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Wise Words,

apropos the Georgia vibrator law post, from commenter Kieran Jadiker-Smith:

Fear the government that fears your dildo.

Doc (mail):
You know, China doesn't restrict dildo access.
2.16.2006 11:15pm
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):
Cute words, or funny words, but not wise words. Georgia isn't afraid of dildos. They don't approve of them; they think they lower the moral tone of the society. (Rather like a government that bans homophobic remarks.) That's not the same as "fear."
2.16.2006 11:48pm
ThirdCircuitLawyer (mail):
Clayton:

How about, "Disapprove of the government that disappoves of your dildo." Is that better?

Also, I'm curious: What's the argument for why a dildo lowers the moral tone of society? Do people in Georgia use their dildos in public or something?
2.16.2006 11:54pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
They will get my dildo when they pry it from ... oh, never mind.

I actually did find one late Carter Administration Consumer Product Safety Comm'n proposed rule to regulate, in the interests of safety, that commodity. It made for hiliarious reading. Overuse might cause friction burns. 110 volt devices (never heard of em) might cause electrocution risks and fire hazards.
2.16.2006 11:59pm
Lev:
Re: Dave Hardy 2.16.2006 11:59pm

One can buy...attachments...that fit on the head of vibrators that plug into the wall.
2.17.2006 12:35am
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
Clayton: The line between fear and disapproval is a fine one, sailor.
2.17.2006 1:32am
M (mail):
Many years ago I stopped at a particular road-side establishment in Georgia, a sort of chain of cafes and truck stops that had large advertisements all up and down the interstate running north-south in Georgia, on the way to Florida. If they are still there I'm sure anyone who dives that road knows what I mean. At this establishment you could buy what many people would assume were vibrators. To the untrained eye they looked exactly like vibrators, even like vibrators that looked something like male sex organs. But those would be illegal to sell. These, however, were clearly marked to be used for theroputic massage only- on a sore shoulder or back, maybe- and not to provide sexual stimulation. Having them marked as such seemd to be enough to evade the law, at least at that time.
2.17.2006 1:33am
Grand CRU (mail):
I recollect once reading a sex advice column, and a young girl who was rather introverted asked how to improve her sex life now that she was a young adult. The advice columnists did not give her the kind of information she was obviously seeking, i.e., how to meet people, how to develop her social skills, where to meet people, to be told that everyone goes through growing pains in learning to be themselves in in group settings, etc. Instead of telling her to learn the social skills needed to acquire sexual partners, they told her to get a tub of lube and a rubber glove and stay indoors with the door locked. You may think it is perfectly fine if we live in a society where everyone is so focused on autoeroticism that they ignore learning to interact with other human beings, or you may think it is perfectly fine that when individuals seek to meet other people they are instead counseled that other people are just inconvenient means to an end and more convenient ends are readily available, but there is no reason why a legislature should have to subsidize that, and there is no reason why a legislature shouldn't be able to discourage it. Viewing people as mere instruments or commodities is immoral.
2.17.2006 1:55am
Gino:
"Viewing people as mere instruments or commodities is immoral."

I agree. That's why I think the law we're talking about here is immoral. It treats people as instruments and commodities of the state.
2.17.2006 8:16am
magoo (mail):
Is this more evidence of the whole "bowling alone" thing?
2.17.2006 8:30am
Liberty Lover:
Any theory of jurisprudence which countenances prohibiting dildos falls victim to a reductio ad absurdum. One person's modus ponens is another person's modus tollens.
2.17.2006 8:47am
Wrigley:
Apologies to Robert Putnam, but if this were "bowling," I'd bet the PBA events on ESPN2 would get MUCH better ratings.
2.17.2006 8:49am
zzyz:
Grand CRU: "subsidize"?
2.17.2006 8:52am
Kazinski:
I do think the law is a reaches into a zone of privacy that it would be best to ignore, but I think the "fear the government" argument ignores that when the law was inacted I have no doubt that it reflected the wishes of the people of Georgia. Fear the Government that enacts the will of the people that fear your dildo just doesn't have the same ring to it.
2.17.2006 9:06am
ThirdCircuitLawyer (mail):
Grand CRU,

So are you saying that Georgia disapproves of dildos because they want to encourage people to have more real sex, and with a lot more partners?

I gather you're just making that up?
2.17.2006 10:09am
Freder Frederson (mail):
So are you saying that Georgia disapproves of dildos because they want to encourage people to have more real sex, and with a lot more partners?

First of all, Grand Cru, as shocking as it may seem, lots of couples use dildoes and other sex toys as part of their lovemaking and sexlife. They need not only be used for solo sex! Now you may consider this immoral and disgusting, but luckily since Griswold v. Connecticut the Supreme Court has decreed it is really none of the government's or your business what I or others do in the privacy of our own bedrooms when it comes to pleasuring our partners.

So grow up and stop being so prudish or at least have the decency not to try and impose, or have the government impose for you, your strict, Victorian morality on the rest of us.

I assume from your posts you also disapprove of masturbation and would like to ban that practice, or at least masturbation aided by mechanical means. If this is true, you certainly have a very unhealthy attitude towards human sexuality.
2.17.2006 10:24am
jallgor (mail):
Clayton E. Kramer wrote: "They don't approve of them; they think they lower the moral tone of the society."

Couldn't you just as easliy have said that the Georgia legislature "was AFRAID that dildos would lower the moral tone of the society."
2.17.2006 10:40am
Anderson (mail) (www):
since Griswold v. Connecticut the Supreme Court has decreed it is really none of the government's or your business what I or others do in the privacy of our own bedrooms when it comes to pleasuring our partners

You might *think* that, but as the 11th Circuit op in question footnotes, the courts have yet to hold as much. Sex toys are illegal in Georgia and Mississippi &doubtless in other places. (At the previous thread on this topic, I linked to an article criticizing the Miss. law &court decision upholding same.)
2.17.2006 10:48am
Clayton E. Cramer (mail) (www):


Also, I'm curious: What's the argument for why a dildo lowers the moral tone of society? Do people in Georgia use their dildos in public or something?
I don't understand the argument at all. It seems like a silly law, and far less justifiable than the sodomy law.

I don't know about Georgia, but I do recall some remarks by Dianne Feinstein some years ago about the gay community, dildos, and street corners. It was a surprisingly judgemental remark.
2.17.2006 11:00am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Feinstein is just trying to throw people offtrack ....
2.17.2006 12:03pm
Cornellian (mail):
I don't understand the argument at all. It seems like a silly law, and far less justifiable than the sodomy law.

Clearly the justification is so that The Daily Show will never run out of material for John Stewart's newscasts. I recall in particular the show they did when some state legislator (can't remember which state but it was in the South of course) proposed banning low-rise pants. He thought it was a big moral issue, even though bikinis would still be legal. John Stewart sent Mo Rocha down there to interview the guy and the interview had the audience rolling in the aisles.

Mo: Do you believe low-rise pants are a "gateway garment?"

Clueless Rube State Legislator: Yes

Mo: So showing crack could lead to crack?

CRSL: Yes.
2.17.2006 12:09pm
Fishbane (mail):
I don't know about Georgia, but I do recall some remarks by Dianne Feinstein some years ago about the gay community, dildos, and street corners. It was a surprisingly judgemental remark.

Feinstein is a skillful politician, but... pretty down my list of favorite ones. Yes, if you hang out on Castro on Halloween, or go to the Folsom Street Fair, you're going to see that, and worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint). My take is that San Francisco is a very, very small place, and those who don't like that sort of thing are perfectly free to live elsewhere (and more cheaply, too!).

OTOH, there is a set of people who love to be shocked, shocked! about that sort of thing. The letters to the editor on the Cron are always amusing after those two events. (There was one classic one from the mid 90s that tried to link the Folsom Street Fair to sytematic pet abuse.) DiFi seems to fit into this set.

-Fishbane, no longer living there.
2.17.2006 12:24pm
Lawstsoul:
Q: Is sex dirty?
Woody Allen: Only if it's done right.
2.17.2006 1:28pm
Glenmore (mail):
Of course government fears dildos. Just a bunch of pr*cks worried about the competition.
2.17.2006 3:38pm
Grand CRU (mail):

I assume from your posts you also disapprove of masturbation and would like to ban that practice, or at least masturbation aided by mechanical means. If this is true, you certainly have a very unhealthy attitude towards human sexuality.



Apparently, you did not read the one post I made here. I do not have a problem with healthy masturbation -- but to the extent that excessive masturbation inhibits one's ability to be a sociable and productive citizen, it is an interest that the community has an interest in addressing. The idea that we must either live in Victorian England or tell people with no social skills to lock themselves inside with a bucket of lube and a rubber glove is a false dichotomy. To you, apparently, that I think learning how to acquire sexual partners is a part of natural maturation makes me a crazy kook. Uh, right.
2.17.2006 4:41pm
Grand CRU (mail):

So are you saying that Georgia disapproves of dildos because they want to encourage people to have more real sex, and with a lot more partners?



I have no idea, actually. But I think that would be a legitimate basis for legislation banning sex toys.
2.17.2006 4:45pm
Ivan Lenin (www):
My dildo wants to kill your gov'ment
2.17.2006 5:20pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
The idea that we must either live in Victorian England or tell people with no social skills to lock themselves inside with a bucket of lube and a rubber glove is a false dichotomy. To you, apparently, that I think learning how to acquire sexual partners is a part of natural maturation makes me a crazy kook.


I think learning how to acquire sexual partners is fine; I just don't think much of anyone wants to live in a society where the legislature is some wacky, loveable aunt who keeps telling you to get out of the house more and meet a nice girl (or boy). Of course, not to put too fine a point on it, but there is an, um, intersection between sex-with-partners and dildo use.

That said, if someone is happier staying home and pleasuring themselves with their dildo, that's fine. It's not my idea of a good time, but who am I to tell them they should substitute my idea of happiness -- or, worse still, the Georgia legislature's -- for theirs?

Your argument makes a stronger case for better sex advice columnists than for legislative action. Maybe the dunderheads at the San Francisco Bay Guardian should be required by law to start running Ask Isadora again.
2.17.2006 5:50pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
but to the extent that excessive masturbation inhibits one's ability to be a sociable and productive citizen, it is an interest that the community has an interest in addressing

That is the funniest thing I hope to read all week.
2.17.2006 6:07pm
Grand CRU (mail):

That said, if someone is happier staying home and pleasuring themselves with their dildo



1. We weren't talking about a fully-developed adult; the advice-seeker was someone who was a young adult seeking forward-looking advice in the development of her sexual ethos. Shaping community values is a legitimate concern of the legislature.

2. I never said legislation was necessary. My point is that it is sufficient, and such legislation meets the rational-basis test. I also agree, obviously, that the advice columnists in question were idiots. But it is not an either/or proposition; it is a both/and proposition.

3. One may believe he is happy in State X until he is introduced to State Y, at which point he will look back at State X and say, "Wow, my life sucked when I was in State X, and the worst part is I didn't even really recognize it!" We intervene on the behalf of drug addicts. I don't see why dildo addicts should be exempt from societal concern. And, no, I did not just say that dildoes are materially equivalent to crack-cocaine.
2.17.2006 6:36pm
mls (mail):
Texas has a similar statute, and we talk about it during my Criminal Law class each year when we look at "victimless" crimes, most of which we can find a tangential victim for (atrocious grammar, I know, but I'm too tired to fix it!). I always challenge the students to find the victim in this victimless crime, and the chorus comes back in unison: "Male legislators!" Talk about protectionist legislation!

Seriously, though, most of these "possession of obscene devices" laws are designed to go after the smutty bookstores (which usually launder money for organized crime) -- dildos don't have first amendment rights, so it's easier to prosecute that than it is to prosecute for the oh-so-redeeming "Mr. Fix-it F**ks It" magazine.

This is not to say I think this is an appropriate area for legislation, but it may be something other than lack of appreciation of assisted masturbation that motivates it.
2.17.2006 7:50pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
Grand CRU, even if one thinks the legislature ought to concern itself with nudging people toward finding sex partners -- a highly dubious proposition -- I don't think you can make a rational basis argument unless you're prepared to demonstrate that masturbation involving dildoes is more addictive than masturbation not involving dildoes, or that increased dildo use necessarily leads to decreased social activity. Maybe dildo use increases people's propensity to find sex partners because it heightens their interest in penises. Maybe people who buy dildoes then go looking for someone to share them with.

Frankly, considering that I'm at home on a computer on a Friday night, arguing on the internet about dildo law, I think the government should buy me a dildo, not because of some poorly-defined societal interest in improving my sex life, but just out of sheer pity.
2.17.2006 9:18pm
Grand CRU (mail):
Those are all nice concerns for a legislature to debate, but a legislature need not actually agree with you. In other words, a legislature could debate these issues and decide that dildo addiction is a serious community concern as a result of its quite slanted hearings, and that would still pass muster as rational-basis. You are ober-interpreting the word "rational" in the term "rational-basis". The courts have rejected that interpretation soundly and repeatedly. If they did not, then rational-basis scrutiny would be equivalent to strict scrutiny. It is not. So the proposition isn't dubious at all, unless our hypothetical legislature is comprised of people like you. But we need not use counterfactual hypotheticals to decide the issue, we have a perfect example in the state legislature of Georgia, which passed such a law and, I think we both can agree, is not populated with legislators who share your assumptions or viewpoint.

But if one did share your interpretation of what rational means, then the government should definitely not buy you a dildo. Instead, the government should maintain a database with your private data and send it to sexual partners that meet your ideal criteria. This reduction of transaction costs will make it much easier for you to meet potential sexual partners.

Is Kieran a male or female name? (That was for Anderson's benfit.)
2.18.2006 7:51pm
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
"Rational basis" asks whether a law has a reasonable connection to achieving a legitimate and constitutional objective; "reasonable" assumes some degree of rationality, and there is none in the case for laws against dildoes.

I hope I'm pluralizing "dildo" correctly; for good or ill, I just don't lead the sort of life where it's been necessary to do so.

Kieran is a male name, which is a good thing since I'm a male.
2.21.2006 7:10am
Kieran Jadiker-Smith (mail):
And fortunately, I'm engaged to a very nice guy, so if the state really wanted to improve my sex life, they'd ban ethernet cables.
2.21.2006 7:12am
Lawyer K:
For those who feel the need to examine legislative debate on this matter, I recommend the independent documentary "The Dildo Diaries." Despite its intriguingly sem-pornographic name, the documentary is actually an examination of the discussion behind the Texas law banning dildoes (I, too, hope that is the appropriate plural). It is a rather amaturish production, but includes some worthwhile commentary and a bit of laugh-out-loud footage from the floor of the Texas House (I believe). I know you can order it from somewhere, but I'm not Googling the phrase on *this* computer, folks.
2.21.2006 3:40pm