Today it would be a Hallmark Card.

AKA Smut – Pornography In 1959 – Past Daily Weekend Reference Room

Today it would be a Hallmark Card.

Today it would be a Hallmark Card.

Click on the link here for Audio Player – WBZ Radio Documentary – Pornography: The Peddlers Of Smut – June 1959 – WBZ Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

Hard to imagine now, but in the 1950s anything bordering on sexual content, anything other than what we would consider today to be the mildest titillation, was considered to be the domain of the outcast, the pervert, the deviate and it was all punishable with hefty fines and prison sentences. Pornography (as it was defined then) was widely considered on the par with drug addiction and prostitution. It was, for all intents and purposes, the bane of American society in the 1950s as hordes of people sought out grainy, nondescript films of sex and kinky behavior and crudely churned out magazines which graced the bottoms of bureau drawers or tucked discreetly between mattresses.

Even Playboy Magazine was banned in some cities. Laws were strict and antiquated – books were banned from libraries which sniffed at anything sexual in nature. As a kid, I remember a court case over the banning of Henry Miller‘s Tropic of Cancer, which what was considered at the time to be pornographic literature. Lenny Bruce was routinely busted for what was considered to be obscene material, and his lengthy and endless court cases became an absurd footnote, ruining what had been a brilliant career as a Comedian.

It was a time of heavy repression. And it was also a time of grumbling revolt. The stringent and unbending social values many tried to enforce on the population only served to fuel what was to become a revolution in the 1960s.

But in 1959 the forces of piety were still waging “the good fight” in defense of the flagging morals of American society, and most notably, Americas Youth (thanks to Rock n’ Roll). And radio station WBZ in Boston ran a documentary entitled Pornography: TheBusiness of Evil.

This one-hour special, prefaced as being “intended for Teenagers, Young Adults and their parents”, laid out a sordid landscape of drug addiction, insanity, Communism (Communists, it was assumed, were the biggest pornographers because they were bent on corrupting Capitalist society) and underworld crime. All aimed at one thing – to corrupt and destroy the moral fibre of America.

These days, Pornography is considerably different than it was then – for one thing, much of it is now termed Adult Entertainment and has achieved a certain level of legitimacy. What was considered kinky and depraved in 1959 (i.e. Bettie Page -see photo above) is considered mainstream now. What is considered kinky and depraved now was inconceivable in 1959.

But to give you some idea of just  how far we’ve come (or not, since today there is a segment of society who wishes it were the 1950s again – hypocrisy and all), here is Pornography: The Business Of Evil as broadcast over WBZ Radio in Boston, in June 1959.

Yes, we were really like that. We were really that way.

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