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War Against Sex Toys & Sexuality

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Soldier Teddy Bear with Dildo, War Against Sex ToysSex Toys & State Laws

Because sexuality is so often thought of by some as dirty and shameful, there are still laws that many would be surprised to learn still exist. For example, in the state of Alabama, the law states, "It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly distribute, possess with intent to distribute, or offer or agree to distribute obscene material or any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs..."

What has helped to deter many of these laws from being enforced occurred in 2008, when a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans overturned a Texas law from the 1970s that makes it a crime to promote or sell sex toys in the state. The 2-1 opinion referenced the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down a Texas law that prohibited private consensual sex among people of the same gender. That ruling created a broad, if undefined constitutional right to sexual privacy.

"Whatever one might think or believe about the use of these [sex toy] devices," Justice Thomas M. Reavley wrote in the 5th Circuit opinion, "government interference with their personal and private use violates the Constitution.

Historical accounts of many of the legal challenges in selling sex toys over the years are detailed in books such as:

  • The Government Vs. Erotica
    by Phil Harvey

  • America's War on Sex 
    by Marty Klein, Ph.D.

  • A Guide to America's Sex Laws
    by Richard A. Posner & Katharine B. Silbaugh

High Risk Merchant Accounts & Banking 

Most banks today still see sex toys as a high-risk business and lump it under the same risks as selling guns, drugs, and porn. Many sex toy sellers have difficulty finding banks that provide them with a merchant accounts and are charged higher merchant fees than other companies despite most sex toys being accepted as mainstream products. 

Bans On Advertising

It can be quite difficult for companies to advertise through social media and other media, even if they target their ads for people over the age of 18 or 21 years of age. In many cases, it is banned entirely by media outlets, and even sex educators attempting to provide sexual health education resources find it a significant challenge to reach consumers. 

Sexual Discrimination With Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing our world as we know it. With Generative Pre-training Transformer (GPT) and other AI technologies, we see massive communication changes and overhauls. However, the war on sexuality continues to exist even in these areas. There are significant drawbacks to using these technologies regarding sexuality for several reasons.

  • AI and GPT are not designed to understand sexual language. This can cause discrimination, misinterpretation, and inappropriate interpretations.

  • These technologies perceive sexual language in and of itself as inappropriate and offensive when human sexuality is a healthy and beautiful part of who we are and what we need.

  • AI and GPT can create barriers for those who need helpful, accurate, and inclusive sexual health information.

  • There is a great deal of general concern regarding AI and GPT about discrimination toward marginalized groups such as LGBT+, women, people of color (POC), and those with disabilities. This is compounded when addressing their sexual health concerns when attempting to use AI and GPT to include these groups that already face omission and oppression.

  • The developers and designers of AI and GPT related technology need to review attitudes that repress healthy sexuality for all people to ensure inclusivity and avoid discrimination and bias, whether unconscious or socially learned and intended.

Misinformation & Exclusionary Discrimination

Challenges within the sex toy industry include a great deal of misinformation about sex toy safety. Many so-called sex experts are not educated about the chemistry of sex toys, let alone the issues of various health conditions which can make them dangerous to use. This can be a concern for those customers with disabilities such as spinal cord injuries or a compromised immune system.

Furthermore, the sex toy industry often uses language that omits marginalized and oppressed people. While it is understood that societal changes influence our awareness and there has been progress, there is still much-needed change. Often, trans and non-binary people are excluded as well as those with disabilities. In addition, photography and sex toy skin tones often excludes people of color, plus-sized and disabled people. Fortunately, there are a growing number of sex educators and bloggers who work to bring awareness to more ethical and equitable approaches to sexuality.

For related information, see some of our related articles, such as: Disability, Sex & Discrimination and Plus-Size Sex Education, Resources & Products.

Love Will Always Win

Throughout history, there has always been an overreactive response from repressed, terrified, and angered people who wish to suppress human sexuality, whether by banning books, songs, or other media. This comes from a position that has and always will lose. Humans are sexual in nature, and to deny it, repress it, and attempt to control it is futile.

I am not referring to blatant unhealthy sexuality such as child pornography or abuse; instead, what I am talking about comes from an underlying wish to control normal and healthy sexuality. The overreactions I am speaking of are often laden with underlying bias and attempts to suppress women, people of color, LGBT+ people, and other marginalized groups.

For example, the attempts to suppress Elvis in the 1950s and after due to his effect on women and the obvious sexual desire they exhibited for him were deemed a threat to those who wished to repress female sexuality and equality. In addition, his overt black-influenced musical choices and dance styles were a clear threat to those who were racist and worried that approval of those cultural influences would promote desegregation and unbiased beliefs. His colorful outfits, hair, and makeup also fueled homophobic slurs.

When you see an overreaction to sexuality with a need to control it and insist upon repression, there is always an underlying fear or insecurity fueling it. It often takes the emotional form of anger and hate while attempting to disguise it as a moral uprising and is often lumped in with a religious message.

However, at its core are fear and insecurity, just like any bullying behavior and insistence to conform. Only genuinely emotionally intelligent people embrace diversity and accept people as they are rather than how they think they should be.

While there may be battles that cause severe damage to those that challenge these attempts to suppress sexuality, the oppressors have already lost the war. Their overreactions are simply to those things that have already gained popularity and are embraced by the majority.

Historically, if you look back at those people who lost their minds with the rise in popularity of Elvis, they are but a distant memory seen as almost laughable. Yet, to this day, there are still those that mimic this type of moral outrage over the next popular trend that exudes our sexual natures, and they, too, will be looked back upon in the same way. Women, people of color, and the LGBT+ community will continue to fight for and achieve equality and equity. We will continue to evolve, and love will always win.

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