Passion Police Arrest Sex Toys Saleswoman

ByABC News via logo

B U R L E S O N, Texas, Jan. 22, 2004 -- Like many saleswomen before her, 43-year-old Joanne Webb made a living by toting her plastic products from house to house for little get-togethers with women interested in making their everyday lives better and easier.

Webb, who is married with children, says she found a real sense of accomplishment in her lucrative career … until she was arrested by two undercover narcotics investigators.

"I was in shock. My heart was racing. I was in fear," said Webb on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "I thought, 'How could this be?' "

Webb, a former elementary school teacher, was arrested on charges that she broke a Texas obscenity law that bans the sale of items "designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs."

Webb says the investigators, who had posed as a couple, had her arrested after she helped them choose a few sex toys to purchase through Passion Parties, a company she joined in June. She now faces a year in prison and a $4,000 fine if convicted.

Webb is just one of many women — housewives, grandmothers and mothers — who have joined Passion Parties in an effort to make a living while educating ladies on how to spice up their sex life. She distinguishes the so-called passion parties from Tupperware parties with the phrase "they burp, we buzz," but she says her parties are just as innocent as those featuring food storage items.

"I saw this as great opportunity to help educate women, help encourage them to open up the lines of communication between them and their partners and be able to enhance their relationships," explains Webb, who organizes the parties in and around Burleson, Texas, 15 miles south of Fort Worth.

Webb's husband of 20 years, Chris, says his wife's arrest is an outrage.

"I'm proud of Joanne beyond belief," he says. "I just see her as a national hero … standing up for other women in her business, standing up for women and couples around the country, even around the world to express themselves and love one another."Joanne Webb says she never tried to hide her means of employment because she was never concerned about how it would be perceived.

She certainly never thought she would be arrested for selling passion products at parties. She had even joined her local Chamber of Commerce before her arrest, which came about after law enforcement officials received an anonymous phone call.

Webb's Fort Worth attorney, BeAnn Sisemore, says she plans to challenge as unconstitutional the obscenity law used to charge the saleswoman.

Sisemore says Webb didn't get into legal trouble for selling vibrators and other sex toys, which some businesses market under the umbrella of "novelty items" or "gag gifts." Instead, Sisemore says Webb was nabbed for explaining how to use them.

"We believe it is unconstitutional and believe it is overbroad. The whole purpose of this statute appears to be that you can't have healthy dialogue and communication. We think that's a problem," Sisemore argues.

Webb says she took on the sales job as a way to bring a second income into the household. The mother of three, who says most of her customers are housewives looking to resuscitate their sex life with their husbands, is not sure why she became a target while other saleswomen have not.

Webb says she has never heard of another Passion Parties representative being arrested in the 10-year history of the company. Sales representatives from Passion Parties sell a wide array of sex accouterments, along with more traditional bedroom accessories such as lotions, creams and lingerie.

The company has 3,200 salespeople in the United States and Canada. Webb says six other Passion Parties saleswomen serve the area around Burleson.