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.
h/t: Ginger K.