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Renewed Dildo Prosecutions Eyed for Alabama; Joy Sticks Being Sold for Medical Purposes

Alabama- Any day, possibly today, a federal injunction will be dissolved, allowing for the prosecution of people who sell sex toys in Alabama.

The fear of jail and fines does not have employees of Love Stuff in Hoover shaking in any the store’s numerous thigh-high boots.

The colorful array of vibrators and other sexual devices available in a back room of the boutique are sold only for “bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement purposes,” said Amy Herring, the store’s attorney.

She’s serious: Those exemptions are allowed under the 1998 Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act that bans the distribution or production of sexual devices, and stores across the state are expected to focus on the exemptions as a way to keep the devices available to their customers.

When the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the challenge of the state’s ban on sex toys – ending a nine-year legal battle over the constitutionality of the law – the three Love Stuff stores in Alabama started asking customers to sign a receipt saying they were purchasing the sexual devices only for one of the legal purposes.

“Sexual health is a medical purpose,” Herring said. “Customers can use these products to maintain or reach a healthy sex life. Really all of this is for medical use.”

Whether that argument will be tested is up to law enforcement and prosecutors.

“Everything would be case-specific,” said Chris Bence, chief of staff for Alabama Attorney General Troy King. “Two district attorneys in two adjoining circuits could choose to pursue a case using different methods. They have the flexibility to do that.”

King’s office asked a federal court Monday afternoon to end an injunction delaying enforcement of the law, Bence said. They are expecting to hear word of that within days.

Stores are not the only retailers that will be subject to the law. People who sell sexual devices at private parties and Internet companies that sell to Alabama residents also should be aware of state law.

“The (attorney general’s) office has not issued any opinion about whether the law applies to Internet sales,” Bence said. “The only way to determine that is for someone to have a court case and for someone to rule on that.”
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Love Stuff stores in Alabama – in Hoover, Oxford and Montgomery – have been preparing for inaction by the U.S. Supreme Court for months, Herring said. Management created a policy to sell sexual devices only to customers who said they were buying them for a legal reason under the anti-obscenity law. The stores added the receipt requirement this week as an extra precaution, she said.

Love Stuff has taken other self-governing steps, such as asking customers for identification before they enter the back part of the store, keeping minors away from sexually oriented materials, Herring said. The majority of the store is filled with the same costumes that can be found in Halloween stores, and with shoes and lingerie available at numerous retailers in the area, she said.

B.J. Bailey, also one of Herring’s clients, has started using the same receipt policy for her Saucy Lady’s Parties, at which she or one of her representatives sell sexual products to women at private home parties.

As one of the plaintiffs – along with six of her clients – who fought the state ban on sex toys, she believes the law takes away a basic right. But Bailey said that, since she has always sold products for medical and educational purposes, the law should not hurt her business.

She does not advertise or have a listed phone number. Word of mouth sends customers her way, with more than 2,000 parties held in the past 14 years, she said.

While most of the people who represent her company work in northern counties, Bailey will have a representative working in Birmingham soon, she said.

Banning a woman’s right to buy a vibrator in Alabama is very much a woman’s health issue, said Bailey, who twice has spoken to nursing students taking human sexuality classes at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Help for women:

“I have truly dedicated my life to helping women,” she said. “My parties educate, we inform, we enlighten. We tell women to do their Kegel exercises so they don’t have to have bladder surgery when they are older. We talk about abusive relationships, counseling and what herbs can help stop urinary tract infections. We talk about things they don’t hear from their doctors.”

One of those topics being the difference between a $94 vibrator and a cheaper model, both of which can be purchased after the party for medical or educational purposes.

“Isn’t this just silly,” Bailey said. “What bothers me is I don’t hear people talking about our rights. We just lost another right in Alabama.”

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