When Sex Is Not as Private as You Expect

"When you have a right to engage in certain sexual conducts, sometimes products are involved. … You have a right to use sex devices in the privacy of your own bedroom. You can't enjoy that right unless you can buy the sex toys," she said.

But the 11th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled on Jan. 31, 2001 that communities have a "legitimate legislative interest in discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex" — masturbation, in other words — because that may be "detrimental to the health and morality of the State." After numerous appeals affirming the inital ruling, the case was finally settled when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal last October.

Oddly, however, Pleasures is still in business, because the law makes an exception if a sex toy is sold for a medical purpose.

"I do not sell sex toys for enjoyment, no," Williams said. "I only sell sex toys for medical reasons."

Her shop hands out a questionnaire to every customer, asking questions such as, "Do you or your partner have difficulty having an orgasm?" or "Do you climax too quickly?" Saying "yes" once constitutes a medical purpose.

Who's the government protecting? It's not as if anyone has been killed by a vibrator.

The Alabama state senator who sponsored the legislation wouldn't talk. But Sprigg of Family Research Council shared his opinion.

"The government is protecting actually the people who patronize those shops because I don't think it's in their interest to use pornography and sex toys," he said.

But don't adults get to choose what's in their interest?

"We have to look at society's interest as well," Sprigg said. "Society does have an interest in people's private sexual behavior."

No, it doesn't, shopowner Williams countered. She believes private should mean private.

"They will have to pry this vibrator from my cold dead hand before I stop selling them," she said.

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