New Book Sheds Light on 20th Century Struggle that Made Sex a Civil Liberty

Released: 11/26/2012 4:00 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Academy Communications
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Newswise — Leigh Ann Wheeler studies sex as a civil right; her academic work is dedicated to understanding the long-term cultural impact of America’s sexual revolution.

According to Wheeler, a history professor at Binghamton University, the 20th century evolution of sexual attitudes brought together feminist groups, the ACLU and other organizations and individuals--often as allies and sometimes as adversaries--as the assumption of sexual rights and sexual expression eventually became a part of everyday life. Wheeler, an excellent source on how these concepts continue to evolve today, will publish a new book on this topic How Sex Became a Civil Liberty (Oxford University Press) in December.

“I asked myself how and why it is that we think of so many sexual issues in terms of rights,” says Wheeler, who is also the co-editor of the Journal of Women’s History. Some of the answers she uncovered are surprising. Her areas of teaching, research, writing and speaking include the history of women, gender, social movements, sexuality, media, and civil liberties.

Wheeler’s scholarly quest to better understand the deep connections--and occasional collisions--between sexual issues and individual rights represents the first book to reveal how and why we have come to see sexual expression, sexual practice, and sexual privacy as fundamental rights.

Professor Wheeler explores the American Civil Liberties Union's prominent role in nearly every major court decision related to sexuality--while examining how the organization also promoted its agenda through grassroots activism, political action, and public education. Using rich archival sources and interviews, she shows how the private lives of women and men in the ACLU shaped their understanding of sexual rights as they built the constitutional foundation for the 20th century's sexual revolution.

Her faculty Web page at Binghamton University: http://www2.binghamton.edu/history/people/faculty/wheeler.html

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