Q: When is a vibrator more dangerous than a gun?

A: When you’re selling one in Alabama.

According to a federal court decision announced yesterday (Valentine’s Day!), it’s perfectly fine for the state of Alabama to criminalize the sale of sex toys. Just to put this in context — 41 years after the Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional to restrict the sale of condoms, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit thinks it’s fine for Alabama to jail (up to one year for first violation) or fine (up to $50,000) anyone who gets caught selling as much as a dildo. (PDF of the statue is here.)

I don’t think anyone would argue that there is any harm worth criminalizing in selling sex toys to adults. No one’s being forced to do anything, there’s no economic harm, no harm to children. But the Attorney General of Alabama told the court that the law barring sales preserved “public morality,” and was, therefore, constitutional.

The AG’s “public morality” argument might have held up in 1999, but in 2003, the Supreme Court held, in Lawrence v. Texas, “the fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice.” And that, one would have thought, was that. If public morality alone isn’t a sufficient reason for a law, then a law making it illegal to sell sex toys just has to be unconstitutional, yes? Well, no. The Court of Appeals decided that the Lawrence holding only applied to private behavior. So Alabama couldn’t make it illegal to own or use sex toys. But it can make it illegal to sell them. The court decided that selling sex toys was like prostitution, a commercial, public activity that can be punished under the law.

Let’s get back to my opening question, comparing the sale of guns with the sale of vibrators. Alabama is one of the easiest places in the US to buy a gun. There are no state laws requiring licensing, registration, child safety locks, a mandatory waiting period or a limit on the number of weapons that can be purchased at any one time. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Alabama has the 4th highest homicide rates in the US. So let’s take a look at Alabama’s moral restrictions on commerce. Someone sells ten assault rifles to a 16 year old who just walks into the shop without proof of parental permission? Perfectly alright. Someone sells a rubber duckie vibrator to a 40 year old woman at a sex-toy party in the buyer’s home?

Better close the shades.

Tom Joaquin, Esq

67 Comments

Filed under News..., public discourse, sex and the law, sex crimes, sexually oriented businesses

67 responses to “Q: When is a vibrator more dangerous than a gun?

  1. Pingback: Q: When is a vibrator more dangerous than a gun? « The Free Lance

  2. Welcome, Tom.

    Thank you for bringing this absurdity to our attention.

  3. Tom, thank you so much for your entry. This case has been confounding me since I first learned about it in 2004.

    The bizarre contradictions woven through this case still confuse me. It would apparently be legal to distribute vibrators for free, just illegal to sell them. If they’re packaged as “massagers” they’re okay. If they’re packaged as vibrators, they’re not. And someone has anticipated that dildos or anal beads might have a legitimate law enforcement purpose!?! (There is an exception in the statute for such sales “for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose.”)

    And then there is the question of why encouraging people to enjoy sex or masturbation is at all a danger to the health of the state.

    The “rational interest” the state claimed it had in protecting the public morality, back in 2004, was in “discouraging prurient interest in autonomous sex” (read: masturbation). And the court at that time agreed that it was reasonable for the legislature to believe that “commerce in the pursuit of orgasms by artifician means for their own sake is detrimental to the health and morality of the state.”

    It seems a very dangerous precendent, to me, that any state can think its health is threatened if people are encouraged to masturbate. If that can be a deemed a “reasonable belief” it would seem nearly any restriction could be deemed reasonable.

  4. Imagine the ridiculousness of having to ask your doctor for a prescription for a 10″ purple vibrator on the basis of “bona fide medical purpose”.

    “Hi doc. My vibrator wore out and I need another one or my head is going to explode. Think you could call it in to Walgreens for me?”

    I can see the legislative and judicial exception, however. Screwing the people is apparently part of the job description for legislators and judges in Alabama.

  5. Tom Joaquin

    LOL! That’s great, Janibelle. That list of exceptions is standard for laws regulating material considered obscene, so I barely noticed the legislative and judicial exception. There are also two specific exceptions explicit in the law I didn’t mention: ribbed condoms and virility drugs. How the hell do virility drugs even meet the description? And why wouldn’t they fit into the medical exception. My guess is the AL legislature consists of some older guys who want to make absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt certain that *their* needs are met.

  6. One of my commenters has an interesting solution.

    I vote everyone send a dildo to Patsy Riley, the first lady of Alabama. Imagine having hundreds of dildos show up at the Governor’s Mansion addressed to her.

    Make sure to send those oversized, black dildos or maybe one of the neon ones.

    Oh, and don’t send them in a box, just write the address on the dildo itself.

    I’ve heard that Governors get all sorts of presents, but they aren’t allowed to keep them. So they usually give them to the underprivileged. Imagine having the Patsy Riley Dildos for the Homeless Giveaway.

    Warms the cockles.

    (I’d provide a link, but I don’t want to sound like I’m just blog whoring here.)

    Kevin is known for his sometimes biting sarcasm, but in this case it may draw some much needed attention this inanity.

    Do you think this is a campaign worth pursuing in earnest, and if so are there some legal issues that should be addressed first?

  7. Tom Joaquin

    Whether it’s worth doing is a tough question to answer. It’s always worth speaking out, and the Patsy Riley Dildo Homeless Giveaway is hysterical — and probably a way to get great press. Best, tho, would be to coordinate with someone in Alabama — they’re the people the legislature supposedly works for.

    Legally — The Post Office won’t handle (so to speak) items determined to be obscene — it’s part of their regulations — so you’d have to have a box or envelope. On the other hand, if it’s boxed, someone in the office actually has to open it, so they wouldn’t just be tossed immediately in the mail room.

    I saw the suggestion on your blog yesterday — nice blog, it’s going to take me some time to explore it.

  8. **blush**

    I really do like the whole idea. I’m going to start beating the bushes looking for a contact in Alabama.

    As for my place…

    Be forewarned – Oh, that way madness lies, but I shun it not.

    Evolution and Erotica, Science and Sex, Humor and Humping

    Sweet Destruction at UDoJ.
    ;)

  9. WhoreChurch

    Maybe a better idea is to not send them through the post office but to load up a semi with sex toys and deliver it–along with a complete press entourage–to the capitol.

    That’s gotta make CNN. Probably not Fox. Or at least they wouldn’t say “sex toys.” They’ll probably say something like “intimate products.”

    And you think it’s weird calling in a script for a vibrator? Just try getting your doctor to sign off on a neon butt plug.

    Getting back to the business at hand…

    I’ll bet we can get “toy” manufacturers or an adult publisher to sponsor the event.

    Just a thought…

  10. Tom, look what your post has started! Guerilla Sex Activism + Street Theater!

    WhoreChurch, I wouldn’t be so certain about Fox. I don’t have a TV at home, but I was at my mom’s and saw an episode of something called American Dad. It concerned the dad’s transfer to Saudi Arabia. If they can broadcast that, they can certainly say “dildo” and “butt plug” on the air.

  11. WhoreChurch

    Elizabeth,

    I should have said “Fox News.” The viewership is mainly evangelical, right-wing, Bush worshipping conservatives. They get hate mail for words like that.

    Of course the Fox network (owned by the same person) is one of the crudest on the airwaves.

    Only at Fox is one word–morality–an oxymoron.

  12. You know, I forgot how good people are at compartmentalizing ;) “Hmm… very conservative news on a channel that broadcasts programs I’d find totally offensive if I knew what they were. Thank goodness I don’t have to know.”

    Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Tom Joaquin

    It was Bill O’Reilly (I detest him) who was taped by his mistress talking about taking a shower with her and her fallafal. Supposedly, he meant “loofah,” but hey, if the man can talk about himself and the woman and fried chick peas in the shower (weird, very weird), you’d think “sex toy” wouldn’t be too hard to say.

  14. That must be why Pandagon has a category called “Conservatives sure are funny” Clearly I need to get myself a television again. Or not.

  15. WhoreChurch

    I like to read Fundies Say the Darndest Things – it’s funny and tragic at the same time. It’s two, two, two emotions in one!

  16. I’m a FSTDT addict. Good stuff there, but Kevin’s right. You just never really know if you should laugh or cry reading that crap.

    As for that dork that hosts “The O’Railing Flatulance”, he doesn’t even have the right food group or even the right continent.

    It’s obviously a Taco.

  17. Woody

    Hi everyone! I could not help myself from commenting on all the riff about sex toys in Alabama. Seems that Texas also has a big SNAFU there as well.

    First off, forgive the length of this post—I guess I am on a rant related to stupidity in lawmakers. I have not spell checked this, so pardon obvious errors…and remember, I’m just a simple hick in Oklahoma, who, like Will Rodgers, only knows what he reads in the papers.

    Also, I have presented a lot of fact, interspersed with my opinion. You can disagree with my opinion, but fact is fact. I encourage intelligent debate on any subject, and therefore, here I am.

    Ok–the rant: People (of Alabama, Texas and others) should recognize that the true villains here are not the “Sex toys” but the lawmakers–those people who continually are slipping the “green weenie” to all the Alabama taxpayers, not to mention all the revenue lost through “under the counter” sales of sex toys (either in state or through mail order).

    This is the height of sheer stupidity. These lawmakers should be impeached, and forced to go back to school to learn how to run a business (that of the state) and not some mouthpiece of some religious “do-gooders”.

    It never ceases to amaze me how law makers waste so much of the tax payer’s money debating and enacting such bull-shit laws. You would think they had more important things to discuss like balancing their budget, fixing roads, helping commerce thrive, increasing tax revenue for the state, solving crime growth like ID theft, and so on.

    But NO! They are hell bent on “protecting us from ourselves”. They waste the time and money of the state taxpayers, and usually are forced to call “special legislative sessions”, to get the delayed (real important) work done on overtime (at very high costs too, which are stuck to the taxpayer again).

    Well folks, the winds are a blowin, and they are blowing stupidity all over the place. It seems that Alabama stupidity is also shared in Austin Texas, as Texasuns have done essentially the same thing long ago.

    Austin Texas law forbids reference to anything by the term of “dildo” or “sex toy” but allows them to be called “educational devices” used to educate someone on how to properly apply a condom.

    Also, by Texas law, the anus is not a sex organ, and as such, no pleasure can be derived thereof, so it is legal to sell and refer to a “butt-plug” by the same name.

    Also, in Austin Texas, you can only own 5 or less “devices”, otherwise you can be fined (essentially a traffic ticket offense). In addition, according to Texas law, you can sell/buy a vibrator that is not shaped like a dildo (educational device), but **not** the other way around.

    Maybe this might explain some of the President’s logical way of thinking as he came from Texas! :-)
    Now I don’t intend on getting a “Bush Bash” going, but is it just an observation.

    Here’s the “real” reason for me posting:
    For a great laugh at this Texas State Law, watch a video (adult PG-13) sample of the “Dildo Diaries” (a movie about Texas State Law concerning these devices) at:

    In the video, observe how store vendors have not been hindered by this law at all. The law is essentially worthless, and un-enforceable, but it took a hell of a lot of taxpayer money to get it debated and on the books. What a farce!!
    Also observe how one legislator claims to “represent” ‘The Majority’ (probably the so-called moral majority), but in fact represents only a small fraction’s worth of the population of Texas.

    The Texas Penal Code isn’t generally thought of as a laugh-out-loud read, but Section 43.23 is an exception and states:” a person commits an offense if he … possesses with intent to wholesale promote any obscene material or obscene device. A person who possesses six or more obscene devices … is presumed to possess them with intent to promote the same.”

    Get that…if you have five dildos (well, legally they are “educational devices”) you are “ok” but if you have six or more, then you have devious intent.

    Think about this, in Texas, you can own 6 or more handguns, without being “prejudged” as a criminal with criminal intent—but the same can not be said for owning 6 dildos.

    Observe that Texas lawmakers “cloak” their “do-good” intent by claiming to protect society from promotion of obscene things. It never occurred to them that this stuff has been around since long before Christ and the Bible? (Dildos were found in Egyptian burials and others as well such as Aztecs).

    Can these lawmakers be that lacking in history or knowledge of human nature? What’s to stop someone from whittling their own from some Texas dogwood?

    I have about a dozen screwdrivers in my toolbox, and each of them have a handle that could be used as a dildo—does that make me a criminal? Or my broomstick? And so on ad nausium. What the lawmakers have to be careful about is that their own wives may be criminals too!

    It should be obvious that if there was no demand for this stuff, there would be no supply. Obscene things exist because there is an **existing** demand for such, and it does not have to be “promoted” to create a market for it like a certain new kind of car wax, hamburger, beer, or other such item.

    Anyway, back to the movie…it features: Syndicated Columnist Molly Ivins (who tragically died this Feb 2007 from long battle from breast cancer), members of the State of Texas Legislature, and others

    For more on Molly Ivins and her wonderful wit and humor (these are all clean) see :

    Molly Ivins – PBS Newshour Tribute Essay http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKckRXKRmRg

    Remembering Molly Ivins http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SukUnf_kn_A

    In this video, watch Molly talk about the adult movie theatre that lawmakers were trying to outlaw (through clever zoning changes). The reason the lawmakers cited: “going to such movie theatres caused people to masturbate, and because masturbation was a sin, it should be illegal for them to exist.” Molly tells the story about an old man, who was alive long before the movie theatre existed, and that old man said that there was a lot of masturbation before the movie theatre existed.

    This sort of wisdom…and the wonderful way Molly tells this story, should make lawmakers ashamed of themselves. But, as Forrest Gump says: “Stupid is as Stupid does”.

    About the DVD video: THE DILDO DIARIES 2002, Dir. Laura Barton, Judy Wilder, DV, 63 min. NR

    The Texas Penal Code isn’t generally thought of as a laugh-out-loud read, but Section 43.23 is an exception: “A person commits an offense if he … possesses with intent to wholesale promote any obscene material or obscene device. A person who possesses six or more obscene devices … is presumed to possess them with intent to promote the same.”

    That’s why when filmmakers Laura Barton and Judy Wilder walked into Forbidden Fruit (an adult toy store), they saw row after row of penis-like objects, anatomically correct condom education models made of latex and silicone, and vibrating oblong-shaped massage devices.

    But when they asked for a dildo, they were informed: “Sorry, we only have educational models.”

    The absurdity of the situation inspired Texas natives Barton and Wilder to make “THE DILDO DIARIES”.

    The film uncovers a chorus of objections to Texas sex laws, making use of interviews with legislators, porn stars, the curator of the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minnesota, sex toy (oops, I mean educational toy) shop owners, and vagina enthusiast Annie Sprinkle.

    The film rarely strays far from its sense of the absurd, but even in its frivolity, “It’s going to take a lot of public awareness so the legislators aren’t afraid of voting appropriately.

    As Molly Ivins says in the documentary, they’re afraid everyone will think they’re queer.” (Michael Connor, Austin Chronicle)

    All of this talk about “obscene” and the like boils down to perception…and reminds me of a joke, where a disturbed individual is at a mental doctors office for evaluation. He is shown a series of ink blot shapes and asked what they bring to mind. The first object shown is a triangle, and he says: “that’s a keyhole, and boy what’s going on behind there?. The next object is a rectangle, and he says: that’s a motel window, and boy-o-boy what’s doing on in there? The next object is a circle, and he says: that’s a porthole and boy-o-boy what is going on behind there!. The doctor shakes his head and says “you are definitely sexually disturbed”. Immediately, the man under evaluation exclaims “What do you mean I’m sexually disturbed, when you were the one showing me all of those dirty pictures!”

    Laws should protect innocent people (children and such). They should protect from harm (murder, etc.). They should set level playing ground for commerce to conduct business. They should protect and defend a land.

    But, this stuff about dildos, is way out of line. Laws should not pretend to do what the Church is best at, and that is moral codes of society.

    There is a reason for separation of Church and state. I believe, in this case, one could argue that the separation has been both infused and extremely confused..

    Peace and love to all.

  18. WhoreChurch

    Why is it not surprising that a guy named “Woody” is preocupied with sex toys–and even recommends whittling one out of “wood.”

    Woody are you surpressing anything you want to share with us????

  19. And Kevin, here I thought you were going to make a joke about the penal code ;) Really that would have been funnier.

    Seriously, listen, my blog my rules: No making fun of commenters’ names. If you want to get into that kind of thing, take it to the Church!

  20. WhoreChurch

    OK, I’ll try to behave. Woody, hope you took no offense, none was intended.

    But I was just thinking…

    Would you have sex in the public square? I know Elizabeth Wood.

    Would you stand up for sex toy rights? I know Elizabeth Wood.

    Would you go out with four sailors in one night? I know Elizabeth Wood.

    Why is it I think someone will delete this comment? I know Elizabeth Wood.

    [Insert 12 year old boy snicker…]

  21. Would you believe that one of my best friend’s in high school had the last name May? You can imagine the jokes that came from pairing our names in relation to various activities.

    ‘Nough said.

  22. Woody

    Ok…sticks and stones may break my bones but dildos (and names) will never hurt me! Ha.

    I hope the links worked for everyone and have been viewed by all who are interested or just plain bored.

    I’ll admit it–I enjoy my perversions, just like anyone else (beer, whisky, wild women and that includes religion as well).

    However, I’ll let my religion tell **me** what to do, but I won’t force that upon others.

    What someone does with a sex toy is of no concern to me, unless they are beating me over the head with it or sexually using it on me against my will–which is covered under existing assult laws.

    Everyone here should “Focus on the problem, not the person”.

    I am not the problem. Dildos are not the problem.

    And yes, “you” are not the problem either, unless “you” (in the collective sense) exclude apathy among people who allow someone to walk all over yourself — because this could be the root of part of the problem.

    The point and theme I was responding to in this blog rant was that the Alabama law is stupid. I’m sure other states have just as stupid laws…so there is no superlative stupid state, perhaps.

    The Alabama law does not prevent ownership, it only prevents local sale of the devices. So what is the true objective? Is it just one step in a series of steps to invade our personal lives more? What economic sense does it make? None! It reduces tax income, forces purchases to be made out of state, and reeks of NIMBY (not in my backyard). [NIMBY was a term used to describe Calif. people who regulated power generation out of existence in the state of Calif, forced generators to be placed in other surrounding states…and forcing the polluting byproducts in the other states but allowed the clean electricity to flow into Calif. Thus the term…you can do it anywhere except in my backyard. Never mind that the wind blew things back into Calif, or the streams supplied polluted water for Calif. Duah!]

    In Texas, everything is bigger, including stupid laws. In contrast to Alabama, Texas law allowed selling dildos as long as they were not called dildos. This resulted in “masking” what the items really were, by forcing people to call them something that the law did not address (I guess calling them a bananna would work too). You could not sell a dildo in Austin, but you could sell an educational device used to teach and practice how to apply a condom.

    In fact, the Texas law allowed a vibrator that vibrated as long as it was not like a dildo (penis), and prohibited any (penis shaped) dildo that vibrated.

    I’ve heard the old joke that certain women aren’t allowed to use vibrators because they chip their teeth. Maybe that is what the Texuns were thinking, because they do have a lot of pretty but simple minded blondes there. Anyway, I digress a bit there, so pardon me.

    Anyway, it is clear, if you are a male in Texas, and you pull anything out of your pants that is not change or car keys, it had **better be** an educational device.

    Getting back on track, in general, if society is to disallow sex toys under the pretense that it makes society safer or cleans up a lurid society, then we might as well outlaw a certain color of pickup truck, gun racks and bumperstickers.

    To take that thought further, maybe laws should prohibit stores from selling **anything** that could be used like a dildo or sex stimulant–like pickles, certain shapes of squash, cucumbers, broom handles, toilet plungers, electric tooth brushes, rubber gloves, clothes pins, mint toothpaste (or any type of mint candy too), and so on.

    Maybe the laws should not stop with dildos and should outlaw lightbulbs, because doing “devious or otherwise obscene” activity in the light of day or the artificial light used at night is clearly against the law, right?

    However, that is to say, if it’s done in the dark (the obscene activity), like someone is ashamed of something, it’s probably ok, because you are not supposed to enjoy this sort of activity anyway.

    Oh, how Victorian it is to wear steel wool underwear too!

    Lawmakers could extend the legal action to outlaw any type of phallis –like any pole (light pole, basketball pole, flag pole, etc.) because they might be used as a dildo…at least not for insertion, but the mere thought of people rubbing against such objects…and their clear phalic relationship…is reason enough.

    They should outlaw tall buildings as well, because they clearly are shaped like an erect penis or a dildo.

    Lawmakers could then outlaw anything that vibrates, like lawn mowers, washing machines, horses, bicycles and motorcycles….because some women (or worse, men) might find them sexually stimulating.

    And oh yes, some men might get the idea to “help sheep over the fence” a little too often, cut holes in watermelons, or drool over the Sears & Roebuck catalogs until the pages stick together…so these should be outlawed as well. I’m sure those Texas cowboys never messed with sheep, but I’m not sure of Texas cowboys and all those smiling cows.
    Oh poor L. C. DeCow. (Elsie the cow).

    To accomplish all of this, more police are needed, much more! And we will need lots of signs, put all over the place, so that people will be constantly reminded of the state’s “dildo laws”.

    Public taxes will rise to pay for the “dildo police”, pay for the signs and the workforce needed to install them. The “dildo police” could be patterned after the Nazi SS and wear arm bands too. More money needed for uniforms and armbands.

    There will need to be more courts to prosecute “dildo offenders”. More “public defenders” to defend those dildo violators who are poor–and there will be lots of poor folks.

    There will need to be more jails for these people who are repeat offenders or can not pay a fine. More prison guards, more prison food, more prison doctors, and so on.

    And yes, public tax moneys will be spent on these items…and the poor public will become even poorer, all due to the “dildo tax” effect.

    In the Texas video, one Texas lawmaker clamed that a lynching is best for “those types”. I guess he felt that all deviant types should be forced to conform to **his** vision of what the norm of society should be, right? Who needs laws in Texas?

    It became apparent, to me at least, that there are some people who think that aboloshment of dildos will abolosh masturbation or “obscene acts”. I guess it is all of those people who lived during prohibition days becoming re-incarnated. Just as in those days, were the “good intent” was to prohibit sale of alcohol, but only drove it underground, and flourishing in a black market, untaxed.

    Clearly, history is repeating itself…and what a shame it is, because it was wrong then and it is wrong now—to have such logic–dildos or beer, it is all the same. The puritians don’t like whiskey but will drink patent medicine (with 50% alcohol) all day long, because it is not whiskey! They don’t want anyone buying or owning a dildo as long as they can have their own!

    I think the phrase “guns cause crime like flys cause garbage” applies here. Just substitute the word “sex toy” for gun.

    Of course…this is all crazy talk. It is all crazy action too. And I’m being sarcastic for sure.

    Having a dildo police force is much like having the KKK enforce what is “right”. It does more harm than “right”.

    I hope people can see the stupidity of the “sex toy” laws and the reasons these laws were “justified” into existance.

    The rational person should ask why their money is being spent on such laws, when there are society needs far greater than regulating dildos. Why not raise the minimum wage? Why not extend un-employment payments instead? Why not help the needy?

    If a lawmaker can not figure this out, then he/she should be shown that people want positive benefits for their tax monies–not **self serving** activities of lawmakers.

    People should continue cutting budgets until there is not a surplus of money laying around to support “dildo police” actions, laws or thought.

    I’m damn sure these lawmakers will not pay for “dildo police” themselves, because they can clearly see it is foolish.

    Of course the lawmaker’s motovation is such that they can piddle and diddle. The police won’t complain if their budgets are increased, and the good old boy back slappers will all light up a cigar in the knowledge that they forced “dildo NIMBY”, and are really getting their revinue from the shipping companies that will spring up overnight. Dildo production will rise in other states, and their tax revenues will climb, whereas in Alabama, it will fall–causing more tax increases on the public. There is no free lunch. “We the people” have to pay for this junk lawmaking.

    There are other negative effects as well. Since dildos help reduce STD’s, HIV (if not shared), and reduce if not eliminate pregnancy (even without a condom) the state expenses for these problems will rise–and so will those expenses. And the public tax burden climbs higher.

    The lawmakers who spend all day debating such trivia will have neglected and dissatisfied wives, and thus, the divorce rate may climb as well.

    Alabama men will be unhappier too, because their women will be unhappy. When mamma has a bad day, all of us have a bad day.

    Focus on the problem, not the person.
    I am not the problem. Dildos are not the problem.

    If ya want a warm feeling, just piss in your pants…don’t rush out and pass a bunch of stupid laws.

    How do you paint a clearer picture of a SNAFU?

    Peace to all!

    PS — In Oklahoma, at least and as far as OU football is concerned, the wind blows from the North because Texas sucks.

  23. WhoreChurch

    I agree with Woody…dildos don’t kill people, crazy gun toting fundamentalists kill people.

  24. reccos

    this is just fucking nuts

  25. Dill Doe

    I would like to point out the law bans only those devices designed to stimulate the genitalia. You are quite free to sell plastic dongs as long as you make it perfectly clear that they are designed to be taken up the bum. Who says ‘Bama is conservative?

  26. WhoreChurch

    Dill Doe,

    You should meet my friend Heywood J. Blohme.

  27. Pingback: The Magical Flying Chicken Interesting articles «

  28. Pingback: A Tale in Alabama…. « iH8reality

  29. Now that’s an interesting twist, Dill.

    So one could say that it’s possible to sell these things by sneaking them through the backdoor.

    (Look, I waited and waited. Nobody took the bait, and it had to be said.)

    Seriously though, I had missed that little nuance. I’m going to have to read that whole frustrating law again. How funny if they were so very specific that they left a gaping hole in the law that allowed the sale of the very same sex toys for a purpose to which they no doubt have an even larger objection.

    Oh, the irony!

  30. Re-reading the statute, I noticed another little idiocy.

    (11) HARMFUL TO MINORS. The term means:
    a. The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the material, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest of minors; and
    b. The material depicts or describes sexual conduct, breast nudity or genital nudity, in a way which is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors; and
    c. A reasonable person would find that the material, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.

    So according to paragraph 11, a skateboard with an airbrushed nude would be considered “harmful to minors”?

    But on the other hand, the statute does include the verbiage “reasonable person”, which I suppose leaves out the state legislature, as far as I can tell.

    After all is said and done, I’m still confounded by the basic premise of this sort of thing.

    It’s more basic than “sex toys are bad.”

    The basic premise is that “Sex is bad” and “Sex is harmful to minors”.

    At what point did things become so insane as to just take for granted that basic biological drives that harm no one are somehow a bad thing?

    Seems to me that fighting laws like this are like treating symptoms of disease: necessary, but not getting to the root of the problem, which is the disease itself. I think Elizabeth has touched on this more eloquently in the past.

    Forgive the stream of consciousness effect here, it’s still rather early on a Sunday morning.

    Perhaps I can put this more coherently after we’ve showered and sucked down some coffee.

  31. I’m hoping Tom will chime in on some of these comments and questions — especially about the “back door” observation and about the problems of “contemporary community standards” and “reasonable person” standards.

    Meanwhile, I think you’re right, JanieBelle, about symptom v. disease. I’m working on a post that continues that theme. (And thanks for your compliment on my past attempts!)

  32. nice post…… in romania we have the same stupid rullez 2

  33. I too would be very interested in hearing Tom’s view on some of these things. His professional opinion would be rather enlightening.

    You are of course welcome for the compliment, you certainly earned it.

    I look forward to reading that post. I have to say that I’m just puzzled by the situation. No matter how I look at it, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.

    And of course I’m right. I’m eighteen, I know everything! :P

  34. What would happen if someone used a gun to defend themselves from having their vibrator taken away? Oh boy. I think it’s best if the government left everyone’s vibrators alone. A sexually satisfied America is a nice America as far as I’m concerned. :-)

  35. ascreamingwriter

    Well you will never believe what I just say TODAY…

    Wal-mart is now selling sex toys *holy or moly?*
    Obviously it’s being brought to attention by a certain group of people who, by the looks of it, are making it happen…

    Article: http://www.redtractor-usa.com/Walmart_Sells_Sex_Toys.htm

  36. ascreamingwriter

    P.s. (re: previous comment I just posted)

    Seeing as Wal-mart was kicked for selling guns… looks as though they’ve been looking for an alternate market. Gee, and everyone thinks Wal-mart is so “straight”

  37. Tom Joaquin

    You’ve hit on the source of lots of legal confusion, JanieBelle. The section of the statute you’ve quoted is the word-for-word definition of “obscenity” as defined by the Supreme Court, except for the addition of the words “of minors”, and “for minors.”

    Stripped of gobblygook, the statue says that something is obscene only if:

    It shows or describes any sort of sexual act OR genitalia OR breasts (and you can be sure they don’t mean man’s breasts); And

    Appeals to the “prurient interest” according to “community standards”. In other words, there are things that are ok in Vegas that would be obscene in Tennessee.

    “Prurient” means it’s sexually interesting or arouses lust, with a clearly negative connotation. I would argue that most things arousing in Tennessee or Lynchburg, VA are just as arousing in Vegas, or NY or San Francisco. So really this is just a way of letting the community (and this almost always means a jury) decide what they think is moral. (They’re willing to go to Vegas to see it, but don’t want to admit it to their neighbors).

    A short detour: There have been few cases indicating problems with the “community standard” and the question of obscenity on the internet. A case in point:

    The Thomases were a married couple in SF who ran an internet porn business. The business was perfectly legal, required proof of age, purchase of a subscription, barred child porn, etc. The US Attorney General in Tennessee tried to set them up by sending them child pornography to their business PO box. The police arrested Mr. Thomas as soon as he picked up his mail, before he had a chance to open the envelope containing the porn. The Federal Court decided the child porn arrest was entrapment, but the Thomases were tried before a Tennessee jury on the charge that the material they had placed on the internet was obscene. So, yes, get this straight, a nice couple running a business considered mundane in San Francisco got sent to Federal prison, leaving their children to be raised by someone else, because material stored on their computers in SF was considered obscene by twelve people in Tennessee — a state that the Thomases had never been in until their arrest.

    If this ruling were to catch on, it would mean the entire internet would be subject to the moral standards of people living in Jerry Falwell’s neighborhood. Fortunately, this seems to be a one-shot ruling. I’m certain the Supreme Court (yes, even this Supreme Court), would find the Tennessee court’s ruling unconstitutional, but the Supremes refused to hear the case, and will be able to avoid the issue unless is comes up more often.

    The last requirement for obscenity is a test affectionately know among 1st Amendment fans as “SLAPS”. Even if the material is obscene according to the first two tests, it can’t be regulated if it has “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.” This is the issue that comes up in cases like the Mapplethorpe exhibit, or the “piss Christ” in NYC.

    Material determined to be obscene can’t be completely barred, only regulated.

    Back to Alabama — I think there are two legal problems with the statute. First, an obscenity standard shouldn’t apply to sex toys generally, but only to sex toys designed to be anatomically correct, as it were. A vibrator with a utilitarian design (your purple one might fit this description, JanieBelle) can’t be constitutionally regulated as “obscene.”

    Second — The statute is arguably overbroad — the addition of “for minors” goes beyond the constitutional definition for obscenity. Something found obscene can be regulated to “protect” minors, but using a community standard judging whether something is obscene with regard to minors is a net too broad to meet 1st Amendment standards. (Full disclosure — I haven’t researched this issue, and there may be case law contradicting me. But if it was a Federal case, I’d probably know about it — I follow such things. Plus I’m right.
    probably

    So, that’s more than probably anyone ever hoped to know about the legal definition of obscenity. But you never know — remembering the SLAPS test might keep you out of trouble some day.

    On another note: I do wonder if the good people of Alabama can be arrested for growing zucchini.

  38. I suppose it would depend on how they packaged and marketed the zucchini, wouldn’t it?

  39. More seriously than that, I have a question:

    Cases like the one against the Thomases (see Tom’s comment two above this one) seem like loaded weapons hidden in boxes where anybody could stumble upon them and get hurt. They are dangerous for two reasons (beyond the damage they’ve done to the parties involved):

    1. They may not be enforced widely, or known about widely, but they are there, and as Tom asks: “If this ruling were to catch on, it would mean the entire internet would be subject to the moral standards of people living in Jerry Falwell’s neighborhood.” He notes that “this seems to be a one-shot ruling. I’m certain the Supreme Court (yes, even this Supreme Court), would find the Tennessee court’s ruling unconstitutional, but the Supremes refused to hear the case, and will be able to avoid the issue unless is comes up more often.” How often will it need to come up before the Supreme Court feels compelled to hear a case related to it? How many successful prosecutions would that represent.

    2. I wonder if cases like that one also serve as silencers. That is, do we become afraid to even talk about them for fear of “pointing them out” to those who might use them against us? Do those of us who favor sexual freedom find ourselves less likely to speak out against laws that we fear might “catch on”?

    That makes me wonder about our general cultural silence about sexuality. How much harm is done just because people don’t want to be labeled as immoral, even though the standards of morality that they fear are not their own?

    And does our silence end up creating a sense that “contemporary community standards” are really much more conservative than our real behavior would indicate?

  40. WhoreChurch

    Tom and Elizabeth,

    Both your comments are certainly thoughtful and scarily prophetic. But I think there is a wider issue than simply sexual freedom.

    I suspect the case in Tennessee argued that because the website put together and hosted in California advertised products which were illegal under Tennessee law and were able to be viewed by Tennessee residents meant Tennessee law applied.

    In my mind the bigger question is this one: How much is a website owner responsible for meeting the decency standards (or other local restrictions on free speech) in any area where the site can be viewed? It’s an international problem.

    Let’s say I have content critical of the government of a foreign country. Completely legal in all of the United States. What if I were to travel to a third country with an extradition treaty with the country I had criticized. What stops them from arresting me on the foreign warrant and forcing me to face local justice in the country I had criticized?

    It’s also going to be an issue between states (as you have pointed out.) I live in a dry county. If a California vineyard accidentally sends a bottle of wine, ordered over the internet, to my home at my request, they have broken local laws. Can Tennessee issue a warrant and then ask for extradition from California to Tennessee?

    I think we have to consider how the global nature of the internet affects laws.

  41. Luckily that law isn’t in effect in Colorado, or half the moms on my street would be in big trouble. Check out my Vibrator post for more info on that.

  42. Really good comparison, kinda puts the whole sex-violence thing in perspective doesn’t it?

    Personally I’d rather someone hold a vibrator on me than a gun. ;)

  43. I guess my plan to live as an itinerant sex toy salesman in Alabama will never come to fruition.

    -J. Kaiser

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  45. Long live Vibrators! They do more good for us women than the President does for our own country.

  46. rhk111

    Well, a Gun or a Vibrator can both send a person to heaven …..

  47. Drew

    I think it’s actually really, really important that you have an actual lawyer joining you in your discussion on this site.

  48. allocator

    Well personally I would rather fend off a mugger with a gun than a vibrator, but I see your point.

    And Russian Roulette with a vibrator is just not the same (though now that I think about it, could be fun in the right company…) :)

    Public morality? On a test I probably would have answered that it’s more rude to shoot someone in the head than to play with sex toys in front of them – but then I’m not a highly-paid Alabama legislator…

    Cheers
    Allocator

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  50. The actual purpose of the law isn’t so the state can break down your doors and arrest everyone at a sex-toy party (though I’m sure someone here would eventually DO just that). It’s so they can keep adult stores out of the state — really. Remember, this is the state where anything that looks like a lotto ticket being sold is cause for arrest. County sheriffs regularly find and destroy video games that feature poker, even if there’s no real money won on them. We’re the last state in the country that regulates beer by volume. Why, there are still places in Alabama where you can get arrested for opening your business on Sunday. Don’t laugh — I’ve SEEN it with my own two eyes.

    We take our puritanism seriously, down here. The idea of a business selling anything resembling “fun” is the nightmare we avoid at all costs.

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  52. Tom mentioned in passing,

    A vibrator with a utilitarian design (your purple one might fit this description, JanieBelle) can’t be constitutionally regulated as “obscene.”

    As an aside of humorous Freudian slippage I must confess dear Tom, that it took me every bit of ten minutes to figure out how you knew it was purple.
    :lol:

    doh.

  53. weren’t vibrators invented to assist women with mental problems? it was meant to ‘calm them down’ and was prescribed by doctors as far back as 19thC.

    The part I don’t get is the sale of these devices is illegal in Alabama, yet the purchase could occur interstate or via the internet (from some Bahamas address) ..it’s just pushing the sale outside the boarders. It’s a paper tower.

    And all the energy put into this legislation..could be put towards better gun laws..oh, the waste.

    love the blog ;-)

  54. Gun laws, Shmum laws. I think this whole restriction on dildos is just stupid. As so many before have stated its only an economic push in the wrong d-erection.

  55. Woody

    Irony, Observation, Opinion, and the ‘ends’ do not justify the ‘means’

    The irony — claiming that most sex crimes are committed by men, yet the people targeted by “obscene device” laws are predominantly Women. Maybe these men who are writing the laws “must have two-inch penises” to be so concerned about regulating female pleasure.

    Observation — the apparent disconnect between lawmakers and law enforcers. According to many police, although problems vary widely from area to area, the biggest problems are burglary and drugs.

    For a good read, see “Sweet Home, Alabama Dildos” by Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist, at

    http://www.sodomylaws.org/usa/alabama/aleditorial018.htm

    For links to Federal and State Obscenity Statutes, see (and I post this only because it is a good collection of links) http://www.moralityinmedia.org/nolc/index.htm?statutesIndex.htm

    Interesting thing about the above site (morality in media), they said (at http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/adultbookstores.cfm) :
    “The “adult” bookstore creates for sex addicts and perverts a “paradise in which the only emotion is lust and the only event orgasm.” It denigrates the integrity of women by treating them as sexual instruments rather than as human beings, and, more often than not, by degrading them. Along with the usual obscenity, these stores also carry magazines and videos that depict sadomasochistic abuse, flagellation, and torture.

    Continuing they state: “Such a bookstore frequently includes a “Sodom and Gomorrah” masturbatory parlor in the back room. Those who enter will find “no glory, no beauty, no stars” — just slime! To call this “adult” demeans the word.”

    Comment: This ‘opinion of theirs’ ignores the fact that masturbatory activity was present long before there were “adult stores”. It also assumes that women are “victoms” and ignores how victomized men must feel when confronted with those inhumanly sized, constantly firm “devices”. Now that could be real trama! :-) Their observation of immaturity of adult toys is a misrepresentation designed to demean them, even though the term signifies toys for adults (which might be construed to be convertable sports cars for the erectile challenged) .

    Anyway, back to the previous reference, they continue to say: “After investigating a sampling of “adult” bookstores in six major cities, the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography also reported in 1986, “In addition to visual and written materials, every store surveyed sold dildos, vibrators, aphrodisiacs, lotions, and creams for sexual use. Many of the stores also sold knives, ‘police’ badges, whips, handcuffs, poppers, lingerie, studded collars, leashes, artificial vaginas, and a variety of other items.” ”

    Observation: laws against dildos are just the tip of an iceberg. There are a lot of other items carried, sold, and are potential targets as well. If the “moral media” folks get their way, television stronger than ‘I Love Lucy’ will be banned. Where will they stop? Where will the insanity end?

    Now folks, lets not overlook something. I feel that restricting access to “adult content” media (or toys) from “non-adults” is a good thing and the law does too by prohibiting sale to “non-adults”. I believe that is where the law should stop.

    There is little so called “evidence” to strongly support a connection between availability of “adult” material and crime. Recall the claims that electric lines caused cancer in humans? Recall the so called “facts” they cited? Recall how your electric bill went up to pay for relocating those big bad electic lines? Recall how you ignored the facts that the electric wiring in your house was much more closer than the big utility lines. Recall how you did not think and trusted lawmakers? Remember the feeling you got when they fornicated you and lined their pockets with your money, funneled it away from education and towards construction companies? Did you get what you paid for? No. Did electric lines really cause cancer? No. But, a lot of people who got cancer, were around electric lines. That was the justification.

    I will agree that many in the adult industry are involved in other illegal activities (drugs for example). Just because black birds are black, does not mean that all birds are black. Likewise, just because drugs are associated with adult media, does not mean adult media causes drug abuse. Same goes for deviant activity or actions. Although largely ignored, it most likely was taking place long before adult media came into the picture.

    There is a subtle argument being laid upon society.
    First identify adult media/toys as harmful to children (and ignore the word “adult” or its restriction in sales to minors). Why do this? Because anyone will do anything to protect a child, without thinking, and these people do not want you to think, they want you to act–act just as they tell you to act.

    Next, identify some statistics (which don’t have to be correct) that show crime increases when adult media/toys are present. Why? Because no one understands statistics–let alone spell it correctly. To most, it is some “black magic”. And its correct if it is statistically stated, right? :-) [Most people, for example think it is worse to have a 99% chance of failure, than to have a 1% chance of success, even though these numbers say the same thing and are identical. So go figure].

    Next, ignore facts. State that child molesters are influenced by adult material/toys to commit crimes (again, the child thing), even though such claims are only anecdotal to the action, because molestation took place long before there were “adult bookstores”, “adult movie theatres”, or “adult toys”.

    Next, appeal to the homophobic crowd, and claim that adult materials/toys increase homosexual tendencies. This is yet another popular myth.
    Something like “leasure suits cause cancer”.

    The logic is same that Hitler used. Announce the supremacy of the Arian race, declare Jews the dregs of society, announce a “clean up plan”, and offer free showers and free one-way train tickets to all Jews. Later, expand the plan to other “Non-Arian” races.

    Folks, be wary of this brain wash tactic. Many “well intended” religion people are joining lynching mobs to eradicate views different from their own. They don’t care what religion you are, as long is it is theirs. To eliminate any confusion or competition, they are determined on destruction of different peoples who hold different views.

    This is sad.

    Stand back. Look at our world. It’s full of different people, diverse in skin colors, heights, weights, eye/hair color, diverse intelligence, diverse morals, and different religions.
    It is a bouquet of things, rich in hues and tones.
    It really is beautiful, in its own sense.

    Despite these differences, observe how much all of us are alike: we are human, we breathe air, we eat food to survive, all of us have excrement, and all of us humans have a mother. So were do certain select groups get off on declaring they are “different”?

    Observe how all rivers flow into the sea, and so do all religions. They all (with few exceptions and despite differing rituals) reach a similar conclusion.

    Yet, the “exclusivity folks” are desperately working towards a world that makes “them” the “one and only”. They are subtle. They claim religion on their side. They claim all sorts of things. Just remember Hitler’s claims too.

    The ends do not justify the means.

    So, back to the topic of this discussion. Outlaw dildos, and only outlaws will have them. It will allow one group to cast stones at another–as if they are more qualified to throw stones. It will be yet another “dumbing down” of society (kinda like no child left behind–where we are really leaving all children behind instead), dumbing down to a level that acquiesces people into giving up freedom for a feeling of security. Security from whatever threat these groups claim exists, whether real or imaginary.

    Sex toys are not the real issue. Although there are many, we should take the Halloween mask off this monster and recognize it for what it really is.

    We must recognize the methodology used to impale society with “innocent but treacherous” laws that erode the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is not good for anyone.

    We must recognize that the reasons claimed are bogus and self serving.

    We must think—think for ourselves—and not trust the politicitian to do anything that is our best interest, because he/she has his/her own agenda.

    We must remember that we write the laws and are in control, unless we are stupid enough to pass a law that says we are incapable of being in control, at which time I hope I have gone to my next reward.

    Peace to all.

  56. Pulpfiktion00@aol.com

    I just can’t believe there are people in the senate who decide to create such dumb laws such as these.

  57. Woody

    Good laws or bad laws, from the lawmaker’s perspective, the pay is the same.

    If you hired a mechanic and he screwed things up worse than they were before, you would not pay him. In fact, you might sue for damages.

    Not so with screwy laws or screwy lawmakers.
    They cost everyone time and money, either way we turn.

    Just as in a bad poker hand, we (the ones who pay taxes or those affected) can and should cut our losses. The affected should effect change.

    We can vote–and vote people out of office or impeach. We can debate and raise awareness. We can deny funding availability to support such nonsense.

    CS Lewis said it most concisely:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.

    The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. ”

    C. S. Lewis
    English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 – 1963)

    http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/33029.html

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  59. From:

    http://blog.wfmu.org/freeform/mp3s/index.html

    “Paranoia Strikes Deep: The Galliano Bottle Call
    In the years between Nightmare Lounge and Aerial View I hosted an overnight music shift, 3 – 7 AM Saturday mornings. Between long sets I’d open the phones to see what strangeness lurked – and was never disappointed.

    One particular morning just after 5 AM I reeled in the most bizarre phone call I’ve encountered in all my years on the radio. It revolved around the Galliano bottle.

    Galliano is a sweet, yellow Italian herbal liqueur that comes in a tall, slender bottle.

    Over the course of four and a quarter paranoid minutes the caller pressed his case for why the Galliano bottle is an instrument of pure evil and should be removed from the market permanently (MP3, 4.9 MB): “The bottle should just pick up and pour a drink.” ”

    Listen to audio of telephone conversation at:

    [audio src="http://blogfiles.wfmu.org/AV/Galliano_Bottle_Call.mp3" /]

    If this paranoid guy would have his way, Galliano should go the way of the dodo bird along with cucumbers and dildos (or anything that might be used as such).

    Wups! Maybe paranoid lawmakers will read this…pass more stupid laws….and I won’t be able to make my Harvey Wallbanger drinks! That really would be a crime!

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  61. It amazes me that someone actually has to point out the stupidity of outlawing sex toys while buying a gun is easy as pie. Perhaps someone needs to point out that a gun is somewhat phallic in shape and due to lack of access to sex toys, someone might actually try using a gun for genital stimulation. Aw Hell, guns probably already make the good ol’ boys hard.

    Now what to do about the problem of those pesky, sexually stimulating fingers everyone has.

  62. Pingback: The Stashing Of The Sex Toys Has Begun « It’s All Connected…

  63. Pingback: Supremes Want A Little Alabama Vibrator Action « UDreamOfJanie

  64. I meant to update this earlier, but on October 1 2007 the US Supreme Court refused to hear Alabama Vibrator Case. The law barring sale of vibrators for purely sexual purposes stands. Here are a few links:

    Associated Press story
    Pam Spaulding at Pam’s House Blend

  65. Pingback: Texas Overturns Ban on Sex Toys! « Eat.Sleep.Fuck.Destroy.

  66. Pingback: The Eyes of Texas Are No Longer Upon Your Dildo « UDreamOfJanie

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