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Your Dildo Might Be Illegal

from www.autostraddle.com – Forgive me for last week’s pause in the sexy law talk – I was at BlogHer ’11, a female blogger conference where I got to meet the infamous Riese and hear her speak all about Autostraddle, which was beyond fun and exciting. While there, I also made friends with the ladies over at Eden Fantasys, who gave me about 50 dildos and a few vibrators as well. Because even I can’t use 50 dildos, I’m giving some away on my site, so go thereto get one please, as they are currently blocking the view of my TV.

With all these dildos piled high around me, I think it’s a good time to discuss the laws surrounding the purchasing of sex toys. As we talked about in our first Ethics of Lust discussion, a lot of harmless stuff gets classified as “obscene” and is then outlawed by the government. This list varies depending on the country or state, but chances are that vibrating rabbit you love so much was at some point illegal to make, sell, buy and/or own and, if you live in say India or Alabama, may still land you in jail even today.

Not surprisingly, the Southern United States seems to particularly hate the use of sex toys and many states have banned them on “moral grounds”. Conservative Christian preacher Dan Ireland (I’m hoping no relation to my 90′s fantasy girlfriend Kathy Ireland) summed up the anti-sex toy argument when he said, “These devices should be outlawed because they are conducive to promiscuity, because they promote loose morals and because they entice improper and potentially deadly behaviors.”

Sure, sometimes reverends die of “accidental mechanical asphyxia” while hog-tied with a dildo up their butt, wearing SCUBA gear and rubberized underwear, but normal use of sex toys doesn’t cause potential death nor do they lead to promiscuity. If anything, using sex toys benefits people’s health and gives people an option for sexual satiation without having to go out and be promiscuous. But of course I’m preaching to the choir here, as most readers of this article probably own a plethora of pleasure that would make Kinsey proud. If only I could get the Supreme Court of Alabama to do the same – or at least admit to doing the same. When faced with the issue in 2009, the court upheld the state’s ban on selling sex toys, stating that “public morality can still serve as a legitimate rational basis for regulating commercial activity, which is not a private activity.” What about Lawrence v Texas, the famous Supreme Court case that knocked down anti-sodomy laws and recognized the right to sexual privacy? The Alabama Supreme Court recognized the right to use a sex toy in private, but argued that, “there is nothing `private’ or `consensual’ about the advertising and sale of a dildo.”

In other words, you can own a dildo, but you can’t buy one at your local “adult novelty” shop. Luckily for you in Alabama, online sex positive shops like GoodVibes, Babeland and Eden Fantasys offer rush delivery. But for those of you that can’t wait for overnighted packages, fear not, as it turns out some stores are still selling sex toys in states where such activity is banned, just under different names. For example, a Bodywand makes an excellent “personal massager”, available in three different sizes for the various sized muscles in your, um, back.

Yet, despite the ban, some brazen stores are just outright selling sex toys, hoping to lure conservatives in by offering to swap guns for sex toys. While this may seem like a fair trade to me, under the law stores like this still have to be careful to not have “obscene” or “lewd” advertising that might offend the neighbors’ delicate sensibilities.

Thankfully, Alabama is the strictest state in the nation when it comes to selling sex toys, as an appeals court shot down Texas’s similar ban in 2008. However, conversations and events promoting the use of sex toys are still routinely banned, as was this Law Students for Reproductive Rights seminar at the University of Wisconsin Law School. As someone who lives in Oregon, a state full of sex toy shops and strip clubs, I can’t imagine not being able to mozy down to my local female friendly sex toy boutique to pick out a present for a partner. As much as I love my online sex toy shops, it’s hard to gauge the size and texture of a toy solely by pictures. Unfortunately, until these bans are lifted, many customers will just have to bust out the measuring tape and hope for the best. For our readers outside of the United States, what are sex toy shops like in your area? Are there any banned items or any special branding that has to happen to sell a sex toy?

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