Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present

Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present

Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present

Vice Capades: Sex, Drugs, and Bowling from the Pilgrims to the Present


From outlawing bowling in colonial America to regulating violent video games and synthetic drugs today, Mark Stein's Vice Capades examines the nation's relationship with the actions, attitudes, and antics that have defined morality. This humorous and quirky history reveals that our views of vice are formed not merely by morals but by power.

While laws against nude dancing have become less restrictive, laws restricting sexual harassment have been enacted. While marijuana is no longer illegal everywhere, restrictive laws have been enacted against cigarettes. Stein examines this nation's inconsistent moral compass and how the powers-that-be in each era determine what is or is not deemed a vice. From the Puritans who founded Massachusetts with unyielding, biblically based laws to those modern purveyors of morality who currently campaign against video game violence, Vice Capades looksat theAmerican history we all know from a fresh and exciting perspective and shows how vice has shaped our nation, sometimes without us even knowing it.


Americans have a love-hate relationship with vice. We indulge in it while combating it, often by enacting laws that, just as often, we later unenact— or double down by increasing their penalties. Plus, over the span of American history, that which we view as punishable vice has changed— sometimes slowly, sometimes rapidly (as seen recently with views of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or what is sometimes referred to as queer or questioning). Indeed, a number of views of vice have changed not only in the span of history but also sometimes within our individual lives.

But what caused these views to change?

Also, of course, our views differ. But there, too, what’s behind those differences? Be it sex, drugs, violence, gambling, dancing, shuffleboard, juggling … Yes, once upon a time in America, shuffleboard and juggling were punishable vices. What’s the deal with what we view as punishable vice?

Let’s take some quick peeks at what, over the past two thousand years or so, people considered to be vice, keeping an eye out for a common denominator that can and (no surprise to say) will be explored more closely in this book regarding punishable vices in American history.

Aristotle said vice consisted of those acts that lead to infamy. For instance, we view the Marlboro Man as infamous, that cigarettesmoking modern cowboy who, for over twenty years, was the television and print advertising symbol for Marlboro cigarettes. Except he was not viewed as infamous during those years— quite the contrary: many people smoked cigarettes in emulation of his allure. Aristotle also said vice included that which appears to be “base.” in the nineteenth century, many Americans considered Mormon leader . . .

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