Radical Feminists like Dworkin and McKennon joined Keating and the Moral Majority in this campaign. Today there is the same sort of sketchiness surrounding the anti-trafficking movement.
Yet another case where the most important question one can ask is: Cui Bono? Who benefits?
Charles Keating was best known for his shady financial dealings, but his politics were even more destructive
Sunday, Apr 13, 2014
The late Charles Keating, who died last week at the age of 90, is remembered primarily for his role in the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, as a symbol of the frauds and excesses of an unregulated financial sector — a debacle from which we seem to have learned very little. Yet, ironically, those of us interested in American sexual politics remember a very different side of Keating: the smut-fighting moral entrepreneur who called for more regulation — as long as it pertained to matters of obscenity, rather than investment.
Keating’s pioneering activity in junk-bond innovation has all but eclipsed what may, in fact, be his most lasting legacy. As founder and longtime leader of Citizens for Decent Literature (CDL), Keating pioneered a new form of sexual conservatism, modernizing it to meet the changing mores of the mid-20th century. Through CDL, Keating developed a legalistic, pseudo-empirical anti-porn movement that worked hard to show itself as not anti-sex, but rather anti-perversion. As such, Keating brilliantly framed CDL for a post-Kinsey America, leaving a lasting imprint on conservative sexual politics.
A young Catholic lawyer in socially conservative Cincinnati in the 1950s, Keating watched with alarm as the newsstands and paperback racks of the nation filled with pulp novels and Playboy imitators, and he assessed the American moral landscape with a clarity few at the time possessed. Even as the Cold War witnessed a dramatic sexual retrenchment that ranged from aggressively domestic ideals for women to state-sponsored violence and suppression toward queer “deviants,” anti-smut activism seemed to be at low ebb. “Censorship” was unpopular, viewed through a Cold War prism as a tactic of the totalitarian Soviet Union, not freedom-loving Americans — none less than President Dwight D. Eisenhower castigated “the book burners” in 1953. Meanwhile, old forms of moral activism had fallen into disrepute. Anti-smut activist Anthony Comstock, in whose name the 1873 federal obscenity law had been passed, was now viewed through a post-Freudian lens as a repressed Victorian, and Catholic cultural influence was on the wane, with the traditional boycott methods of the Legion of Decency under attack in the media and the Hollywood Production Code disintegrating rapidly.
Yet Keating uniquely recognized the opportunities afforded by the Supreme Court, whose 1957 Roth v. United States opinion determined that obscene materials were not protected by the First Amendment. Today we remember Roth for helping unleash the sexual revolution. Because Justice William Brennan restricted obscenity to only those works completely devoid of “socially redeeming value,” the case cleared the path for Henry Miller novels, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and ultimately “Deep Throat.” But Keating recognized the conservative opportunity the Court afforded: Banning books could be framed as something other than censorship. If a sleazy book with a name like “Lust Agent” is obscene, it has no constitutional claim to free speech. Ipso facto, to suppress it is not to censor it.
Or at least, that’s how Keating’s semantic gambit went — and it worked, marvelously. His CDL rapidly rose from a local Cincinnati group to a national behemoth, easily the nation’s preeminent anti-pornography organization in the 1960s and beyond. Keating stripped the movement against smut of its association with repression and prudery, instead boldly declaring that his cause could be reconciled with a sexually liberated age. “I spent over 8 years in the Navy,” his right-hand man declared in a typical 1962 CDL stock speech, “and I think sex is great!” The right kind of sex, of course: heterosexual and married, not “deviant.” Though himself Catholic, Keating kept CDL militantly broad-based to avoid the charge that it was an extension of sectarian Catholic beliefs. To the notion that moral offenses were victimless crimes, an idea promoted by Alfred Kinsey and others, Keating had an answer as well.