You hear that buzzing? No, it’s not a swarm of approaching bees, it’s a group of vibrator users rejoicing in the mid-February Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decision to overturn a ban on “obscene devices.”
If you weren’t too familiar with the ban, you weren’t alone. A few staff members at the Current found the 35-year-old law unbelievable since, well, everyone and their mother owns a sex toy these days. It made us pose the question: What did a Hello Kitty vibrator ever do to hurt you Texas Legislature members? Unless you didn’t use it the right way, of course.
According to an Austin American-Statesman article, “Under Texas law it is illegal to sell, advertise, give or lend (sick, yes, we know) obscene devices used primarily for sexual stimulation. Anyone in possession of six or more sexual devices is considered to be promoting them.” That was until the Valentine’s Day Eve decision. Yes, sadly, the news came mere hours before the notoriously busy holiday for sex shops — it wasn’t until early March that the decision went into affect.
Now this got us wondering, how were sex shops doing business for such a long time under this ban? Sure, the internet is the place to go to purchase a vibrating bullet or the Fukuoku 9000 anonymously, but according to the businesses we spoke, to the law really wasn’t a big deal because it was seldom inforced.
“It hasn’t affected us at all,” said Rosemary Benitez, who works as a saleswoman and decorating merchandiser at Shades of Love. Their store differs from Adult Video Megaplexxx because risque sex-toy products are found in the back. “We never show the products up front,” said Benitez. She says the customers prefer it this way, and adds that her clients are glad that the court overturned the ban.
An Adult Video Megaplexxx manager who prefered not to give his name also said the law, and its demise, hasn’t affected his business whatsoever. “Our sales are about the same, but it has made my employees more comfortable,” he says. It also may encourage businesses that were thinking of opening up shop in Texas but feared to do so due to the law. He’s heard that a few sex-toy purveyors are now ready to make their move.
Texas wasn’t the only state living with a clearly dated law: Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia now find themselves the holy trinity of sex-toy bans. In 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Lone Star sodomy law, the pivotal case of Lawrence v. Texas. This layed the groundwork for related cases, such as Ignacio Sergio Acosta v. the State of Texas. Acosta, an employee at a sex shop in El Paso, was arrested in 2006 for selling a vibrator, allegedly claiming it would, as the Washington Post put it, “arouse and gratify `the female officer`.” Acosta sued, saying the law violated a person’s right to sexual privacy.
The judges that overturned the law wrote: “Just as in Lawrence, the state here wants to use its law to enforce a public moral code by restricting private intimate conduct … This 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 type of consensual private intimate conduct.”
Although the ban’s lift won’t provide a sexual awakening for the entire state of Texas, it’s sure to bring more business in the sex-shop industry. And more businesses, of course, makes happier, less sex-toy-starved clients. •