|Bad Vibes: Women Shalt Not Pleasure in Alabama (1999)
A section of the obscenity statute of Alabama (Ala. Code. § 13A-12-200.1)
now "makes it unlawful to produce, distribute or otherwise sell
sexual devices that are marketed primarily for the stimulation
of human genital organs." Alabama puts forth that these products
are obscene, and also states that there is "no fundamental right
to purchase a product to use in pursuit of having an orgasm."
Violation of the law is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment.
Because this addition intrudes on lawful sexual practices of those
purchasing or owning such devices, thus going against the First,
Fourth, Fifth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments
of the United States Constitution, four Alabamian women and the
ACLU are challenging this addition.
To make the tenuous grounds of the statute most clear, according
to the code of the state of Alabama, obscenity is defined as something
1. Applying contemporary local community standards, on the whole,
appeals to the prurient interest; and
2. Is patently offensive; and
3. On the whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or
The prurient interest, however, does not find items such as vibrators
and other sexual items -- intended not only for orgasm, but for
overall sexual and physical health -- as obscene. The boys in
charge at the moment do. They may be in charge, but they do not
the prurient interest make. Insofar as having scientific or other
value, consider the following:
- It is and has been shown, in many medical and sociological studies,
that sexual health and fulfillment has a large effect on mental
and emotional health.
- To many sufferers of HIV and STD's, especially female ones,
some sex toys are a godsend which protect both personal and public
health. They often are used with and without partners to avoid
direct genital contact.
- Many sex therapists advise both singles and couples to utilize
sexual items such as vibrators, anal stimulators and dildos to
enhance their partnerships and sexual health, and enhance orgasm
for both parties.
As far as the fundamental right to purchase something to have
an orgasm, one has to wonder how then, Viagra is legal in that
state. How are condoms (which without an orgasm wouldn't be as
necessary), or a variety of 7-11 publications available and lawful?
Clearly, the statement from the state of Alabama wasn't made as
clear as it could have been, for what they are clearly saying
is that, in fact, women do not have the fundamental right to purchase
anything for the purpose of orgasm. They simply can't actually
state that because that statement would keep it from becoming
law. The intention, however, did not stand in their way.
This is an attack on several groups, namely on women, bisexuals
and homosexuals, non-fundamentalists and distributors and manufacturers
of sexual aides who are outside -- though many are condoned and
supported by -- the mainstream medical community. The state of
Alabama is "morally" and emotionally threatened by sexuality,
and moreover, by a sexuality which may exist independently from
heterosexual men, or marriage. Take a moment to think about who
uses such items as vibrators and dildos most. Here's a hint: it
isn't straight men. What if I suggested that panty hose and breast
implants should be unlawful to sell or distribute, because they
are marketed primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs?
I know that unless I've had a mastectomy or have some serious
self-image issues, implants aren't mostly benefiting me, as a
woman, at all. They endanger my health, both physical and emotional,
and set me back from developing a positive body image. Don't even
get me started on panty hose. I can point to yeast infection studies
to prove they're harmful to my health, and that's but the tip
of that iceberg. Who are these items largely for, and what are
they for? Think on it for less than a half-second. You'll get
it. The main thing these three items have over a vibrator, is
that they've been marketed with enormous savvy. All in all, high
heels are not advertised in storefront windows as "%#@*-Me Pumps."
Savvy marketing, but we still know that's what they're for. Bear
in mind however, vibrators long were called "massagers," and some
still are, but we always knew better. Is it less obscene to call
something by an ambiguous name, or to mask its purpose? Hard to
say. However, calling bigotry "racial pride" never made it anything
else. Wouldn't it be better we simply called it bigotry? Can't
we better deal with things honestly, in a straightforward nature,
without masking purpose or intention? Not if you work for the
state of Alabama, apparently.
This law isn't about a 7-year-old being able to purchase a vibrator,
or seeing one, and it isn't about sexual items being physically
harmful, either by use or sale. It isn't about items which would
break down the moral fiber of Christian values. What it is about
is a machismo fear on the part of the male-dominated Alabama government
that, armed with a vibrator, a woman will stand by her Duracell
before she stands by her man. It is about the government there
wishing to eradicate all sexually oriented businesses from their
very fundamentalist state, and it is about keeping the Big Man
in charge: physically, sexually and "morally."
As many couples in sex therapy, and those who never needed it
will tell you, sex toys do not disrupt the almighty "sanctity
of marriage." They in fact often do the opposite -- they help
to preserve it.
Just as male sexual function exists independently of female sexual
function, it goes the other way as well. While our sexualities
can be linked, and operate cooperatively when we partner in male-female
relationships, we are sexual without a penis -- or a vibrator
for that matter -- in walking distance. You can take away toys,
and you could even keep a woman from masturbating, having sexual
partners (male or female), or having an orgasm, but that doesn't
net you an asexual woman. Removing what a woman desires -- sexually
or otherwise -- does not make her quiet or more cooperative, or
more apt to be chaste. It makes her emotionally and physically
imbalanced and upset.
All of this should sound familiar to the Big Boys in Charge. These
are the same arguments they used to push and legalize Viagra,
which can now be legally distributed. State Senator Tom Butler,
who sponsored the statute, should know that. He's listed on his
Senate page, when not wasting tax dollars with laws like this
one, as being a pharmacist.
In the meantime, I'd suggest the following for the women of Alabama:
tell your grocer the only reason you ever REALLY buy a cucumber.
Vote to have them outlawed. Go to the Farm and Fleet (which most
BDSM enthusiasts know is a sex shop masquerading as otherwise)
and purchase your ropes and chains and let them know how very
many times they bring you to orgasm. Above all else, tell the
hospital to cease brain transplants immediately and lobby strongly
to have them declared unlawful, as we all know the greatest device
used to further orgasm and stimulation is not made of rubber,
nor does it come with attachments, though it can be patently obscene.
It's the human brain.
Just make sure they donate one to the senator before they get
that law on the books.