December 18, 2003
Not the kind of buzz they're talking about

All right, I can't stand it any more. I've come across the story of Texas' notorious Felonious Sex Toy Selling Housewife too many times to not comment on it. As there really isn't much one can actually add to a story of this magnitude, I'd like to help clarify a bit of Texas law, for those of you who are confused as to why this woman was even arrested. Here's Molly Ivins to explain it to you:

[If] you own six or more dildos in this state, you are a felon, presumed to have intent to distribute. Whereas if you have five or fewer, you are merely a hobbyist.

Hope that helps. Original link via Atrios, Grammar Police, Hope, who has some other useful tidbits for you aspiring vibrator salespeople in Texas (and you know who you are), Morat, Byron, UncleBob, and pretty much every other wisenheimer on the Internet.

UPDATE: Since Eugene Volokh mentioned it, here is the relevant definition:

43.21. Definitions

(a) In this subchapter:

(1) "Obscene" means material or a performance that:

(A) the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest in sex;


(7) "Obscene device" means a device including a dildo or artificial vagina, designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.

Yes, you can actually search the Texas statutes for the word "dildo" and get a hit. We truly do live in a great state.

And the criminal act itself:

43.23. Obscenity


(f) A person who possesses six or more obscene devices or identical or similar obscene articles is presumed to possess them with intent to promote the same.

The very next subsection provides some good news for our defendant:

(g) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that the person who possesses or promotes material or a device proscribed by this section does so for a bona fide medical, psychiatric, judicial, legislative, or law enforcement purpose.

I'm thinking "medical" or maybe "psychiatric" here. Now if they can just arrange to have Chuck Rosenthal argue the state's case when it gets appealed to the Supreme Court, they'll be set.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 18, 2003 to Crime and Punishment | TrackBack

I read this story in the New York papers and the real buzz appears to be that most people that sell sex toys in Texas have to indicate that they are "novelties" in order to get around the law. (Make your own joke about joy buzzers here.)

This reminds me that it was the Texas sodomy laws that were overturned by the Supreme Court. This case also sounds like a "freedom of expression" situation. My only question is why do we never see anything like this on "Cops"? ;-)

Posted by: William Hughes on December 18, 2003 9:34 AM

Wrong show, I think...

"It was 7:30 on another steamy summer morning in Cleburne. I was working in Vice with my partner when the call came in about a sex toys party in the burbs that had gotten out of hand. Some people call these things "marital aids", but they'd call them something else if they saw what we see every day. My name's Friday. I'm a cop."

[cue theme song]

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 18, 2003 9:49 AM

I see some intriguing possibilities for a "Vice City" styled video game.

So I just realized, I had a roommate a while back who's living in Houston now who might qualify for a felony toy-possession indictment. It's too surreal.

Posted by: Kriston Capps on December 18, 2003 10:29 AM

Chuck may be a lousy DA but he's our DA.

That was a cheap shot - accurate but cheap.

Posted by: Charles M on December 18, 2003 12:03 PM

How exactly does a sex toy party get "out of hand"?

Posted by: Beldar on December 18, 2003 4:46 PM

How exactly does a sex toy party get "out of hand"?

[voice of Joe Friday]

You'd be amazed what goes on in the suburbs these days, even in the newer developments. I've seen things that'll curl your hair. These ladies, it not only curled their hair, it frosted and highlighted it, too.

[/voice of Joe Friday]

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on December 19, 2003 9:16 AM