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For Your Own Good: Sex Laws Around the Country

From: Playgirl Magazine,  0ct. 2005

            Sodomy enthusiasts everywhere were heartened when the pivotal Lawrence v. Texas case overturned a collection of laws regulating sexual behaviors that had, until the June 2003 ruling, remained on the books in fourteen American states.  With enforcement still occurring through the new millennium, having such laws declared unconstitutional seemed to signify an era of sexual permissiveness and tolerance.  However, despite this progress, there are still plenty of anti-sex laws that have yet to be rescinded.  These range from the peculiar (it�s illegal for cats to mate without a permit in California ), to the vague (in Florida it is against the law to commit any unnatural or lascivious acts with another person) to the discriminatory (in many states age of consent laws differ for males and females or if partners are of the same sex).  So, although anal sex can no longer get you thrown in the slammer, you might be surprised to find out that a number of sexual activities still can. 

            Almost all societies have prohibitions against certain sex practices.  Long held taboos against incest, bestiality and necrophilia can be found all over the globe and many religions outlaw practices like masturbation and bigamy.  Yet not all legislation surrounding sex has such historical or faith-based origins.  In fact, many laws are simply location or situation specific.  For example in Arizona it is illegal to draw an obscene picture on the bathroom wall of a facility specifically engaged in the �treatment or reduction of ores or metals, in cement works [and] in works using oils, cyanide, acids or quicksilver.�  And, in Texas, a bill that was recently passed by the House, and is now awaiting Senate approval, seeks to outlaw any cheerleading move considered to be sexually suggestive or provocative. The rationale behind this?  According to the bill�s sponsor, Representative Al Edwards, cheerleading routines of this nature can lead to girls, �being pregnant in middle and high schools, dropping out of school, having babies, and contracting AIDS and herpes.�

            Of course, if the bill is passed it might not be long before Texan cheerleaders are once again bumping and grinding their way through football games and state competitions without worrying about legal repercussions. Laws tend to reflect the morals or fears of the era in which they were instituted and their enforcement often wanes over time.  This can be seen around the country.  For instance, though it is technically illegal to engage in any kind of non-missionary position sex in Maryland , there haven�t been any recent reports of cops patrolling the suburbs trying to root out those who like a little sideways action now and then.  Similarly, it is doubtful that many Arizonans have been slapped with a Class 3 Misdemeanor for committing acts, �with the intent of arousing, appealing to or gratifying the lust, passion or sexual desires� of their bedmate. These days it seems that cops in Southwest have better things to do than peep through your windows (an illegal act in North Carolina, if you are a man looking at a woman but not the other way around) trying to catch you and your lover in the act.  The survival of these archaic statutes points less to a strong belief that doing it doggy-style is a crime, than to the disinclination on the part of lawmakers to seem soft on sex.  Really, it was only ten years ago that former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders was ousted for acknowledging that masturbation could be a tool in preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections.  Seeing what happens to others, public figures just don�t want to touch the subject of sex unless it is to decry it.  

            While there are many laws on the books that aren�t enforced, a number of them still are.  Some of the more common ones are those dealing with age of consent and statutory rape. On the surface such laws seems to make sense.  Adults shouldn�t be having sex with children.  But, when you�re seventeen and your boyfriend is eighteen, things get a little murkier and the prospect of seeing your honey locked up for taking you to the prom can be rather daunting.  One of the more high profile statutory rape cases involves a young Kansan named Matthew Limon.  Matthew is currently serving a seventeen year jail sentence for performing consensual oral sex on a fifteen year-old boy one week after himself turning eighteen.  Had he preformed oral sex on a fifteen year-old girl his maximum sentence would have been no more than twelve months. Not only can laws themselves be discriminatory, but so too can be their enforcement.  Until the repeal of the sodomy laws, plenty more gays and lesbians were being charged with crimes than straights. Even now, certain states still criminalize sex acts between same-sex partners that are legal if your lover�s genitals don�t resemble your own.  But, if you think you�re in the clear because you�re not sleeping with your best gal pal, or underage boy-toy, think again.  Even your trusty Hitachi Magic Wand can get you in trouble.

            In Texas , Georgia , Alabama and Mississippi there are some pretty tough laws prohibiting the use and sale of sex toys.  These can manifest themselves in a few different ways.  So, if you forget your vibrator at home while on a trip to Texas you might want to hold off on picking up a new one unless you can prove that it is only going to be used as a �novelty item.�  Now, if you are in Georgia and have a sudden hankering for a buzz, you don�t have to claim gag gift intentions.  You should be able to purchase the gadget legally if you can provide a prescription from your physician. But, be warned, this allowance does not extend to a therapist who only has a Ph.D.  Just as with medication, in Georgia vibrators can only be obtained with an Rx. Unfortunately, when traveling to Mississippi you�re plain out of luck. Section 97-29-105 of the Mississippi Code makes it illegal �to knowingly sell, advertise, publish, or exhibit any three-dimensional devices designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of the human genitalia, also referred to as sexual devices.�  Apparently, the notion of women getting technical help when getting off is a little too much for some lawmakers to handle.            

            Not content to stick to sex toys, last year a Georgian politician, Representative Bill Heath tried to criminalize female genital piercing as part of a larger bill outlawing female genital mutilation.  When told that many women obtain such piercings themselves for sexual and aesthetic reasons a flabbergasted Heath was quoted as saying, �What? I've never seen such a thing. I, uh, I wouldn't approve of anyone doing it. I don't think that's an appropriate thing to be doing.�  After much protest, the bill was amended to criminalize genital piecing only for girls under 18.  Teenage boys on the other hand are still free to seek out as many Prince Alberts as they want.

            People are often surprised at the proliferation of seemingly archaic sex laws and the institution of new ones.  However, America has a long history of legislating sex and when we remember the public outcry over a certain White House intern or Jackson nipple not too long ago, we really shouldn�t be alarmed.   In 1969 Canada ditched it�s sodomy laws.  Then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was quoted as saying, �The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.�   Though many Americans probably agree with this sentiment, it seems that the State in this case has every intention of keeping an eye on certain corners of our bedrooms, for at least a little while longer.


Selected State Laws



Arizona has the proud distinction of being one of twelve states which makes it a crime for unmarried men and women to live together �in a state of open and notorious cohabitation.�



In Colorado you better not invite and unmarried pals to be your houseguests.  In this state, it is illegal for anyone to �make available to another person any facility, knowing that the same is to be used for or in aid of sexual intercourse between persons who are not husband and wife.�



Letting a nudist camp out on your property in Arkansas can get you fined anywhere from fifty to one-thousand dollars and can land you in jail for up to six months.


It�s the nudists themselves who have to be vigilant in Kentucky where, �Each licensed nudist society shall be subject to inspection by the sheriff.�



In Texas you better just hold it no matter how long this line is for the ladies room. Knowingly entering restrooms of the opposite sex is against the law.



Be sure to peel off all your, my other car is a piece of crap, bumper stickers when cruising through Alabama . In this state, any public display of stickers, signs, or writing which depicts �obscene language descriptive of sexual or excretory activities� can get you slapped with a Class C misdemeanor.



Don�t try to get a job in Louisiana as a licensed massage therapist or a massage therapy instructor if you were ever convicted of prostitution.  You are now ineligible.


Popular (Though Unverifiable) Internet Claims

Rhode Island

Unmarried Rhode Islanders caught in the act can be subject to a $10 fine.



Its against the law for a woman to cut her own hair without permission from her husband in this state.


It is illegal for Moose to have sex on the streets.



It is illegal for a female toll booth worker to have sex with a male truck driver in her booth.



Married men cannot talk dirty in their wive's ears during love making.



Men can not have sex with their wives if they have the smell of garlic, onions or sardines on their breath and must brush their teeth if asked.



It is illegal for couples to sleep together in the nude. 


New Jersey

Make sure not to honk your horn while having sex in your car in the garden state. Doing so can land you in jail.


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