Good news for lonely Texans…
Posted by That Other Mike on 14/02/2008
… as a Federal appeals court has overturned the State’s ban on sex toys (HT to Feministing). As I understand it, lonely and frustrated Texans were required to pretend that they were buying massagers or buying said toys for “educational” purposes. How exactly one would teach anything except masturbation using a vibrator, I have no idea — unless it were used for positive reinforcement purposes, perhaps.
Previously the possession, advertisement, sale, giving or lending of obscene devices (seriously, they were called that) was illegal, with an obscene device being an object whose purpose was to sexually stimulate. Possession of six or more obscene devices was also considered to be promoting their use, which I find rather amusing. The idea being, presumably, that anyone with that many toys was so lewd and corrupted that s/he couldn’t help but start showing them to people in order to push the wickedness:
A: “Go on, try it, you might like it!”
B: “What is it?”
A: “It’s a vibrator!”
B: “No, I can’t! It’s illegal and sinful!”
A: “Oh, alright, then. Do you want some crack instead?”
B: “Uh… Sure, OK.”
The Texas law had been on the books since the 1970s, but prosecutions were rare and enforcement basically non-existent, although a woman from Fort Worth was arrested in 2003. The charges were later dropped.
The Federal Court responsible was the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi (look, ma! I can spell Missusss… Mussuh… Aw, crap! I lost it) and Texas.
Amusing factlet about the 5th Circuit: it’s based in the John Minor Wisdom building in NOLA. Isn’t that the best name for a courthouse ever?
Speaking seriously for a moment, the decision by this circuit is truly appropriate: the fantastically-named John Minor Wisdom was one of the “5th Circuit Four”, a group mostly of liberal Republicans who became known in the 50s and 60s for a series of decisions crucial to the advancement of the Civil Rights movement.
The court drew heavily on the 2003 decision by the Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas, which effectively decriminalised homosexual sex acts on the basis of due process guaranteed under the 14th Amendment: the finding was that criminalising identical conduct in some cases based on the sex of the participants violated the fundamental right of consenting adults to get down and dirty. It basically labelled sex between consenting adults a fundamental right into the which the State had no legitimate interest interfering. This is a rather interesting way to look at things, and it’s worth noting that had Justice O’Connor’s reasoning held sway, the latest decision involving sex toys would plausibly have gone the other way: her POV was that the anti-sodomy statute ought to be invalidated under equal protection grounds. Because due process addresses acts and equal protection addresses persons, her argument would have been a non-starter.
What has happened is that the SCOTUS’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas has scuppered any claims for laws regulating consensual sexual conduct based on “morality” focused on individuals or minority groups only because there is a fundamental right to get it on. This is the kind of legal principle I can get behind.
The reaction has been interesting – the WaPo asked in a caption for the picture on the right if buying vibrators should be as easy as buying guns.
This gives me the rather disturbing idea that the Texas Lege may introduce a waiting period for sex toys. You know, just so you can cool down in the meantime and reconsider your purchase, give them a little time to run a background check, that sort of thing. Just in case you reconsider your desire to go off and murder a bunch of people with your vibrator… Wait, no, something’s not right there.
The idea that possession of sex toys constitutes any kind of danger to public health or safety is ludicrous enough, but the idea that it would constitute enough of one to justify banning their sale is so ridiculous as to be Huckabeean.
The picture also raises another question: wtf is wrong with you, WaPo? “Should it be as easy to buy a vibrator as a gun?” It should be very easy to buy vibrators. Guns, not so much. How is that a difficult equation? Yeesh.
Funny that they linked to Blogs4Brownback though – it’s a parody blog here on WordPress. I wonder if anyone will tell them?
Good news for Texas. Maybe they’ll all calm down a little now that they don’t have to worry about someone finding out what’s in their bedside drawers.