Against all reason, Alabama outlaws sex toys

This is an old story (from 2009), but I thought I’d write about it briefly, as it shows the madness that afflicts America’s South. It’s bad enough that they add creationist amendments to bills about state fossils, but they also stubbornly intrude into people’s private sex lives—into behaviors that harm no one. This is clearly a side effect of religion.

In 2009 the state Supreme Court of Alabama upheld a law banning the use of any “”any device designed … primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs” in an effort to target sales of masturbation machines.'” As far as I know, the law still stands, and it’s the only state in the U.S. that has such a law. These “stimulatory devices” presumably include dildos and vibrators.  Selling them in Alabama can land you in prison for up to a year and saddle you with a fine up to $10,000.

And, also in 2006, Law Professor Geoffrey Stone (one of my colleagues at the U of C) wrote a piece on HuffPo exploring its legal ramifications and the reason (which we all know) why Alabama criminalizes this kind of stuff:

So, what is it about the use of a vibrator or a dildo that affronts the “public morality”? Why is a person who uses such a device “immoral”? The answer, I submit, turns entirely on religion. The pivotal shift from the world of the classical Greeks to our contemporary world, in this respect, was the advent of Christianity, with its emphasis on sexual pleasure as sinful.

Much of this can be traced to Augustine, who reasoned in the fifth century that sexual pleasure was integrally related to Adam’s Fall from Grace. Adam’s original sin, he argued, had not been one of pride or disobedience, but of sex. Thus, sexual pleasure was born out of evil, and man’s best hope for redemption lay in repudiating the sexual impulse and, with it, the burden of guilt inherited from Adam. Sexual pleasure was therefore deemed defiling and shameful.

Of course, Christian doctrine has evolved in many ways since then, but it is this core attitude about sex that underlies the claim the sale of sex aids undermines the “public morality.” Indeed, if we ask why the use of a sex aid is immoral, the only really plausibl eanswer must be rooted in this set of religious beliefs.

Of course, people have a right to believe whatever their religion commands. If they wish not to use a sex aid, or to be celibate, that’s their own business. But can this set of beliefs serve as a constitutionally permissible definition of the “public morality” in a nation dedicated to the separation of church and state?

In other words, this is all a result of Pleasure Fascists.

Alabama is also only one of fifteen U.S. states that criminalizes adultery (it’s a class 3 misdemeanor), making it illegal for both partners to have a liaison when one of them is married.

Below, from this year’s PuffHo (Mar. 6), is a graph showing states that have unnecessary laws, many of them inspired by religion (Sunday sales of alcohol, banned in four Southern states and two others, are a bugaboo of mine, and I see no reason for them save to cater to religious “morality”). Note that most of the bans are in the South, the only place where it’s illegal for atheist to hold public office (in 7 states!).

Granted—with the exception of the execrable anti-gay-marriage laws—most of these aren’t enforced, but their merely being on the books is offensive. The gay marriage bans will ultimately be overturned as morality advances and the courts follow, but I wish someone would challenge those atheist laws on Constitutional grounds.

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h/t: Ginger K.

127 Comments

  1. Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Can’t see how 7 states can get away with banning atheists from public office. Has anyone challenged that?

    • Brian
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      It is definitely illegal. Let’s be honest though, politicians are way more morally degenerate than atheists.

    • Jim Knight
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      I don’t believe an atheist could get elected down here in SC, or anywhere else in the South, whether it is illegal or not. The Christian Right has southern politics so firmly tied up that no “non-believer” could make the grade. Christianity, and all the crap that goes with it, is a huge litmus test for electability down here…

      • boggy
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        So how does this ban square with the First Amendment separating government and religion?
        And would a Muslim be considered better or worse than an atheist?

        • JB
          Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          There are many examples of state laws that are invalidated at the federal level (and are therefore legally unenforceable), yet remain on the books in the states. Removing them would require an active repeal, which is often politically impossible in the states in question.

          • Sastra
            Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

            Right. Laws which ban atheists from holding public office are clearly unconstitutional and unenforceable — except sometimes when they’re challenged.

            To really see how important these ‘impotent’ laws are, watch what happens when someone says “look, why don’t we try to remove this from the law.” The religious throw a fit and grandstand about how atheism contradicts the basic principle of freedom, that our rights must come from a Creator. The existence of these laws apparently serves as a reminder of this.

            If they could and when they can, they enforce them.

  2. Grania Spingies
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    But Republicans and Tea-Partiers are against Big Government, right?
    So they would be against laws that allow the government to interfere with what implements they have in their hands (and other places) in the privacy of their own bedrooms, right?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Yeah this has always made me chuckle as well. They want to limit government re: health, environment, etc. But it is ok to be in the nation’s bedroom or anywhere else citizens are naked. Maybe they will start banning those jets in a pool or shower heads that look like they could be used for purposes other than showering.

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      Tea Party politician’s slogan:

      I fight for your liberty, as defined by me.

    • microraptor
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      How was it put during one of the recent attempts to ban reproductive rights? “The Tea Party wants a government small enough to fit inside a single uterus,” or something like that?

    • jay
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I see this similar to the number of states banning consensual adult prostitution. The government has no business deciding what consensual private activities are ‘moral’.

      Alas, the ‘my body my choice’ seems to only apply to abortion.

      (sorry if this is a duplicate post, some screen refreshes are erratic today)

    • Sastra
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Members of the Tea Party are not against Big Government: they are against Big WORLDLY Government. The only legitimate form of rule is that of an absolute dictator and king and that ruling monarch is The Lord Jesus.

      If they think a law comes from God then the rules on big government no longer apply. “No King But Jesus.” Every knee shall bend in submission.

      • Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

        …with themselves, of course, as the faithful regents wielding Jesus’s authority in his abeyance….

        b&

        • Sastra
          Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

          Sure. In order to properly wield the authority of God you must first humble yourself and win the internal struggle against your own arrogance and self-seeking. “Thy will, not mine.”

          So it’s kinda like the regents aren’t there.

          • Posted April 5, 2014 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

            Yup — and, of course, the crisis is only temporary, we had to burn the town in order to save it, freedom is slavery….

            b&

  3. steve oberski
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    If only this Alabama pastor had heeded the law he still might be with us.

    From the autopsy report:

    The decedent is clothed in a diving wet suit, a face mask which has a single vent for breathing, a rubberized head mask having an opening for the mouth and eyes, a second rubberized suit with suspenders, rubberized male underwear, hands and feet have diving gloves and slippers. There are numerous straps and cords restraining the decedent. There is a leather belt about the midriff. There is a series of ligatures extending from the hands to the feet. The hands are bound behind the back. The feet are tied to the hands. There are nylon ligatures holding these in place with leather straps about the wrists and ankles. There are plastic cords also tied about the hands and feet with a single plastic cord extending up to the head and surrounding the lower neck. There is a dildo in the anus covered with a condom.

    Obviously not a catholic pastor as we all know that catholics abjure the use of condoms except for the express purpose of transporting cocaine.

    • Larry Gay
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      If Reverend Aldridge (Baptist, Alabama) had not had access to a dildo this tragedy might have been avoided. Surely he qualifies for a Darwin award. Perhaps Alabama will outlaw wetsuits next.

      • Larry Gay
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        I should have added that the reverend’s death was ruled an accidental suicide, or as described in the press, “an autoerotic mishap”.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

          OMG auto erotic mishap. Now that’s something you don’t want on your gravestone! It would make a hilarious doctor’s note though.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        If he didn’t have access to a dildo, he’d have used a tangerine instead.
        We’ve had public figures die in such deeply humiliating masturbatory sessions on this side of the Pond too. Sadly, I forget the name of the particular tangerine-loving junior minister, but it’s not exactly difficult to find out who.
        For political balance (because that was a right-winger), I suppose I’d better add the joys of badger … watching.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      I understand that he also was wearing a Maple Leafs jersey but they left that out of the report so as not to embarrass his family.

      • MikeN
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

        Reminds me of “The Ruling Class” (featuring Peter O’Toole as Jesus ) where the elder brother, a member of the House of Lords, accidentally dies while performing aforementioned act (auto-erotic asphyxiation).

        On the way to the funeral the 3rd brother,an Anglican bishop, is worried that their brother might have committed the mortal sin of suicide.

        “Nonsense,” replies the second brother firmly while exiting the car, “Our brother would never have hanged himself while wearing a pink ballet tutu.

  4. marksolock
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  5. Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Vibration related injury is especially prevalent in occupations that require outdoor work, such as forestry, farming, transportation, shipping, and construction.

    Alabama, you’re already screwed.

  6. denny
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    “…it shows the madness that afflicts America’s South.”

    55 years ago I had a job tinkering with rockets down at Redstone Arsenal in still segregated Huntsville Alabama. Those of us from more reasonable parts of the world said if you wanted to give country an enema, Alabama is where you’d stick the tube. Still true, apparently.

    • denny
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      “…Sunday sales of alcohol, banned in four Southern states and two others, are a bugaboo of mine…”

      Back in them there days there was no booze on Sunday,”ya gotta get yer can filled Monday” in the words of the old song.

      No hard liquor except private clubs. I joined the American Legion cuz they had the only bar in town.

      There was a state owned liquor store, bottles displayed in glass cases in front, then you placed your order with a clerk at a counter at the back. Same clerk, same stuff, same cash register, but the store was divided lengthwise by an iron railing, “colored” had to stand on one side, white folk on the other.

      I suppose civil rights laws have changed that, but from what I hear the southern attitude is still the same.

      • Filippo
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

        “I joined the American Legion cuz they had the only bar in town.”

        Well, had the AL offered THAT as a benefit of membership, I might have reconsidered.

        As it is, all they offer in their printed blandishments are commercial discounts (as if that is apparently all Amuricuns care about), not mentioning one word about their “100% Americanism” ideology. I qualify to re-establish my membership because I was on active duty during the 1983 U.S. Grenada invasion. However, I don’t think I qualify because I do not agree with the invasion of Grenada. Apparently, we need a war every generation or so, so that the AL can maintain its membership rolls.

  7. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I most emphatically disagree that “consumer fireworks bans” are unnecessary.

    I live in the high desert. We are in the middle of a long-term drought. At the end of last summer, we had heavy rains, which caused the grass to grow quite a bit; a dry winter followed, and as lightning season approaches, we are in extreme fire danger.

    We have had fires come very close to us. They are terrifying. Three years ago, we had two fires in quick succession, one started by hunters, and the other by lightning. We lost over 150 homes in our area, and several roads were closed for months.

    We have no fireworks bans here. Some years, local governments pass short-term bans due to the dry conditions, but consumers can always go outside the ban area and buy the damn things.

    Sex toys, etc. are fine. They hurt no one. Fireworks can kill. L

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      I was just about to say the same. Here in Ecuador consumer fireworks are very loosely regulated, and innocent people who have nothing to do with the fireworks are killed every year. Fireworks in the hands of kids or drunk adults are as dangerous as guns.

      • Robert Seidel
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Who needs fireworks anyway, if they have volcanos?

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      Arizona lifted its ban on fireworks a couple of years ago. City of Tucson scrambled (successfully) to ban them almost immediately. Firework bans (and, incidentally, free happy hour drinks, which encourage drunk driving) are public safety issues that have little to do with religion.

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I, too, wanted to comment on the importance of fireworks control. As entertaining as they can be, they’re explosive incendiary devices, and have no place in civilization outside of carefully-secured and regulated environments.

      It’s obviously possible for any given individual in the general public to use them responsibly, but it’s even more obvious that the general public collectively is incapable of doing so.

      Besides, the firecrackers that the general public can buy can’t hold a (Roman) candle to the stuff the pros use at the big civic displays. If you’re really that passionate about fireworks, become a pro, play with the big guns, and do it safely (by following all the regulations).

      Cheers,

      b&

      • ladyatheist
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        In Indiana consumers can purchase smaller versions of what the pros use. They’re called “exploding shells” they’re measured by size of shell. Burning bits of them land in my yard every June & July. One year there were so many going off in my neighborhood I went outside and hosed down my roof.

        • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Here in Arizona, that sort of behavior would be somewhat self-correcting. First, That kind of fireworks would set the entire neighborhood ablaze. Then, if the idiot who set off the fireworks survived the fire, somebody would be likely to “re-purpose” some fireworks as a “sex toy” to use on the idiot.

          b&

      • Sastra
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

        You’re right of course regarding the professionals, but this happened a few years ago near where I live. I know where the victim was sitting at the time and this was a very freaky accident. Things can go wrong even under fair conditions.

        But I still adore the big civic displays.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      What you’re really talking about is controlling ignition sources. So call it that. Discarded cigarettes are as much of a threat in your situation as consumer fireworks (and discharge from firearms too, I’d guess – I’ve still never actually handled a manufactured gun), because there are a lot more of them.
      Don’t get me wrong – working in the oil exploration industry, I have a personal attachment to not being blown up by uncontrolled ignition sources. But by tieing your concerns to one highly specific target, you’re just going to have to go through the same “can we get this banned” political process when you’ve squashed one source of ignition.
      Do you have a specific law in Arizona banning the use of consumer fireworks while pumping your own hydrocarbon fuels? Is pumping AutoGas (compressed methane) governed by the same ban as pumping petroleum (gasoline) and the same ban as pumping diesel? (The three classes of hydrocarbon fuels have very substantially different flammabilities.)

      • Posted April 5, 2014 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

        The law — especially in the States — is a messy, hairy beast. You’re absolutely right from a practical perspective; all we really need do is hold people accountable for reckless endangerment and be done with it.

        …but we’ve got this “Second Amendment” thing, and we’ve got every industry bribing politicians for specific exemptions and / or regulations designed to profit them and hurt their competitors, and we’ve got idiot defendants, idiot lawyers, idiot judges, and idiot juries who think the combustion of a cigarette is different from the combustion of a campfire is different from the combustion of fireworks is different from the combustion of gunfire is different from the combustion of a Molotov Cocktail, and we’ve got….

        So, yeah. The law is seriously fucked up and in major need of overhaul. But what’re the chances that said overhaul would be any less insane? And so we keep chipping away at this and patching this up here and there, and the madness continues….

        b&

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 6, 2014 at 5:46 am | Permalink

          and the madness continues….

          And the land-sharks get fatter.

          • Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

            You mean Leon is a land shark?

            b&

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted April 6, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              No, Leon is a professional.

              • Posted April 6, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

                Leon the larger professional land shark likes leads from loan sharks?

                b&

    • Cathy Newman
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      At least when I was a kid, Alabama’s fireworks laws varied by city and depended on current weather conditions. E.g., unusually dry June? No Independence Day consumer fireworks allowed.

  8. ladyatheist
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I agree on a ban against consumer fireworks. Here in Indiana they’re legal and people lose fingers and hands, and the things land in their neighbors’ yards (such as my yard)

    • steve oberski
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      Well, there are a few good uses for fireworks:

      On August 20, 2005, in a private funeral, Hunter S. Thompson’s (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Rum Diary) ashes were fired from a cannon. This was accompanied by red, white, blue and green fireworks-all to the tune of Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The cannon was placed atop a 153-foot tower which had the shape of a double-thumbed fist clutching a peyote button, a symbol originally used in his 1970 campaign for Sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      In my parent’s neighbourhood, the youth whip the stupid fire crackers. Police don’t bother doing anything either. I hate fire crackers.

      • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        Animals hate them too.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted April 5, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          Yes, my parent’s rescue dog shakes the whole time and won’t go outside my dog, also a rescue, barks angrily at the sounds as if screaming, “shut up you sounds or I’m going to bite you!” Followed by swears.

          • MikeN
            Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

            Here in Taiwan, every holiday involves firecrackers day and night. My three sons set off a bush fire beside the local petroleum distribution plant that took five city fire trucks, three corporation trucks, plus another half-dozen guys manning the the fixed spray guns to put out.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted April 6, 2014 at 6:08 am | Permalink

              Hmmm, what was that oil (including AvGas) distribution plant that went up in England a few years back? Buncefield. And thinking back further, we learned some worthwhile lessons from Flixborough too. In the event of a fire at my father’s employer (in rural, bucolic Englandshire), they’d have started fire assets moving over an area some 50 miles in radius – which was close to including both Flixborough and Buncefield.
              I’d pay some close attention to the emergency plans for that site. Know your get-out routes ; know the symptoms of bad stuff happening ; act for yourself.
              The people who survived the Piper Alpha (67 survived ; 167 dead) fire and explosions were the ones who didn’t follow the set plan (wait in the galley for helicopters to evacuate the installation) but who got out for themselves. Which is why my first action on getting to a new installation is to search the platform high to low to familiarize myself with it.

              • Filippo
                Posted April 6, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

                Same with being aboard a ship, whether Navy or cruise.

                “Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.” (Heard that at Navy OCS.)

  9. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    I’ve always assumed that the gas pump law in Oregon was meant as a jobs program for teenagers rather than as a ban on behavior deemed dangerous or immoral.

    On a side note, what’s with the random ordering of states around the perimeter? How did Washington end up between California and Oregon?

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      It is a jobs program, but not so much for teenagers, really, in my experience.

      The other justification is that ensures that full service is available for the disabled and elderly.

      • tomh
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        A lot of us here like our Oregon law. I’m not sure why it’s included with the other religion-inspired laws.

        • Stonyground
          Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

          The ban on pumping your own gas is pretty incredible. In the UK, just about everyone fills up their own car. I don’t know of any filling stations that employ someone to do it for you. Many of the petrol stations that are attached to supermarkets don’t even employ anyone to take your cash, the pumps just have a slot to put your debit card into.

          About twenty years ago I went into one of the few remaining petrol stations that wasn’t self service. It took ages to get my car filled up because I had to wait in line for the guy to do it.

          • tomh
            Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

            This can make it very difficult for drivers with disabilities who are not able to use the controls, hose, or nozzle of a self-serve gas pump. Although the Americans with Disabilities Act has requirements for self serve gas stations to accommodate these customers, these requirements are routinely ignored and are non-existent in most gas stations in the US.

            • Stonyground
              Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

              We have similar laws to protect people with disabilities in the UK. I have no idea how disabled people fill up their cars or how filling stations comply, or fail to comply, with said laws.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted April 6, 2014 at 2:08 am | Permalink

            I usually object (politely) to anyone else filling up my car. I know how far to fill the tank before it risks leaking out of the filler cap on bends, equally I don’t want a half-full tank because the cut-off tripped early, and I like to make sure the filler cap is properly replaced afterwards. This is far easier for me to do than trying to instruct some random gas station attendant.

            • tomh
              Posted April 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

              Objecting politely would not work in Oregon -we arrest anyone trying to pump their own gas. :) Outside of OR and NJ, someone with a disability that prevents them from operating a gas nozzle has to plan carefully to stay full of gas. It is very difficult while travelling, in spite of laws requiring accommodation.

              • Souris Optique
                Posted April 6, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

                “-we arrest anyone trying to pump their own gas”

                And what on earth is the “logic” behind this one? What a weird law!

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted April 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

                It’s amusing to imagine someone in the lock up for this. “What are you in for?”. “I tried to pump my own gas”.

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted April 6, 2014 at 6:15 am | Permalink

            I can’t think of ever seeing a garage where there were staff in sufficient numbers to actually fill the cars.
            Typical garage would be 4 or 6 double-sided pumps, so 8 or 12 cars filling simultaneously. Typically one person on the till, rarely two. In those circumstances, a garage with (say) one employee per two pumps is not going to be competitive.
            Now that I think about it – the only examples I can remember of two-pump garages have both closed in the last couple of years. Obviously they can’t compete either.

            • Filippo
              Posted April 6, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

              I had an aunt so set in her ways and so inflexible that she could not bring herself to learn to pump her own gas. She lamented to the owner of the local Phillips 66 station, upon learning that he was going out of business, “Where will I go to get gas?” My interaction with her was good training in patience and perseverance. Everyone should have that privilege. ;)

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted April 6, 2014 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                Conversation from shore to ship a couple of weeks ago : “Aidan, you’re going to have to come home soon ; the windscreen washer doesn’t have any water in it.”
                [Shakes head]
                As for getting her to learn how to change a wheel …

        • Latverian Diplomat
          Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Since OR has an initiative process, if it was unpopular it could easily be repealed.

          As you say, this (and the fireworks laws as others have said above) don’t really belong with the others. I suspect it was an attempt at “both sides do it” and like most such attempts, doesn’t hold up on inspection.

          • Steve Gerrard
            Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:25 am | Permalink

            It has been voted on several times in Oregon, and we always choose to keep it. It works great, and takes no longer than pumping it yourself. Maybe we like it because it is often rainy here in Oregon.
            The HuffPo list is about unnecessary laws, not specifically religious ones.

        • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          New Jersey is the other state with this law. We visit family there, and it does seem strange at first. But I have come around to seeing it as a good jobs program, and it is convenient in the winter!

    • Shwell Thanksh
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      I wondered too about that random ordering of states — not many folks down here would include DC and Delaware in the “South”.

      • Ken Pidcock
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:20 am | Permalink

        I’m wondering if you’ve spent much time in Delaware below the canal.

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      I like the gas pump law here in NJ. Yes, it does provide jobs and not necessarily to teenagers. I’ve had adults of various age fill my tank.
      Self-service does **not** lead to lower prices at the pump. There are lots and lots of PA drivers filling up before they head home and up near the GWB, lots and lots of NY’ers doing likewise.
      Finally, I don’t want the smell of gasoline on my hands or perfuming my car’s interior.

      • jay
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        I’m in NJ and I HATE that law. It wastes time, and I’m fully capable of pumping my own gas, thank you (I’m also capable of rebuilding my engine)

        A couple of times a month some “professional ” fails to properly replace my cap resulting in spillage.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 6, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

          A couple of times a month some “professional ” fails to properly replace my cap resulting in spillage.

          And they have to come to your window to get the keys for the filler cap anyway … so how much benefit is that?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        Ever since I’ve had paint chips where the gas cap is from people ramming the nozzle in sloppily, no one s my tank but me!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      In Britain, it’s illegal for someone under 16 to operate a petrol pump. Because … well, it is noticeably dangerous, and that implies that you’re expected to be a responsible adult if you’re doing it. There are also insurance issues too, if you’re not an adult.
      Of course, that complicates matters in that some people can get shot for their country (if they’re stupid enough to surrender their moral compass to politicians) while still being too young to vote. But looking to fix that would imply having a sensible, thought-out legislation system.

      • Souris Optique
        Posted April 6, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        No one too young to legally drive has any business filling a gas tank.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted April 6, 2014 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

          [Shrug] I was needing to stock up on fuel for the camping stove 4 years before I could even start to learn to drive, and ten years before I actually did start to learn to drive. Sometimes (at the local garage) it wasn’t a problem ; other times I had to try to lie sufficiently convincingly. The bigger problem was getting past the minimum delivery levels.

    • Posted April 7, 2014 at 2:04 am | Permalink

      The whole petrol situation in America is strange to me. It’s illegal for anyone other than a petrol attendant to operate the pump all over South Africa. If I were at a self-service place, I’d have no idea what to do. I’ve also never seen a teenager working a pump here.

      • Posted April 7, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

        Well, that’s your problem right there. We Americans don’t use petrol; we use gas. I wouldn’t have a clue how to pump petrol, either, but gas? No problem.

        b&

  10. Lianne Byram
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    I’m inclined to think that the religious proscriptions against all things sexual are emblematic of a deeper discomfort and denial of our sexual nature. Perhaps because it is so clearly indicative of our close kinship with the rest of the animal kingdom. Most people (and particularly the ultra conservative) seem to have a need to be more than what we actually are. More special, more unique, more significant….

    • Latverian Diplomat
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      There’s more than one reason, but I think a major one is that physical pleasure is a great ad for materialism. It’s hard to argue that the material world is a evil place to be shunned (in favor of devotion of course) if its got fun stuff like sex, music, good food, etc.

      There’s a reason gluttony, visual arts, sloth, leisure, dancing, etc. have been limited or banned by multiple religions over the centuries.

      • Posted April 5, 2014 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        That’s a particularly insightful observation. I may well steal it.

        b&

      • Lianne Byram
        Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

        I’m sure you’re right that there are many reasons. The rules controlling sexual behaviour seem to be much more rigidly enforced and emotionally fraught than those relating to the other pleasures you mention. There must be something driving the need that societies seem to have to exert such intense social control over it.

  11. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    It’s Alabama, so thankfully there’s an easy way around this ban. Just make sure your dildo can be dialed all the way up past “stun” to a lethal setting. Then if challenged, squeal that the intrusive Gubmint is trying to take away your personal liberty to possess a self-defense weapon, and hide under the skirt of the NRA!

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      You’ve got it. All you have to do is put a gun barrel down the middle of it and make sure it can be fit on the end of your 45 caliber handgun, and the 2nd Amendment will protect you.

  12. Thanny
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Consumer fireworks are orders of magnitude less dangerous than automobiles.

    Just because something can be dangerous when used incorrectly is no reason to ban it. That logic leads to outlawing virtually everything worth doing in this world.

    Far too many people are blithely willing to legislate their own personal tastes.

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Fireworks are far less amenable to being used correctly. They’re aleatory projectiles operated by primates fascinated with shiny objects and loud noises. There may be ways to detonate fireworks that are less treacherous, but explosive pyrotechnic devices are generally unpredictable and compellingly inimical.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      I think perhaps you’re overlooking the damage caused by wildfires, which in some states is the primary motivation for regulating fireworks.

  13. Ken Pidcock
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I’m occasionally made aware of the ban on pumping your own gas in New Jersey. You stop at the pump, get out of your car, and are left feeling slightly embarrassed.

    And shouldn’t Pennsylvania be included among the states (commonwealths) banning consumer fireworks? Or is there a flagrant disregard provision?

    • Thanny
      Posted April 6, 2014 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

      Pennsylvania is very odd when it comes to fireworks. It’s legal to sell them there, but not to PA residents. So you have fireworks stores all along the borders with other states, and to get in, you need to show ID to prove that you’re not a PA resident. Residents are stuck with sparklers, carbon snakes, and the like.

      The ban in NJ is flagrantly disregarded, and getting the goods in PA is one of the easiest ways to go about it.

      I myself live a mile from the Delaware, and can get to at least three fireworks stores inside of 15 minutes. One of them hires a teenager to dress up like Uncle Sam and wave people in every year near the 4th of July.

  14. Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Here in NJ,there is a flagrant disregard provision. The neighbors have pre- and post-holiday practice blowing things up.

  15. Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I understand the “Pumping your own gas” thing, at least in Oregon. It’s meant to create jobs. Now whether or not those are unnecessary is another question. However, removing the law from the books would likely result in a loss of jobs. Now, I’m sure habit would keep many employed but no lawmaker wants that on their hands.

    I also get the fireworks thing. People here in Arizona can barely cope with the strange phenomenon of water falling from the sky, what many call “rain”. Within an hour of rainfall you begin to hear sirens. Allowing the unfettered sale of incendiary projectiles that don’t require training or any common sense to operate is a bit scary in a dry area.

  16. jjnunes
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    So I can leave?

    >

  17. The Militant One
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    It seems that they left PA off of the list of states banning atheists from holding public office. And I realize that it is never enforced, but it is still on the books.

    • Ken Pidcock
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Man, they just ignored us left and right, didn’t they?

      Hmm..”No person who acknowledges the being of a God and a future state of rewards and punishments…” We need to ensure that no Sophisticated Theologian™ holds any office or place of trust or profit under this Commonwealth.

  18. Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    So, is one to understand that produce is illegal in Alabama? All those cucumbers and melons and what-not?

    b&

    • Stonyground
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      I don’t suppose that they will be banning spanking paddles any time soon.

    • Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

      Also soon to be banned: fingers and hands.

  19. Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Wack jobs.

    A little stimulation of a number of varieties is probably what they need..

  20. Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Groan. They need to listen to a former PM of Canada, the late Pierre Trudeau, who said:
    “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. “

  21. Barry
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve lived in the US for 13 years and still don’t understand why I can’t buy a car on Sunday – MD where I once lived, and CO where I currently live, have this restriction. Ridiculous. The one day a week where I have the time to visit show rooms and dealerships.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      You’re meant to spend that 4th day of the week rubbing woad (clockwise) into your belly button and singing at your local stone circle. Or something like that.

    • George
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      NPR’s Planet Money did a good show on car dealers. In Illinois, it was the dealers themselves who lobbied to ban Sunday car sales.

      http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/02/12/171814201/episode-435-why-buying-a-car-is-so-awful

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

      Because Sunday purchases make baby Jesus cry.

  22. Stonyground
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I have heard people who have an over zealous desire to have things banned referred to as “Bansturbators”. It seems rather appropriate in this case.

  23. George
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Does this mean that the hands of teenage boys – let’s be honest – all males(I won’t speak for women) – are illegal in Alabama?

  24. Posted April 5, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the connection to Augustine.

    “Adam’s original sin, he argued, had not been one of pride or disobedience, but of sex.”

    Here’s what escapes me:

    Augustine was just as much a product of human evolution as everyone else that lived in his period. Human sexual intercourse for reproductive ends was just as much a fundamental human need then just as it was centuries before his arrival on the planet. It was as a fundamental as the need breath, or eat to every animal on the planet. Why would Augustine pick on sexual intercourse as being the root of evil?

    I’m quite interested to learn more of Augustine’s sex life. I feel pretty confident that there was somethin’ very strange goin’ on in those corners of his life.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      Humans are animals. Very competitive animals.
      Evolution has given us two different sexual passions; one that makes us want to have sex and one that makes us try to stop others from having sex. If you stop your competitors from having offspring then you stop your offspring from having competitors and your selfish genes win.
      All that Augustine and other misogynist killjoys are doing is confabulating an excuse for a biological urge.

    • microraptor
      Posted April 5, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      Wasn’t Augustine supposed to have been a serious party animal early in his life? Or am I thinking of the wrong church figure?

      • Posted April 6, 2014 at 12:01 am | Permalink

        “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

        • microraptor
          Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:42 am | Permalink

          Yeah, that was what I was thinking of.

          • Filippo
            Posted April 6, 2014 at 11:04 am | Permalink

            Ought that not rather be “chastity and tonus”?

  25. Hempenstein
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an even loonier one, replete with pseudoscience, that was news to me until I went to comment on the Topiary post (#7), and Googled the lyric to make sure I had it right. It seems that it was alleged at the time (1982) that that very lyric, when played backwards, contained some sort of satanic verse. (See subhead Allegation of Backward Masking here.)

    Seems that it was so clear that exact interpretations varied – snort! But despite that, a California assemblyman actually proposed a law that would require a label on all records containing backward masking! And the Consumer Protection and Toxic Materials Committee actually held hearings on this!

    Kee-rimony!!

  26. Doug
    Posted April 5, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    I remember back in the early ’70s, vibrators were advertised in mainstream magazines and newspapers–not as sex toys, but as a way of relieving stiff necks, sore feet, etc. All you have to do is make up a bullshit explanation for your device, and it should be legal. “It’s not a sex toy, it’s . . .um . . .a paperweight!”

  27. Posted April 6, 2014 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    Law Professor Geoffrey Stone’s explanations as to why religious people are shy about sex (because it tracks back to the bible) seems misleading to me. Many of the peculiar beliefs of religious people coincide with beliefs expressed in the bible because their brains work in similar ways as the writers of the holy books. The key to their sexual shyness is a confusion between the natural guilt felt by those engaged in sex, -perhaps because creatures so engaged are vulnerable to attack from the jealous, – and the fact that religious people believe that they are always being watched by the gods.

    ‘Human Sub-Set Theory’ suggests that there is NOT just one type of human brain containing many thoughts, but brains programmed in different ways giving rise to social groups such as ‘scientists’, ‘the religious’, ‘sports-jocks’, and ‘spiritualists’. All those Sub-Sets stem from the building of adult consciousness’ during adolescence, whereby certain seemingly arbitrary assumptions are developed in the brain that serve as an interpretive system. Religious people believe that in their gods, they have an perfect interpretive system, and they will not be dissuaded from that belief.

    I feel that the great cause of atheism is still in its infancy. Atheism is beset with misleading explanations of religious belief. While atheists cling to false explanations of religious belief, then atheism will not progress to a full scientific theory. The missing and inevitable stepping stone is by way of Human Sub-Set Theory. If atheists can just consider Human Sub-Set Theory, (even though it destroys the Social Sciences!) they there are immediate benefits in that so many things begin to fall into place.

    It is an old story that new ideas cannot take hold while there is opposition from those steeped in ‘old thinking’. The traditional psychologists’ view that there is one type of human brain capable of holding any of a multitude of beliefs, is so very wrong. If that were so, then it would be simply a matter of using evidence to convert everyone to a scientific view.

    Faced with that problem, many atheists indicate the rarish existence of madrassas to propose that religion is a matter of indoctrination. But religious belief is very rarely a matter of indoctrination, and more likely a calibration mistake whereby the adolescent brain takes-on false assumptions concerning the nature of reality.
    So one may see how early atheist mistakes grow by compound interest into full-blown, but false, explanations for religious belief. I hope for more from atheists.

    • Filippo
      Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      ” . . . the rarish existence of madrassas to propose that religion is a matter of indoctrination . . . very rarely a matter of indoctrination . . . more likely a calibration mistake whereby the adolescent brain takes-on false assumptions concerning the nature of reality.”

      Growing up in the Southern Baptist Church, I for one certainly felt the significant social pressure to go Sunday School (a diluted madrassa, surely), and church service, and to the p.m. version of Sunday School, “Training Union,” and evening service. There is a Bible verse to the effect, “Bring up a child in the way he should go and, if he departs from it, he will not go far, but will return.” Was/Is that not indoctrination? Certainly not a “rarish” experience for my peers.

      • Posted April 7, 2014 at 3:50 am | Permalink

        Dear Filippo,

        You are a reader of WEIT, so can I assume that your Christian childhood did not take hold of you. In which case you were not indoctrinated, but rather simply became a willing follower of your cultural circumstance, as are so many religious people around the world.

        Indoctrination which means forcing people to appear to believe upon the threat of violence, is quite rare, but can be seen in those starving people of North Korea as they praise their cult leader. I saw it while in Iraq whereby most of the people expressed an unbelievable admiration for Saddam. Until he was hanged. Then they rejoiced! And I saw it is Serbia, under Karadzic. Until he fled, and returned disguised as a bearded psychologist!

        My point is that there is little or no religious indoctrination in any religion, despite the fact that Islam has the death penalty for those wanting to leave that religion.

        One time I entered a small Muslim village in Africa where everybody save a few were at Friday prayer. The few, who smoked and drank beer, were mainly students and intelligent young people, who seem to see madness in their fellow villagers. That, and many other experiences in religious countries, got me thinking that religion is not necessarily by coercion, but is a calibration mistake in the formation of the adolescent brain, which sometimes takes on-board the assumption that we live in an Intentional Universe. It is an easy mistake to make, and it is evidently a very difficult assumption to dismantle. But it is readily dismantled by travel, and mostly by experiencing the indifference of the world to human hopes. Nature and wildlife films are corrosive to religion.
        Religions seek to prevent their followers from knowing about the world. After the fall of the Tunisian dictator at the beginning of the Arab Spring, it became apparent that the former Minister of Information, felt that it was his duty to prevent information, and to deny the Tunisian people access to Western newspapers, television, or college text-books.

        And so the censorship of external information was probably an important part of your religious upbringing. When mentioning ‘evolution’, the American religious Right tend to offer a parody of evolution to make it seem unbelievable. And that parody can be quite sophisticated. You can see the parody in all those bio-theological books such as ‘Darwin’s Doubt’, by Stephen C Meyer. That rush of bio-theology books are best called ‘Turnip-Truck Theology’ because you have to be quite innocent not to see the parody.

        • tomh
          Posted April 7, 2014 at 7:26 am | Permalink

          “Indoctrination which means forcing people to appear to believe upon the threat of violence”

          That’s an odd definition of indoctrination. Definitions that I’ve seen are similar to this one from Mirriam-Webster, ” to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.” There is no mention of violence. Students can be indoctrinated into a narrow set of beliefs, and, in the US, at least, it’s fair to say that many children are indoctrinated into the religious beliefs of their parents.

          • Posted April 7, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

            “…I for one certainly felt the significant social pressure to go Sunday School…” Filippo

            You see, Filippo used the word indoctrination with the idea of pressure. But definitions of ‘indoctrination’ are beside the point.

            I am trying to suggest that religious belief is not necessarily a matter of indoctrination (whatever definition your use) The evidence is that the children of so many families seem so very often to be split between the religious and the non religious, and it is a worldwide phenomenon. If it were just a matter of indoctrination, then all children, under identical child-rearing experience, would believe the same thing. Worldwide, it is sometimes, but not always, the case. Therefore I looked to the fact that children of the same family often differ in so many things, besides religious belief.
            So much work has been done in the last century on what happens in adolescence, when the young adult moves from under the influence of parents, and begins to find new and independent systems of thought. My own experiences in many societies is that it is at adolescence that religious belief seems to solidify. It is at that time that the most fundamental assumptions concerning the nature of reality begin to form in the young mind. Chief among these, in the three or four great religions, is that reality is ‘Intentional’. Somebody done it! And it is at that point that the existence of supernatural ‘beings’ becomes a useful explanation.

            And further, youngsters with an outdoorsy kind of life-style seem less likely to fall for religion that those who seek knowledge only from the authority of books. When one is exposed to the brutalities of nature, which is more like an abattoir than a paradisiacal garden, then the idea of intention seems so very unlikely.

            • Filippo
              Posted April 7, 2014 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

              ” . . . an outdoorsy kind of life-style seem less likely to fall for religion . . . . exposed to the brutalities of nature . . . more like an abattoir . . . .”

              Has “nature red in tooth and claw” not always been the experience of humanity since its emergence? E.g., were pioneers’ scratching out an existence in the American West an “outdoorsy kind of life-style”?

  28. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted April 6, 2014 at 1:53 am | Permalink

    I have read that resting the appropriate bit of anatomy against the knob on the end of a tractor gearstick (with the motor idling) can produce the required good vibrations – they’ll have to ban tractors!

    (Plus, of course, the apalling Health and Safety implications should the lever slip into gear…)

  29. Kevin
    Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    In New Mexico, alcohol can not be purchased before noon. That is noy on the Huffington Post info-graphic. That is a Blue Law.

    Any prohibition, is prohibition.

  30. Nate
    Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Fireworks are illegal for sale in oregon too, your infographic forgot that

    • microraptor
      Posted April 6, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

      Only some kinds of fireworks are illegal. Not that that ever stops anyone from setting them off. Heck, in many areas it doesn’t even stop them from setting them off inside city limits.

      I knew an idiot who almost lost his hand playing with a Roman Candle.

    • tomh
      Posted April 6, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Certain types of fireworks are available from licensed dealers, as specified here. There are certainly plenty of fireworks’ stands that pop up around me in southern Oregon every year.

  31. Daoud
    Posted April 7, 2014 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    What’s wrong with pumping your own gas?


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