In the United States, the idea that anyone should be able to fornicate with whoever they want, whenever they want, without interference from the state or the church, or at the risk of social condemnation, was once associated in the 19th century with a radical social movement, the utopian “free love” movement:
“Free love began to coalesce into a movement in the mid to late 19th century. The term was coined by the Christian socialist writer John Humphrey Noyes, although he preferred to use the term ‘complex marriage’. Noyes founded the Oneida Society in 1848, a utopian community that “[rejected] conventional marriage both as a form of legalism from which Christians should be free and as a selfish institution in which men exerted rights of ownership over women”. He found scriptural justification: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven” (Matt. 22:30). Noyes also supported eugenics; and only certain people were allowed to become parents. Another movement was established in Berlin Heights, Ohio.
In 1852, a writer named Marx Edgeworth Lazarus published a tract entitled “Love vs. Marriage pt. 1,” in which he portrayed marriage as “incompatible with social harmony and the root cause of mental and physical impairments.” Lazarus intertwined his writings with his religious teachings, a factor that made the Christian community more tolerable to the free love idea. Elements of the free-love movement also had links to abolitionist movements, drawing parallels between slavery and “sexual slavery” (marriage), and forming alliances with black activists.
American feminist Victoria Woodhull (1838–1927), the first woman to run for presidency in the U.S. in 1872, was also called “the high priestess of free love”. In 1871, Woodhull wrote: “Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere”. …”
In hindsight, George Fitzhugh was right. It was a short road from abolition to free love. “Free love” is now so mainstream in the United States that the term has fallen out of our vocabulary. As much as I hate to link to anything by Rod Dreher, I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I stumbled across this story from Wesleyan University:
“Open House is a safe space for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Flexual, Asexual, Genderf*ck, Polyamourous, Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism (LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM) communities and for people of sexually or gender dissident communities. The goals of Open House include generating interest in a celebration of queer life from the social to the political to the academic. Open House works to create a Wesleyan community that appreciates the variety and vivacity of gender, sex and sexuality.”
As a privileged White male cis-speciesist, I had never heard of the existence of “safe spaces” for the Bondage/Disciple, Dominance/Submission, or the Sadism/Masochism communities.