Marty Klein on Alabama anti-sex-toy law

Alabama has declared war on sex toys, and whether or not we live in that state, we need to heed the warning that our sexual rights are under attack. Dr. Marty Klein, author of America’s War On Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust & Liberty, recently wrote a powerful article about this issue. I asked his permission to excerpt it here:

Supreme Court Silences Alabama’s Vibrators

The U.S.Supreme Court has declined to review the Alabama law criminalizing the sale of sex toys.

For nine years, the law has been in and out of District, Appeals, and Federal courts (issues 9, 33, 39). The ACLU had asked the Supreme Court to review Alabama’s right to control products perceived to threaten the moral health of their users and the public. Six states currently have various restrictions on sex toys.

Alabama controls the sale of sex toys because the legislature believes they promote a “prurient interest in autonomous sex” through “the pursuit of orgasms by artificial means.” Actually, I totally agree with that. But where legislatures and courts may find this dangerous, I find it life-affirming, healthy, and good clean fun.

In fact, it raises an interesting question–how do we define “artificial” and “non-artificial” orgasms? Penis = natural, while fingers = artificial? Non-intercourse sex was criminalized in America for over a century precisely because it was considered “unnatural.” That’s why the right to sodomy is such a big deal, whether you do it or not-because it overturns the paradigm that divides sexual behavior into “natural” and “unnatural.” The problem isn’t that the wrong things are put into these categories–it’s that the categories exist.

The Alabama law allows people to buy sexual devices with a “bona fide medical purpose.” If we wish, we could list the medical benefits of virtually every sex toy:
* Dildo: strengthens pelvic floor muscles, especially after childbirth
* Butt plug: helps men ejaculate, increasing fertility
* Cock ring: helps men last longer, facilitating intercourse, increasing fertility
* Vibrator: helps prevent atrophy of vaginal tissue after hysterectomy or menopause; also reduces menstrual cramps

But why should we have to do this? It’s demeaning to pretend that sex toys are like flu shots, dental floss or laxatives–of interest only to promote our health, and used grudgingly at best.

In Alabama, you can buy a gun but not a vibrator. Why do they feel the second is more dangerous than the first?

We can laugh, but this extraordinary erosion of personal liberty, coupled with the massive disrespect and fear of sexuality, is no joke. We really are living through a War On Sex. The Supreme Court has declared our orgasms a battlefield, and sex toys are another casualty.

Dr. Marty Klein is a licensed marriage counselor, certified sex therapist, and author of America’s War On Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust & Liberty. Visit his Sexual Intelligence blog.


  1. אביזרי מין on February 25, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    I don’t understand what is so evil about sex toys…
    what’s so wrong in masturbating?

    חנות סקס אביזרי מין

  2. paula on November 14, 2007 at 11:03 am

    This is a great article and I’m glad someone who has really studied sexuality has written about the attack on erotic energy and freedom in the U.S.

    I think that a society based on power of some over others, rather than one based on power from within, will always try to control erotic energy, as well as spirituality and artistic expression. These things are all related, being the means through which humans experience our power from within, our autonomy. These are the means through which we experience and connect with “God.”

    I love the term autonomous orgasm!!!

    I had no idea that our sex ed in the U.S. had gotten so bad until one day when I was chatting with three fifteen year old women, who told me about what they teach them in school now. No such thing as safe sex. No information about anything. One of them went out and got “The Joy of Sex” from the bookstore. At least they knew the school sex ed was bogus, but these were very intelligent and fortunate young women.

    I think when people who live in urban environments talk about guns they’re thinking about guns as something to use to mug someone or shoot someone. Here in Alabama guns are mostly used for hunting and for protection for people who live in the country without many neighbors. In my city — or at least the neighborhoods where I hang out — we have very little violence and almost no drive by shootings and things like that. Generally the worst thing a gun is used for is to shoot one’s spouse or lover, and we do have gun accidents. But probably about half the men I know own at least one gun, and they are not violent people. But we are indeed a gun happy state.

    That being said, we can also still buy vibrators, we just can’t call them vibrators, and don’t try to call them sex toys in any store!

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