The discussion centers around the absurdity of anti-sex laws like the one just passed in Alabama,
According to a federal court decision announced yesterday (Valentine’s Day!), it’s perfectly fine for the state of Alabama to criminalize the sale of sex toys. Just to put this in context — 41 years after the Supreme Court decided it was unconstitutional to restrict the sale of condoms, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit thinks it’s fine for Alabama to jail (up to one year for first violation) or fine (up to $50,000) anyone who gets caught selling as much as a dildo. (PDF of the statue is here.)
the one that landed Genarlow Wilson in jail,
Genarlow Wilson sits in prison despite being a good son, a good athlete and high school student with a 3.2 GPA. He never had any criminal trouble. On the day he was to sit for the SAT, at seventeen years old, his life changed forever. He was arrested. In Douglas County he was accused of inappropriate sexual acts at a News Year’s Eve party. A jury acquitted him of the allegation of Rape but convicted him of Aggravated Child Molestation for a voluntary act of oral sex with another teenager. He was 17, and she was 15.
Along with the label “child molester” which will require him throughout his life to be on a sexual offender registry, Genarlow received a sentence of eleven years — a mandatory 10 years in prison and 1 year on probation.
the one that had the Thomases, in jail for violating Tennessee law even though they’d never so much as visited the Volunteer State,
The appeals court ruled against the AABBS sysops on all counts, citing a presumed ability of the Thomases to figure out which jurisdictions are more conservative than their own, and deny access to users from those jurisdictions. It is clear that the judges do not know enough about the nature of computer networking (not to mention presume almost psychic predictive power on the part of the accused to decide which jurisdictions are litigiously conservative.)
and the insanity that got school teacher Julie Amaro convicted of providing pornographic material to children in her class even though it was a bit of malware, not Julie, which was responsible
A substitute teacher in Connecticut let some kids in her classroom use a computer on which porn pop-ups appeared. She has been convicted and is facing 40 years in prison if her conviction for exposing children to pornography is not overturned.
The list of people victimized not by sex but by draconian, puritanical laws against sex goes on and on. Inestimable damage is being done to innocent people in the name of a religious war on sex, and Elizabeth takes a deep and thoughtful look at some of the root cause of this continuing travesty.
What is going on in our culture that causes us to make such inane sexual/social policy as we often do, here in the United States? Why do our courts and our legislatures make the kinds of decisions they do? Certainly sometimes it’s “bad cases make bad law,” and other times it’s “bad laws make bad cases.” But either way, the question remains: Why do we have so many bad laws and bad cases? Some thoughts:
While reading a book review recently, I think that I stumbled upon part of the answer. Meghan O’Rourke, reviewing Unhooked, by Laura Sessions Stepp, writes that the book seems to try to present a “concerned” view of college girls and their casual sex encounters, but that “just below its surface lurk the usual naked (and prurient) fears about girls and sex: Girls who put out are going to get hurt.”
When I read that line, the combining of “prurience” and “fear” struck me, hard. What if the primary way that mainstream America can own up to its interest in sex is by indulging in and expression fear about it. Do our lurking sexual curiosities about children, or about teenagers (girls, particularly) make us so uncomfortable that we channel them into fears about the same? And then do those fears get expressed in media, and law, and further narrow the range of acceptable sexual expression, causing more fear and shame?
Hop on over to Sex In The Public Square and voice your thoughts and insights. And when nobody’s looking (Heaven forbid!), maybe just go out and take Elizabeth’s blog title a bit more literally.