Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Our right to bear batteries

Maggie says:
In busy times like these, it takes an absolute outrage to pull me out of my head space and write. What's the latest outrage, you ask? Iraq, Wal-Mart, or Bush? Nope. What's pissing me off right now are sex toy politics.

Consider this:

  • Mississippi has banned the sale of sex toys within its borders, and a federal appeals court just upheld the law.
  • The sale of sex toys is also illegal in Alabama, and the U.S. Supreme Court just declined to hear a case challenging the law on sexual privacy grounds.
  • Apparently Florida, Texas, and Georgia also have similar laws under consideration or on the books in some form.
In the Mississippi and Alabama cases, what's troubling isn't just the denial of what some have termed "a fundamental right to dildos" (an exaggerated phrase, obviously), but rather a continuation of sex-negative policy that fundamentally discriminates against women.

First, the laws. We've all heard about those age-old laws discovered to still be on the books (like the legality of beating your wife as long as you use an instrument smaller than your arm, etc.). It's important to note that these sex toy bans are not those laws. They're recent additions to the books that are being fervently defended as I write this.

In upholding the Mississippi and Alabama laws, the courts have seemingly disagreed with the merits of the bans(Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett noted the "erroneous foundation that private sexual acts can be made a crime in the name of promoting public morality"), but declined to set a precedent that might someday (somehow?) be tied to "adult incest, prostitution, obscenity, and the like." In Alabama, Barkett charged Alabama citizens with repealing the law on their own:
"If the people of Alabama in time decide that prohibition on sex toys is misguided, or ineffective, or just plain silly, they can repeal the law and be finished with the matter."
In other words, 'You silly Alabamans, you. How funny you elected folks who would enact these laws in the first place! Don't you know better?'

Well, no, apparently not. I'm always personally amused with the die-hard Republican busted at the local S&M party or the fervent moralist who would outlaw abortion for everyone else but herself. Somehow everything needs to connect. We reap what we sow. If you elect hypocritical Puritans, don't be surprised when they start peeking into your bedroom.

The implications. Both laws prohibit selling sex toys, not possessing them. But consider the implicit class connotations here. For those of you who can afford out-of-state trips and meccas to sex shops, you're all set. Stuck inside "The Magnolia State?" Screwed. Or... not. ;-)

In Mississippi, a state infamous for its lax gun control, high levels of poverty, obesity, and sub-par education, lawmakers are choosing to focus on sex above all else. And not even sex that can result in a pregnancy - they're focusing on solo sex! Truly the crime of the day.

As we've seen throughout these dark Bush years, damaging gender stereotypes are at the root of so many policy decisions. With Plan B, lawmakers rush en masse to limit the drug despite the fact that its use could drastically lower abortion rates, which they say is their goal. Here, with sex toys, we see more of the same. The real fear isn't teen pregnancy, or children born out of wedlock, it's women enjoying sex and having it for fun. Yet the right will ever admit that.

Tellingly, organized protest in these states has come primarily from the sex trade itself (i.e. adult stores), not from average citizens. And to me, that's the real problem. Until Sally from the school board and Ann the local law student start protesting the complete bullshit that is their state's sex policy, nothing will change. Until we organize to say "Your laws target us, and we're not going to take it," good 'ol boy lawmakers are never even going to notice. In fact, sex store protests only embolden their position further.

Under Mississippi state law, sexually-satisfied women are considered the real terrorists, and the Unabomber types who can buy arms at gun shows without background checks or waiting periods are given a free pass. How interesting. And how sad for all of us.

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