The US Supreme Court has rejected on Tuesday a constitutional challenge to an Alabama law that makes it a crime to sell sex toys. As reported by Reuters this morning, “The high court refused to hear an appeal by a group of individuals who regularly use sexual devices and by two vendors who argued the case raised important issues about the scope of the constitutional right to sexual privacy. The law prohibited the distribution of ‘any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.'”

Nothing makes me angrier than this: a blatant breach of human rights by the hand of government where absolutely no justification can be made to even partially explain why such a law exists. Worse, this law is not old. It was adopted in 1998; that’s seven years ago. Seven years ago, a backward, irrational, disrespectful, arrogant bunch of ideologically retarded legislators decided that they would use force to stop everyone in their state from selling sex toys. “First-time violators can face a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as one year in jail.” Jail! JAIL! For selling fucking dildos!

“Without comment, justices let stand a lower court ruling that said Alabama had a right to police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating.” God forbid that something may actually be sexually stimulating in Alabama. And nobody seems to be dealing with the issue of just WHY this law (Ala. Code. § 13A-12-200.1) exists in the first place. But this is typical of legislation; the reason a law exists does not occupy as high a place within contemporary political debate as either legal wranglings over its execution or concerns of pragmatism such as whether such a law can easily be enforced. Something as fundamental as whether government should have the RIGHT to legislate on sex toys in the first place is not even considered. Essentially at this stage, the courts have ruled that it is a constitutional right to be allowed to USE such toys, but that it is not a constitutional right to be allowed to SELL them; so Alabama legislators have taken their rage against the machines (ahem) as far as they can within the constitution (as defined by the Supreme Court).

So lets take a look at the original lawmaking exercise in 1998: how the hell did such an absurd, horrendous, liberty-quenching, arcane threat ever become law? State Senator Tom Butler is widely regarded as the principal motivator behind the push to ban the sale of sex toys, and, despite his objections to the contrary, he has effectively declared in law that citizens of Alabama should not voluntarily spend their money on sex toys, without giving a valid reason as to why. Yet he insists that his law is “…totally about commerical operations.” As leader Flashline pointed out on March 1, 1999, “Butler’s disingenuous reasoning is comparable to declaring that shutting down all grocery stores has ‘nothing to do’ with people eating.” But since Butler isn’t being honest about his own law, we’ve got to turn to the people who have lobbied him – yet again, our old friends, the evangelicals. According to Rev Dan Ireland of the Alabama Citizens Action Program, sex toys are “a nuisance and they certainly are conducive for promiscuity and loose morals.” And, as this author attempts to restrain himself from throwing something expensive in anger, Ireland also states that the ban “may prevent a lot of health problems” and – and I can’t read any more.

Sex blogger Betty Dodson’s take on the ban is that “machismo fear on the part of the male-dominated Alabama government is that, armed with a vibrator, a woman will stand by her Duracell before she stands by her man.” Amusing as this suggestion is – it may or may not be the case – I think the main reason for the ban is simple old-fashioned evangelical prejudice, yet again given the lawful privilege of being allowed to tell the rest of us what our moral standards should be. As succinctly stated by Judge Rosemary Barkett in her dissent, “This case is not, as the majority’s demeaning and dismissive analysis suggests, about sex or sexual devices. It is about the tradition of American citizens from the inception of our democracy to value the constitutionally protected right to be left alone in the privacy of their bedrooms and personal relationships.”

The religious Right have, in this case and so many others, driven me to sheer hatred of their hypocrisy. They are fond of freedom-talk, particularly in economic terms – they believe that people should be free of government programs, free to carry firearms, free to worship God in whichever way they wish, free from excessive taxation, etc. Yet they are blinded from seeing their hypocritical approach to liberties of which they are personally not particularly keen: freedom of sexual orientation, freedom of choice in matters of personal morality, freedom of speech when it includes saying something they don’t like, etc. The upshot is: ‘You can’t open a sex shop, because I don’t like it – but I can go open a church and pray against you publicly inside it whenever I want.’ Does nobody see what’s wrong with that approach to politics? The morality of a few being designated in law to the rest, regardless of their own beliefs…. what is so difficult to understand about this? Its a simple matter of respecting the rationality of your fellow human being.

Through cheap shots, the ‘slippery-slope’ argument (ie. use of sex toys leads to obscenity, incest, pornography, etc.) and deflections (‘we’re not really trying to stop you using them…’); these idiots have been able to breach the fundamental liberties of normal, independent, adult human beings in a way that treats them like children without their own rational faculties. The bottom line is that they don’t want you to be allowed to think for yourself on questions like: do I believe in God? If so, do I believe that he objects to the use of sex toys? Do I desire to use such toys? Would it enhance my sexual relationship with my partner? Do I have any other objections to their use? Do I buy the ‘slippery-slope’ argument? Is ‘slippery-slope’ a term that should be used in a discussion of sexual nature? Latex or plastic?

There is a wealth of other points to be made on this story, but, truthfully, it just pisses me off talking about it. So let me leave you with three libertarian suggestions which I made this morning on the air:

1) Don’t go to the state of Alabama. You will spare yourself the agony of visiting or dealing with a state that is this backward and closed-minded.

2) Do what you can to ensure that you are well-versed in the principals of freedom and liberty. Remember that you have rights, and these rights are what you take INTO politics, not what they give you to take out. You have them, regardless of whether state law recognises it or not.

3) Permit yourself a little more fun in the bedroom when you feel like it – it is entirely your business and nobody else’s.

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John Wright

johnwright@softhome.net