Saturday, March 29, 2008

Texas: where strip clubs with underage dancers don't get shut down, but where you can't buy a damn vibrator

By LindaBeth

First, some old-ish news: Texas's law (check out this YouTube vid) against the sale or "promotion" of sex toys was ruled unconstitutional in February, but in March the State Attorney General Greg Abbott (whose views do not necessarily reflect those of the Texas population) has requested that the circuit court of appeals to rehear the case:

Under Texas law it is illegal to sell, advertise, give or lend obscene devices, defined as a device used primarily for sexual stimulation. Anyone in possession of six or more sexual devices is considered to be promoting them. (via Austin American-Statesman).

Um... six devices? Considering the wide variety of sex toys and their uses for women, men, and couples, this turns an awful lot of people who enjoy sex and sexual variety into criminals. But isn't this really the point? When an exploration of sexuality beyond procreative purposes and methods is called "obscene" and those who practice become "criminals," the effort is to return sex back to it's "real" purpose-procreation. Oh yeah, and male-centered, both in who should receive pleasure and how a woman "ought to" achieve pleasure: the good ol' penis-in-vagina way. It's pretty clear that this primarily impacts women, who probably benefit the greatest from sex toys-from being able to understand their own bodies and pleasures, to being able to experience those pleasures with a partner (23% of couples use 'em). Think I'm stretching it? Check this out, again from the Statesman:

The state also argued in a brief that Texas has legitimate "morality based" reasons for the laws, which include "discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex and the pursuit of sexual gratification unrelated to procreation."

Of course, Texas isn't the only state in the union to have these bans. In October, the state court of appeals refused to hear a challenge to Alabama's 10-year old law. One community activist supports the law by associating sex toy sales with "sexual-oriented crime". Not sure what he means by that... unless he's referring to the laws againsts procreative sex still on the books (which were made illegal by the Supreme Court in 2003). Mississippi and Virginia also have similar laws banning sex toy sales.

But jump to the last few days: A Dallas strip club was found to have a 12-year old (yes, that's not a typo) stripping there. She was a runaway, and likely had been sexually abuse, and was aided by a female club employee and an adult man. In January, the same club was found to have a 17 year-old stripping. But its license is not being revoked:

The 23-page city ordinance does allow revocation of a club's license if, for example, the club knowingly allows prostitution, the sale or use of drugs at the club, or if there are two convictions for sex-related crimes at the club within a 12-month period.

I know I don't have to connect the dots for you. Selling sex toys that have greatly aided individual's pleasure, especially for women (40% of women say they use vibrators), was illegal up until recently, and is under review, but a club that is irresponsible enough to have allowed two underage girls to perform for male sexual pleasure and profit cannot have its license revoked. (And this is to say nothing about the kind of culture that produces 12-year olds as desirable sex objects and encourages their desire to be a sex object.)

And this isn't the only example of Texas law shielding businesses that exploit young women:

Earlier this week, we also told you about Club Metroplois, where Dallas police found 13-year-old prostitutes. That nightspot operates as a bar, so the city says it has to treat it like any other business and has to prove a pattern of crime before it can be closed -- unless they find a loophole.

The great state of Texas my ass.

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  • Isn't it bizarre that one might do serious jail time for looking at a picture of what another person is facilitating legally? Apparently the "values voter" state thinks it's only about pictures.

    Explain to me why Texas had to become part of the US in the first place.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 11:05 AM  

  • Hey, a belated welcome LindaBeth and great post.

    By Blogger Libby Spencer, at 2:14 PM  

  • Isn't it bizarre that one might do serious jail time for looking at a picture of what another person is facilitating legally? Apparently the "values voter" state thinks it's only about pictures.

    Indeed, because with underage-porn convictions you don't have to establish a "pattern" of behavior.

    And to be clear, I'm not knocking the people of Texas so much as the legal framework of the state that seems to find more harm in women masturbating (without men! and without making babies! horrors!) than in (men) profiting off of men eroticizing 12-year-olds.

    By Blogger lindabeth, at 4:24 PM  

  • And thanks Libby!

    By Blogger lindabeth, at 4:24 PM  

  • I find it remarkable that Texas doesn't have a law against currpting a minor which could be used against a club that was so reckless.

    (A 17-year-old os not so easily distinguished from an adult, but a 12-year-old)

    By Blogger zhochaka, at 5:55 PM  

  • I know Dave, I was shocked too.

    About the 17 year olds: I hear that reaction a lot, and while yes, I agree with what you are saying, consider this analogy:

    When a bartender or store clerk is carding a customer for alcohol, they aren't supposed to assess if they look 21 years old, because we know their are many unders who look 21. The rule generally is 30.

    There is no reason the same shouldn't be assumed for sex work. "do they look 18?" is bogus, because as well all know, with makeup and fashion, and what not, adolescents and teens look a hell of a lot older than when I was their age. "Do they look like an adult?" should be the question, not "do they look 18-a teenager?" because many many young teens could "pass" for 18 easily. Perhaps since in sex work, it is desirable to look as close to 18 as possible (!) we use 18 as the standard to judge when we should be using a older (more adult) one, knowing there will be some women who are over 18 that look, well, like the teenagers they are rather than adult women. There is nothing "magical" about the way the body looks (as if there is a "standard" look to the body at any age) at 18, it is simply the age of majority.

    And to further use the alcohol analogy, the bartender is responsible for serving an under-age person alcohol, which can include jail time and loss of job. This includes even if a fake ID is used. Why should this situation be any less (it should be more!) criminal?

    Not to mention, if this is indeed a job, don't then need to show appropriate ID for their W-4 tax reporting? Driver's license and social security card are typically required. Unless, typical of strip clubs, their strippers are considered "self employed," and therefore don't need to furnish proof of age, they only would have to "pass." Convenient, eh? Otherwise, I don't see how on earth they escaped more than a fine.

    By Blogger lindabeth, at 7:53 PM  

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