Tags: Politics • Sex
In 2004, companies that owned Austin stores selling sex toys and a retail distributor of such products challenged a Texas law outlawing the sale and promotion of supposedly obscene devices. Under the law, a person who violated the statute could go to jail for up to two years. At the time, only three states—Mississippi, Alabama, and Virginia—had similar laws. (The previous year, a Texas mother who was a sales rep for Passion Parties was arrested by two undercover cops for selling vibrators and other sex-related goods at a gathering akin to a Tupperware party for sex toys. No doubt, this had worried businesses peddling such wares.) The plaintiffs in the sex-device case contended the state law violated the right to privacy under the 14th Amendment. They argued that many people in Texas used sexual devices as an aspect of their sexual experiences. They claimed that in some instances one partner in a couple might be physically unable to engage in intercourse or have a contagious disease (such as HIV) and that in these cases such devices could allow a couple to engage in safe sex.
But a federal judge sent them packing, ruling that selling sex toys was not protected by the Constitution. The plaintiffs appealed, and Cruz’s solicitor general office had the task of preserving the law
Sound familiar? You might have seen this video about the law featuring the late Molly Ivins:
Continuing from Corn’s Mother Jones Article,
Cruz’s legal team asserted that “obscene devices do not implicate any liberty interest.” And its brief added that “any alleged right associated with obscene devices” is not “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and traditions.”
Question 1: Has Ted Cruz ever heard of Ben Franklin?
The brief insisted that Texas in order to protect “public morals” had “police-power interests” in “discouraging prurient interests in sexual gratification, combating the commercial sale of sex, and protecting minors.” There was a “government” interest, it maintained, in “discouraging…autonomous sex.”
Question 2: Would a Cruz administration pursue this interest in masturbation police? How?
Question 3: Is there a government interest in discouraging maturbation if you do it with a partner? (Or partners?)
In perhaps the most noticeable line of the brief, Cruz’s office declared, “There is no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.” That is, the pursuit of such happiness had no constitutional standing. And the brief argued there was no “right to promote dildos, vibrators, and other obscene devices.”
Question 4: What counts as an obscene device? Lingerie? Silk Scarves? Feathers? Ice Cubes? Flavored Condoms? Please provide a robust and discreet definition.
Question 5: Can you use obscene devices during procreative sex? In the Catholic Church, it’s all good as long as the penis ends up depositing semen into the vagina. Would that be a policy you would be willing to pursue?
If you are going to be at a Ted Cruz event any time in the near future, please ask him one of these questions! You don’t even have to credit me. Just send me a tweet and let me know what he says.