Today, it safe for companies to sell condoms and love toys through the mail. But that wasn’t always the case. During the dark days of 1980’s Reagan administration’s Edwin Meese Justice Department, the government used some pretty heavy handed tactics to try to prevent the sale of condoms and sex toys through the mail. Adam & Eve and it’s parent company, PHE, were founded by former college student Phil Harvey back in 1970 when he was writing a master’s thesis on family planning and birth control and started his comply to help to provide couples condoms because they weren’t always available in some conservative areas of the South. Harvey started his company in North Carolina, which is hardly any bastion of liberalism by any means.
But, operating in a conservative community would only mean that a some point the government would make war on a company that worked at promoting making love. During the Reagan Administration, conservatives within the U.S. Postal Service and the Justice Department staged a huge raid on Adam & Eve, attempting to resurrect old Comstock laws that went back to 1873 that declared condoms as an obscene device and made it illegal to send them through the mail.
A wave of government agents held employees hostage at gunpoint at Adam & Eve, during hours of questioning and looking through business records. It was the type of strong arm tactics that you’d expect against some drug house, not against some company that merely sells condoms, lotions, videos, toys and other devices meant to enhance love in the bedroom. It seemed like a jackboot assault on Valentine’s Day.
The government attempted to bring obscenity charges against Adam & Eve in several jurisdictions in hopes of forcing the company out of business through huge legal bills. The Reagan Administration had unlimited tax dollars it could spend to put this condom and love toy seller out of business, while Adam & Eve had much smaller assets they spend. Prosecutors in Utah and Alabama joined in the Reagan Administration efforts to crush this condom seller.
But, Adam & Eve fought back against the government and sued over the multiple prosecution methods they were using to put companies out of business. Legal proceedings exposed the dirty and underhanded legal tactics that the government was using and exposed them for what they were, dishonest. Adam & Eve won a settlement with the government to drop prosecutions in exchange for a guilty plea to a single postal violation in Alabama. That meant that Adam & Eve could continue in business and continue to provide birth control devices such as condoms as well as sex toys and other items.
The government tried to stop Valentine’s Day but failed.