One woman is standing up to regressive and moralistic sexual policies by suing the town of Sandy Springs, Georgia for an ordinance which bans the sale of sex toys to anyone without a, "medical, scientific, educational, legislative, or law enforcement" purpose for purchasing one. Melissa Davenport, the vibrator crusader in question, has multiple sclerosis, a condition she says prevents her from fully enjoying her sex life. That is, until she and her husband introduced sex toys into their marriage, a move which turned Davenport's life and libido around. As the law stands now, Davenport can't even legally buy an Internet dildo. That is, without a note from her doctor.
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In 1998, Alabama passed a statute that criminalized the sale of sex toys as part of the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act. The law, sponsored by Senator Tom Butler, was designed to prohibit nude dancing, but also includes a special anti-dildo policy for, "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." If you're caught buying a vibrator, you can be fined up to $10,000 dollars. Multiple offenders can serve up to 10 years in prison. Really, in Alabama, you can openly carry a gun, but not a butt plug. It's too bad, because the "Yellowhammer" could be a great name for an Alabama-inspired sex toy.
There's nothing more dangerous in the Lone Star state than a man or woman wielding a Fleshlight. In 1973, Texas legislature passed a law that prohibited that sale of "a device including a dildo or artificial vagina, designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." In 2004, a Texan mother of three was arrested for being a smut merchant after two undercover cops posed as a married couple bought a vibrator off her at a private party. The law was repealed in 2008, but now we know why you don't bring a bullet vibe to a cocktail party in Lubbock.
In 1957, South Africa made a law that banned any device "intended to be used for an unnatural sexual act." What did South Africa define as "unnatural" up until 2007? The homophobic law was mainly aimed at vibrator-loving lesbians.
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Penning the most seminal sex manual of all time, the Kama Sutra, does not mean a country is a-okay with dildos. Selling sex toys in India is prohibited by Section 292 of the Penal Code. Obscene material in the country is defined as, "a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure, or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest." Well, that rules out most of the fun stuff.
This one's not contemporary, but it was perhaps the most important sex toy policy of them all. In Victorian England, you could only access vibrators through your doctor — and they were the only ones allowed to administer these special "pelvic massages." The most common treatment for a totally made-up condition called hysteria ("difficult women") was, of course, orgasms. Because Victorian doctors' poor wrists were getting cramped from all the manual stimulation and vulvar probing, steam-powered (yes, steam-powered) and electrical vibrators came into play. It wasn't until the 1960s that personal vibrators started being packaged as anything more than medical. Instead, the policy was that sex toys should be packaged as circulation stimulators, skin treatment, and curiously, a treatment for eating disorders.
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This post was authored by Kate Hakala.
Nerve, the cultural center of the web for sex and relationships, was one of the first online destinations to open the conversation on erotica in a candid, empowering way. Now, they're bringing their smart, fearless take on everything from orgasmic meditation to the world's weirdest sex rituals to R29.