscenity or abortion before the midpoint of pregnancy. A pageant of historical characters, including Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, Anthony Comstock, Margaret Sanger, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, enliven this "commanding synthesis of scholarship" (Publishers Weekly) that dramatically reveals how our laws about sex, religion, and morality reflect the cultural schisms that have cleaved our nation from its founding.

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Street Date:
03/21/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781631493652
ASIN:
B01N95KFBS

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APA Citation (style guide)

Geoffrey R. Stone. (2017). Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law from America's Origins to the Twenty-First Century. Liveright.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Geoffrey R. Stone. 2017. Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law From America's Origins to the Twenty-First Century. Liveright.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Geoffrey R. Stone, Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law From America's Origins to the Twenty-First Century. Liveright, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Geoffrey R. Stone. Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion, and Law From America's Origins to the Twenty-First Century. Liveright, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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Sex and the Constitution
fullDescription

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Selection

A "volume of lasting significance" that illuminates how the clash between sex and religion has defined our nation's history (Lee C. Bollinger, president, Columbia University).

Lauded for "bringing a bracing and much-needed dose of reality about the Founders' views of sexuality" (New York Review of Books), Geoffrey R. Stone's Sex and the Constitution traces the evolution of legal and moral codes that have legislated sexual behavior from America's earliest days to today's fractious political climate. This "fascinating and maddening" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) narrative shows how agitators, moralists, and, especially, the justices of the Supreme Court have navigated issues as divisive as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and contraception. Overturning a raft of contemporary shibboleths, Stone reveals that at the time the Constitution was adopted there were no laws against obscenity or abortion before the midpoint of pregnancy. A pageant of historical characters, including Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, Anthony Comstock, Margaret Sanger, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, enliven this "commanding synthesis of scholarship" (Publishers Weekly) that dramatically reveals how our laws about sex, religion, and morality reflect the cultural schisms that have cleaved our nation from its founding.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Lee C. Bollinger, president, Columbia University
      • content: Few, if any, legal scholars possess the capacious intellect and encyclopedic command of constitutional law and American history to make us see in an entirely new light what is perhaps society's most commonly discussed subject. In devoting his unique talents to Sex and the Constitution, Geoffrey Stone has created a volume of lasting significance that quickly will become essential reading not only for law students and scholars but for all who want to better understand sweeping cultural transformations that continue to roil society. Professor Stone provides layer upon layer of historical, jurisprudential, and social context to explain how we have arrived at this point, all of it impeccably researched, in what is an astonishing tour de force.
      • premium: False
      • source: Erwin Chemerinsky, dean and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law
      • content: A superb examination of the history of how the law has regulated sexual behavior and sexual expression from the ancient world to today. Geoffrey Stone's clear and engaging writing, as well as his thorough coverage, will make this book the definitive work on sex, religion, and the Constitution. This is a brilliant book that offers a balanced and nuanced treatment of controversial topics such as obscenity, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
      • premium: False
      • source: Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University
      • content: Magnificent and monumental—a stunning blend of dispassionate analysis and deep moral conviction. Think that the United States was born as a Christian nation? Think again. Linking ancient history and today's headlines, Stone shows that with respect to sex and freedom, history is full of amazing shifts and turns—and that we are in the midst of a genuine revolution.
      • premium: False
      • source: Laurence H. Tribe, author of The Invisible Constitution
      • content: No one should miss out on Stone's spectacular tour through more than two thousand years of sex, religion, culture, and law. A treasure-house of philosophical brilliance and legal and historical insight—not to mention erotic delights!—this masterpiece is the rarest of combinations: a page-turner that is also a magisterial font of erudite wisdom. In this capstone of his truly distinguished career in the law, Stone leads us on a panoramic investigation of the evolution of sexual mores both here and abroad that culminates in a refreshingly accessible look into the inner sanctum of our Supreme Court and into the roles of the Court, social and political activism, and popular movements in carving paths through the densely planted constitutional landscape.
      • premium: False
      • source: Linda Greenhouse, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence at Yale Law School
      • content: This fascinating account of how sexual mores, religion, and law have intersected or—more often—collided throughout American history is really about even more than that. It's about the role of law in maintaining a civil society in a diverse twenty-first-century America, and a call to the Supreme Court to step up to the challenge.
      • premium: False
      • source: David Cole, author of Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law
      • content: Sex, which has simultaneously inspired and eluded regulation through the ages, has been the focus of many of our greatest constitutional controversies. No one is better suited than the always erudite and lucid Geoffrey Stone to provide the panoramic treatment that the subject deserves. Unless you are the rare person who has no interest in either the Constitution or sex, you will want to read this book.
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        January 2, 2017
        Constitutional scholar Stone (Perilous Times) explores how the United States has regulated human sexuality from the colonial period to the present day. Beginning with a brief discussion of attitudes toward sexuality in the ancient world, medieval Europe, England, and Puritan New England, the author then outlines the Enlightenment-era concerns regarding government, religion, and individual freedom that shaped the U.S. constitutional law, and the lasting influence of the Second Great Awakening on morality laws. After providing this background, the work combines a thematic and roughly chronological survey of Christian attitudes toward, and U.S. legal treatment of, three areas of human sexuality: sexual speech and obscenity, abortion and contraception, and homosexual acts and identity. This title is a commanding synthesis of scholarship on over two centuries of American legal debate and practice regarding these issues, and would work well as the core text for a course of the subject. Less developed is the history of Christian attitudes regarding sexuality, with the work repeatedly situating American Christianity in opposition to more tolerant secular values. The work also lacks any substantive discussion of non-Christian religious approaches to sexuality and liberty. Despite these limitations, Stone’s analysis is highly recommended for anyone seeking an introduction to the history of U.S. law and sexual expression.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        Starred review from February 1, 2017
        Sexual expression, obscenity, contraception, and abortion are the focus of this wide-ranging legal, political, and social history.Stone (Law/Univ. of Chicago; Speaking Out!: Reflections on Law, Liberty and Justice, 2010, etc.), a constitutional scholar whose previous books include an award-winning history of free speech, offers a broad, fascinating overview of the nation's shifting, often incendiary, attitudes toward sexuality and the impact of those attitudes on politics and law. Colonists "clearly and emphatically rejected" Puritans' repressive views about sex, and the country's founders, Stone asserts, had no interest in regulating sexuality nor in promoting Christianity. Most were "broad-minded skeptics who viewed religious passion as divisive and irrational, and who consistently challenged, both publicly and privately, traditional Christian dogma." The claim that America is a "Christian nation" originated in the Second Great Awakening, which swept the country from the 1790s to the 1840s. At a time of unsettling social change, "charismatic preachers" excited religious passions that infused "politics, culture, education, relations between the sexes, attitudes about sex," and, most significantly, views on the relationship between religion and government. Believing sex to be sinful, evangelicals mounted a campaign against masturbation and contraception; without fear of pregnancy, they claimed, women's inherent lasciviousness would be uncontrollable. After the Civil War, those ideas were taken up by Anthony Comstock, who policed sexuality with unabated vigor, specifically the dissemination of obscene material through the postal service; obscenity laws persisted even after his death in 1915. In the 1970s, Protestant fundamentalists incited a third awakening, embraced by the Republican Party that coveted the voting power of the Moral Majority. Stone enlivens his narrative with deft portraits of the many judges involved in cases on obscenity, contraception, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Some Supreme Court justices, appointed to uphold the views of the Christian right, disappointed their constituencies. The author applauds decisions that reflect the "protection of human dignity and equality" and believes, maybe too optimistically, that religious groups are now "on the defensive." A compelling history of a nation grappling with the moral and legal freedoms that the founders strived to ensure.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        Starred review from February 1, 2017
        Sex comes first in legal scholar Stone's (Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime, 2004) massive book. Indeed, the Constitution arrives only after page 100. Before then, part one provides an elegantly literate precis of historical attitudes about sex in the U.S.' line of cultural inheritance, from classical Greece and Rome and the Bible to Christian Rome and Western Europe to Puritan and eighteenth-century England and its American colonies. Throughout, Stone focuses on obscenity, birth control, and homosexualityprecisely the matters that U.S. law has struggled with from the mid-nineteenth century onward. That troika of torments is less evident in part two, Founders, which tracks the deliberations over the relationship of religion and government that led to a Constitution without mention of God, and, eventually, the First and Ninth Amendments, the concept of unenumerated rights, and Jefferson's wall of separation between church and state. Part three consists of brilliant historical distillations of social phenomenathe Second Great Awakening, the suppression-of-vice movement, the anticontraception and antiabortion movements, and the criminalization of homosexualityand their legal ramifications. The last three parts present a century of cases that have, Stone says, brought the U.S. to a revolutionary moment, a high point in personal rights of sexual expression. The story continues, of course, but this is the definitive account of its past and present.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 2016

        Constitutional scholar Stone proved his mettle with 2004's Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, which received a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Award. Here he takes on another contentious issue, examining legislation aimed at managing sexual behavior from ancient times to Colonial America to today.

        Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from February 15, 2017

        In this impressive study, renowned constitutional scholar Stone (Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, Univ. of Chicago Law Sch.; Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime) investigates the evolving nature of sexual mores as they are shaped by religion and the law. Stone accomplishes this gargantuan, decadelong project through assiduous interdisciplinary research, organizing the material into six parts: "Ancestors," "Founders," "Moralists," "Judges: Sexual Expression and the Constitution," "Judges: Reproductive Freedom and the Constitution," and "Judges: Sexual Orientation and the Constitution." Part 1 is a history of sex and religion from antiquity through the Enlightenment. Devoting attention to U.S. founders and the creation of the Constitution, Part 2 explores the history of sexual mores and religion in early America. Part 3 examines the role of Protestant "moralism," particularly as it has shaped beliefs about homosexuality. The next two sections examine the role of judicial decision-making regarding sexual expression, reproductive freedom, and sexual orientation. VERDICT The definitive work on the topic and indispensable for readers of Sarah Barringer Gordon's The Spirit of the Law. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/16.]--Lynne Maxwell, West Virginia Univ. Coll. of Law Lib., Morgantown

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        February 15, 2017

        In this impressive study, renowned constitutional scholar Stone (Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law, Univ. of Chicago Law Sch.; Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime) investigates the evolving nature of sexual mores as they are shaped by religion and the law. Stone accomplishes this gargantuan, decadelong project through assiduous interdisciplinary research, organizing the material into six parts: "Ancestors," "Founders," "Moralists," "Judges: Sexual Expression and the Constitution," "Judges: Reproductive Freedom and the Constitution," and "Judges: Sexual Orientation and the Constitution." Part 1 is a history of sex and religion from antiquity through the Enlightenment. Devoting attention to U.S. founders and the creation of the Constitution, Part 2 explores the history of sexual mores and religion in early America. Part 3 examines the role of Protestant "moralism," particularly as it has shaped beliefs about homosexuality. The next two sections examine the role of judicial decision-making regarding sexual expression, reproductive freedom, and sexual orientation. VERDICT The definitive work on the topic and indispensable for readers of Sarah Barringer Gordon's The Spirit of the Law. [See Prepub Alert, 9/12/16.]--Lynne Maxwell, West Virginia Univ. Coll. of Law Lib., Morgantown

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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shortDescription

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice Selection

A "volume of lasting significance" that illuminates how the clash between sex and religion has defined our nation's history (Lee C. Bollinger, president, Columbia University).

Lauded for "bringing a bracing and much-needed dose of reality about the Founders' views of sexuality" (New York Review of Books), Geoffrey R. Stone's Sex and the Constitution traces the evolution of legal and moral codes that have legislated sexual behavior from America's earliest days to today's fractious political climate. This "fascinating and maddening" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) narrative shows how agitators, moralists, and, especially, the justices of the Supreme Court have navigated issues as divisive as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and contraception. Overturning a raft of contemporary shibboleths, Stone reveals that at the time the Constitution was adopted there were no laws against...
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