The Joy of Sex

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Date: 1974

Region: Europe

Subject: Explicit Sexuality

Medium: Textbook


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Artist: Alex Comfort, British poet and medical writer

Confronting Bodies: Ireland's Censorship Board

Dates of Action: 1974

Location: Ireland

Description of Artwork: Three books by Dr. Alex Comfort were banned in Ireland, Sex and Society, The Joy of Sex, and More Joy. The Joy of Sex was an internationally best selling manual that was frequently recommended by doctors, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists.

The Incident: In June of 1974 Ireland's Board of Censors banned The Joy of Sex for twelve years on grounds of indecency and obscenity. The ban was renewed in 1987 and although the Censorship Board is not required to explain why it has censored a work, the chairman of the board revealed that it was out of concern for adolescents that the book was banned. After the renewal of the ban there was widespread protest and a broader discussion about the Censorship of Publications Act was raised. The Booksellers' Association asked that writers, publishers, and booksellers be allowed to sit on the Board and that the Board inform authors and publishers that their works were being investigated. The Irish Writers' Association asked that censorship be exercised through the courts so that authors and publishers would have the right to a public hearing.

Results of Incident: The public protest that surrounded the renewal of the ban led the publishers of The Joy of Sex, Mitchell Beazley International, to lodge an appeal with the censorship board. The book was unbanned in 1989 but no moves have been made to reform the Ireland's censorship laws.

Source: Censorship: A World Encyclopedia