What A World

What A World: Free at Last

Texas legislators finally stop toying around with dildo laws.

By Nancy Ford

NancyFord at desk
Nancy Ford

Ladies and gentlemen, start your dildos: Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a Texas statute outlawing sex toy sales.

That’s right. Until just this past February 13, it was illegal in this state to “sell, advertise, give or lend obscene devices, defined as a device used primarily for sexual stimulation,” according to Texas law.

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last.

Employing the Lawrence v. Texas decision, the judges in Austin determined that the anti-dildo ban violated the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment regarding right to privacy.

In 2004, two Austin adult-toy stores sued over the constitutionality of the law, so it’s fitting that the decision to free the dils was handed down there.

The appeals judges wrote: “The case is not about public sex. It is not about controlling commerce in sex. It is about controlling what people do in the privacy of their own homes because the state is morally opposed to a certain kind of consensual private intimate conduct. This is an insufficient justification after Lawrence .”

Previously, Texas law stated that one could purchase a dildo, but only if it were to be used for a “bona fide medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative or law enforcement purpose.”

While I understand perfectly how one could benefit medically and psychiatrically from the dil, the other three applications mystify me. Judicial and legislative purposes? Isn’t that what gavels are for? Law enforcement purposes? If I remember correctly, that disruptive University of Florida student didn’t cry, “Don’t dil me, bro!”

Besides, dildos don’t kill people. People with guns kill people.

Prior to February 13, it was presumed in Texas that anyone in possession of six or more dildos intended to sell them. According to this line of thinking, anyone with more than six golf clubs intends to open a pro shop.

Just like golf clubs, one needs different dils for different predicaments. You don’t use a putter to get yourself out of the rough.

Nonetheless, legislators determined possession of sex toys, when in a flock of six or more, was obscene based on community standards.

But how can “community standards” be defined in a town like Houston? In an area measuring less than two square miles, my personal community contains Joel Osteen’s mega-church, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston’s mini-mosque, a satellite branch of Legacy Community Health Services, the Diamond Club where women dance purt-near nekkid, and a Schlotsky’s. The standards of my community are anything but standard.

Then again, if legislators were forced to get excited about real issues—like healthcare, education, feeding the poor—they wouldn’t get much media attention. Or in this column, for that matter.

Texas conservatives, including Rep. Warren Chisum (R-surprise!), were responsible for making possession of six or more dildos a nuisance-level Class 3 Misdemeanor, like a traffic ticket. Chisum later told his dissenting then-colleague, Rep. Debra Danburg (D-of course!), that he would happily elevate the charge to a felony if he could.

That exchange prompted inimitable Texas satirist, the late Molly Ivins, to quip, “It’s now illegal for a prick to touch an asshole in this state.”

Today, Molly would be proud that Texas is finally catching up with the rest of the world: Beijing legalized the sale of sex toys—in 1994.

Alabama now has the distinction of being the state with the strictest ban on such devices. You might want to rethink that transfer to Birmingham.

My pal Ray Hill recently told me that there are 112 known outlets selling sex toys within Houston’s city limits, not including farmer’s markets. Ray also told me the ban was rarely enforced unless a complaint was filed against the purveyor. That was the case last July when members of the Houston Police Department entered Hollywood Superstore in Montrose, arresting owner Denny Denh and two employees for “selling and promoting obscene devices.” Denh settled his case before February 13, but I bet he’s busy restocking his inventory as we speak.

Certainly, it was time to sweep this insane, inane law from the books. Besides restricting Texans’ sexual pleasure to its basic Judeo/Christian, vagio/penile application, anti-dildo legislation deprives us of our cultural heritage. According to The History Channel, there is plenty of hieroglyphic and artifactual evidence that the ancient Egyptians—including Cleopatra—enjoyed their dildos. Insert your own asp-plug joke here.

Speaking of jokes, I used to tell one that went a little something like this: “My mother used to ask me, ‘How do you know you’re gay? Can’t you have an orgasm with a man?’ I would reply, ‘Yes, Mother, I can have an orgasm with a man. I can also have an orgasm with a six-pack of Lone Star and a hairbrush, but I don’t want to set up housekeeping that way.”

Who knew then that that joke could have been considered a confession?

At this writing, prosecutors and the Texas Court of Appeals had not decided whether or not it should revisit its decision to lift the ban. Just in case, just as a precaution, perhaps it’s time to form a new lobbying group—the National Dildo Association. The NDA motto: “They can take my dildo when they pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”

But as long as there are hairbrushes, zucchini, ketchup bottles, Barbie dolls, corn dogs, stick shifts, turkey legs, inflatable slappy tubes like the ones at Houston Comets’ games, gnome lawn statuettes, fire hydrants, the Hindenburg, and similarly shaped objects, the world will never be without the mighty dildo.

Oh, the humanity.


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