6  Introduction
essays about the politics of the female orgasm, attended sexual consciousness-­
raising groups, and positioned masturbation as a decidedly feminist act. In
feminist rap sessions, workshops, and sex therapy groups, and on the pages of
books like Betty Dodson’s Liberating Masturbation, the clitoris assumed new-
found importance. Women were encouraged to masturbate as a way to learn
about their bodies and take control of their orgasms.
Not everyone viewed the expansion of the sex industry as a sign of sexual
freedom, however. In October 1967, Congress declared traffic in obscenity and
pornography to be a “matter of national concern” and established an advisory
Commission on Obscenity and Pornography.21 President Johnson appointed
an eighteen-­member committee to marshal evidence to determine whether
the reputed smut industry was wreaking havoc on American society. The re-
port, released in 1970, found no evidence suggesting that pornography was
harmful. Instead, it claimed that “much of the ‘problem’ regarding materials
which depict explicit sexual activity stems from the inability or reluctance of
people in our society to be open and direct in dealing with sexual matters.”22
The findings caused outrage. The Senate rejected them by a vote of sixty to five
and Spiro T. Agnew, speaking on behalf of the Nixon administration, assured
the American public that “as long as Richard Nixon is President, Main Street
is not going to turn into Smut Alley.”23
Feminist opposition to pornography was also intensifying in certain cor-
ners of the women’s movement. The 1972 release of Deep Throat put pornog-
raphy front and center on the national stage and ushered in the era of porno
chic.24 Deep Throat told the story of a woman whose clitoris had mysteriously
migrated to a location deep inside her throat. If she wanted to experience the
peaks of sexual pleasure and orgasm, she would need to perfect the act of
deep-­throat fellatio. For many women, the film highlighted the failures of the
sexual revolution and the inability of the culture to take women’s pleasure seri-
ously. According to media scholar Carolyn Bronstein, Deep Throat was femi-
nism’s aha moment, one that encapsulated the “painful truth” about what men
really thought about women.25 Although it would be several more years until
an organized antipornography feminist movement emerged, alarm bells were
already ringing.
And it wasn’t just the availability of pornography that was fueling concern.
In 1975 legislators in Georgia amended the state’s antiobscenity clause, crimi-
nalizing the sale of “sexual devices” and creating a legal template that would
serve as a model for other states, including Texas and Alabama.26 Vibrators
were suddenly at the center of courtroom battles regarding an individual’s
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