Reminder: Texas Has More Intense Laws Restricting Dildos Than Assault Rifles

In the days following the shooting at Robb elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two people people dead, the larger conversation about gun violence as a public health issue in the United States is continuing as we acknowledge the ways guns have become the number one cause of death in American children as of 2020. 

The larger conversation about gun control in the United States remains a contentious one — despite the majority of Americans (81 percent) being in support of requiring background checks for gun ownership and more than half of Americans broadly supporting stricter gun control, per the Pew Research Center. But in states like Texas, where gun restrictions were loosened in the last two years as restrictions on things like abortions have increased, one particular law on the books comes up every few years as a particularly stark (if utterly absurd) sign of the state of legislation in the state: There are more intense laws restricting the number of sex toys — more specifically “obscene devices… designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs,” per section 43.23 of Texas’ penal code  — a person can own than there are restrictions on automatic firearms. 

As reported by the Texas Tribune last year, Texas expanded access to permit-free firearms by passing a law that would “allow anyone 21 years or older to carry a handgun in public without need for a permit or training as long as they aren’t otherwise prohibited from owning a firearm by law, such as people with felony or domestic violence convictions.” It should be noted that Texas has no specific laws restricting how many guns a person can legally own, per the Texas State Law Library, and there are also no specific federal laws limiting ownership.

The same cannot be said for dildos — or, sorry, more specifically “obscene devices” AKA “a dildo or artificial vagina, designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” The limit to the number you can own in the state is six, BTW. (To be clear: I know many, many people who would be breaking this law.) 

Per the penal code: “A person who promotes or wholesale promotes obscene material or an obscene device or possesses the same with intent to promote or wholesale promote it in the course of his business is presumed to do so with knowledge of its content and character. A person who possesses six or more obscene devices or identical or similar obscene articles is presumed to possess them with intent to promote the same.”

Now this one isn’t even like one of those laws that you read about in funny little joke books or clickbait stories about not giving your pet a cigar or whatever, it has actually been enforced within the last 20 years as undercover cops used it to arrest someone throwing one of those MLM-y “passion parties” in Burleston, Texas back in 2004. (The person arrested, a former school teacher and a mother of three was only arrested once she actually advised the toy be used for improving sex, rather than just as a novelty/gag gift and went to trial facing a year in jail and a hefty $4,000 fine — though the judge did dismiss the case.)  

Sen. Ted Cruz openly and proudly defended this law when he was the state’s solicitor general, filing a lengthy and absurd 76-page brief that compared having a sex toy to “hiring a willing prostitute” and asserting “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.” 

As we look critically at what exactly we deem worth legislating, what is considered a matter of personal freedom (however we define that phrase) and what is not, it may benefit us all to take a long look at the current system, structures and laws on the books around the country to determine how they might better represent our values. 

Before you go, check out 100 so-called “obscene devices” we regularly recommend to our friends for sexual pleasure: 

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