America's War On Sex

Marty Klein

Part 7

Report Chapter
webnovel
webnovel

Battleground: Adult Entertainment- Adult Entertainment- Feverish Dreams, Real Estate Nightmares Last year, New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg famously said, "I don't want a p.o.r.n shop in my neighborhood, and you shouldn't have one in yours."

On the one hand, there's something fundamentally silly about grown-ups running around, tripping all over each other to prevent lap dances and the sale of blowup dolls. You would think the dancers, dolls, and customers alike were wielding grenades, threatening to destroy cities in which people don't patronize strip clubs.

On the other hand, there's something profoundly scary about the ferocity of these continual attacks, the absolute self-confidence with which s.e.xual y conservative people d.a.m.n the beliefs and recreation of their fel ow citizens.

They unashamedly embrace civic coercion-genteel political and financial violence-in a commitment to manipulate government in whatever way necessary to accomplish what they want. Their pa.s.sionate crusade has an almost erotic sheen to it. If violence can spiritual y purify, these people are spiritual y pure.

The target is "adult entertainment": strip clubs, ma.s.sage parlors, art galler-ies, home s.e.x toy parties, erotic theater, topless bars, adult bookstores. And whatever else is designed to provide s.e.xually oriented entertainment.

With communism gone, with racial integration accepted in public and abandoned in private, with terrorism an enemy no one can fight in his own backyard, l.u.s.t-and-perversion is the identified menace of our day, an infinitely expandable threat as handy as Satan-and just as omnipresent, if you're of a mind to see it.

Adult entertainment is a little different than p.o.r.nography. With p.o.r.nography, people look at "bad" pictures or read "bad" words, which are representations representations of "evil impulses." The personal of "evil impulses." The personal enactment enactment of those impulses- of those impulses- actual actual swinging, bis.e.xuality, bondage, exhibitionism-is "pure evil," creating an enormous category of s.e.xual minorities that suffers legal persecution and discrimination every day (see chapter 14). swinging, bis.e.xuality, bondage, exhibitionism-is "pure evil," creating an enormous category of s.e.xual minorities that suffers legal persecution and discrimination every day (see chapter 14).

80.Adult entertainment falls in between; not simple representation, representation, not entirely not entirely enactment. enactment. Entertainment. America has a long love-hate tradition about these transactions. We can't, apparently, live without them; we won't, apparently, admit we can't live without them. Entertainment. America has a long love-hate tradition about these transactions. We can't, apparently, live without them; we won't, apparently, admit we can't live without them.

Civic censors make a point of calling this eroticism "public," even though it's all behind closed doors and is off-limits to the underage or those who can't pay. Since it isn't "private" in the traditional sense, they condemn it as non-intimate, stripping it of any respect, dignity, or legal protection. They've been saying for decades that an erotic experience can't be meaningful if it isn't "intimate."

Society desperately needs a third category, a name for s.e.xual behavior that lies between public (orgies in the street) and private (two people behind closed bedroom doors). We could easily call it "commercial," but that's the precise kiss of death in Puritan America. Other linguistic options are "nonpublic,"

"erotic entertainment," and "recreational." None is perfect.

As a large group of Americans increasingly accepts and partic.i.p.ates in taboo s.e.xuality, the repressive part of society cracks down with increasing fervor. The Internet and the modern lap dance didn't invent this schizophrenic civic morality, it existed during Victorian times, in Thomas Jefferson's home, during the Salem witch trials, as part of the Inquisition, in Chaucer's London, in Paul's own life, and backwards through time beyond that.

But Americans-who typically think "history" is whatever happened before the Dodgers left Brooklyn-see this conflict as uniquely contemporary. And empowered by a sense of American exceptionalism, s.e.xual conservatives are devoted to finally, completely winning this conflict by any means necessary short of nuclear weapons. Nothing is to stain G.o.d's shining city on a hill, not even the s.e.m.e.n of people whose rights are supposedly inalienable, endowed by their Creator.

The ways in which communities across America are successfully limiting their neighbors' expressive and recreational opportunities are endlessly creative, as expensive as necessary, and at the very top of the civic agenda. The coalitions driving this are typically religious (meaning, in America, Christian) at the core, but they attract other const.i.tuencies as well. These include worried parents, greedy business people, conflict-hungry media, savvy law enforcement departments, and cynical politicians who know a good bandwagon when they see one. In the good old days, the scurrilous political tactic of choice was accusing one's opponent of being soft on communism. That smear pales beside the power of today's smear of being soft on hard-core s.e.x.

This is a War on s.e.x, you know. They can deplore the negative impacts on neighborhoods, the exploitation of those poor strippers, 10-year-olds being lured into ma.s.sage parlors (which happens only in Reefer Madness Reefer Madness- type propaganda), and all the marriages destroyed by husbands preferring lap dances to home cooking. In contrast, everyone jokes about golf widows; Battleground: Adult Entertainment 81 Adult Entertainment 81 no one blinks at the number of blown-out knees young athletes suffer, small towns are begging to be destroyed by Wal-Mart, and marriage, well, marriage is in trouble across America.

So it's not the busted neighborhoods, ruined virginal strippers, kids playing Nintendo with hookers, or bored, philandering husbands that are the real issue. It's s.e.x as entertainment. It's people arranging for s.e.x to serve them, rather than people being enslaved by s.e.xual repression. It's the acknowledgement that erotic novelty is not only desirable, it's possible. And it's the a.s.sertion that men and women who choose to use s.e.x in this way can make responsible choices in the rest of their lives.

For those who fear s.e.x, tolerating adult entertainment means collapsing their crucial distinction between good people who repress their s.e.xuality and bad people who don't (and who suffer as a result). If someone can get a lap dance and be a loving father and husband at the same time, the fundamental principle that s.e.xual interest is dangerous is ruined. And there are too many people invested in that principle to let it be spoiled. They will stop at nothing to uphold it. They will use state-sponsored violence, discriminatory zoning, public shame, deceit and misrepresentation, fear, even threats of the Lord's wrath-whatever it takes.

Munic.i.p.alities say this persecution is because of the so-called secondary effects (increased crime, decreased property values, general "blight," increased "immorality"), but it's far more visceral than that-it's having to admit that "that stuff " exists. And some people are willing to destroy the rights of others to make that awful feeling go away.

What's interesting is that while most people don't feel they have the legal (or moral) right to exclude, say, an unwelcome Scientology center or Muslim butcher from their neighborhood or town, many do feel they have the right (indeed, the obligation) to exclude adult businesses. There's a cultural agreement that privileges people's discomfort if it's about s.e.xuality. If you're uncomfortable about blacks, you're a racist; uncomfortable about Jews, you're an anti-Semite; uncomfortable about s.e.x, you're a civic leader. Indeed, politicians vie to show who is the most disgusted with nonconforming s.e.xuality, and who works hardest to protect their const.i.tuents from having to face their discomfort about it.

This being America, of course, there are limits to how much you can eliminate s.e.xual expression and adult businesses. But this being America, courts al the way to the Supreme Court have agreed on various ways of doing so. Relying on alleged secondary effects and concern for public morals are good ones. So is wanting to limit child p.o.r.n, exploiting women, and stopping "trafficking," the new favorite. Laws designed to stop "s.e.x trafficking" in West Virginia or Oklahoma wil have the same effect as the elephant gun I keep in my office: True, I haven't had an elephant problem, but I want to keep it that way. And since the purchase, I haven't seen a single elephant, so the gun must be working.

82."We're not a town that tolerates sin," says mayor after a.s.semblyman after minister. Does an American town really have the option of not not "tolerating sin"? Supposedly, the reason taxpayers give organized religion so many privileges (regarding taxation, zoning, governance, use of the mails, etc.) is that it provides the social good of seducing people into behaving morally. If a town isn't satisfied with how effectively its churches are doing this, it has no legitimate legislative recourse. In a democracy, people "tolerating sin"? Supposedly, the reason taxpayers give organized religion so many privileges (regarding taxation, zoning, governance, use of the mails, etc.) is that it provides the social good of seducing people into behaving morally. If a town isn't satisfied with how effectively its churches are doing this, it has no legitimate legislative recourse. In a democracy, people don don' t t have the right to live in a morally pure place. They can attempt to live in a pure home, but that's it. have the right to live in a morally pure place. They can attempt to live in a pure home, but that's it.

Besides, let he whose home is without sin . . .

ZONING.

Zoning laws are a physical embodiment of our residential dreams and self-image. But America has decreed limits to the use of this tool. For example, cities can't use it to subtly encourage or support racial discrimination or air pollution. Using zoning to prevent specific businesses from locating anywhere in a town simply because "we don't like your kind" is illegal. illegal. Since the Supreme Court (in Since the Supreme Court (in Lawrence v. Texas Lawrence v. Texas) has said government can't legislate with the primary goal of enforcing a moral code, using zoning to do so should be banned as well.

Of course, there are graceful ways to use zoning as a crushing hammer.

New York City, for example, has proposed to allow adult entertainment- as long as it's at least 1,000 feet from a residence. In the shoulder-to-shoulder high-density world of Manhattan, that leaves thousands of locations for strip clubs-all beneath the Hudson River. Similarly, ordinances in small towns that ban adult entertainment within 500 or 1,000 feet of a school, church, park, residence, or government facility eliminate every site in town.

If New York New York is considering this, you know that cities across the country are. is considering this, you know that cities across the country are.

It must seem almost too good to be true for zealots: "You mean, all we have to do is pa.s.s a law saying those nasty businesses can't be here-and they can't be here?!" Other than the customers, business owners, and citizens who value the right to be left alone, who could object?

It's amazing that many Americans complain about government being too big, then feel frustrated when they can't use it in unlimited ways.

HOW A BUST WORKS.

Cities and counties across America spent way over $50 million last year hara.s.sing adult clubs and bookstores. That's a lot of librarians' salaries, a lot of updated firefighting equipment, a lot of preschool cla.s.ses for poor kids- not. not. 1 1 It is estimated that various jurisdictions in Florida alone spent as much as $5 million pursuing strip clubs and other adult entertainment venues in 2005.2 The City of Erie v. Pap City of Erie v. Pap' s A.M. s A.M. case cost Pennsylvania taxpayers at least one million dollars.3 case cost Pennsylvania taxpayers at least one million dollars.3 Battleground: Adult Entertainment 83 Adult Entertainment 83 Here's how it usually works: A community has one or more adult businesses-topless bars, adult bookstores, whatever. Each has paid the necessary business tax (often astronomical, compared to similar non-adult businesses), and is generally content to limit their signage and advertising. People who want to find these places find them.

Many residents or businesses a few blocks away don't even know they exist.

Somebody decides their very existence is awful. It may be a politician running for office, a police department wanting a boost, a religious leader looking for a new cause, an expose by a local newspaper or TV station in search of a story. It is virtually never never a bunch of people a bunch of people actually noticing, actually noticing, "Gee, there's more crime, less virginity, and unhappier wives in the neighborhood of the Kit Kat Klub ever since it opened. Maybe the club is the reason-let's get rid of it!" It's never that way, because that's simply not the reality. "Gee, there's more crime, less virginity, and unhappier wives in the neighborhood of the Kit Kat Klub ever since it opened. Maybe the club is the reason-let's get rid of it!" It's never that way, because that's simply not the reality.

So someone decides to make a fuss, gets some other people riled up, and they pressure the police, mayor, district attorney, or grand jury. Or the police decide to be entrepreneurs, looking for a popular bust that will increase their political and financial support. Either way, two or three police officers then go undercover. These underpaid, overworked cops sit in a strip club, and carefully, professionally, observe the activity there. They take covert photos. If they're in an adult bookstore, they buy some nudie magazines or overpriced d.i.l.d.os.

To get the best quality evidence, they go back night after night, and stay hour after hour. You would too, if you could do that instead of responding to domestic violence calls or muggings.

When the police voyeurs are sated, they typically close the place down. If it's a shop, they seize the inventory. If it's a club, they arrest anyone they please- dancers, ticket takers, janitors. They note any broken lightbulbs or bathrooms missing soap for the scrupulous health inspections which inevitably follow. If only our restaurants were inspected that thoroughly.

Evidence in hand, the prosecution begins. The narrative is always the same: wholesome town versus greedy, disgusting businessman. Sometimes a jury is impaneled to decide whether the dancing or material for sale is "obscene."

In other cases, one or more judges rule on whether the business has violated an ordinance that restricts nudity, obscenity, prost.i.tution, or other victimless crime. The munic.i.p.ality will spend no less than $250,000 for this first round of hara.s.sing the business. If the business wins, the munic.i.p.ality will frequently appeal, throwing good money after bad. Many of these cases go on for years, as cities and counties attempt to eliminate adult businesses, and courts keep reminding them that this is America.4 But this isn't a Jimmy Stewart movie with a simple, happy ending. Many clubs and stores win their cases, but are destroyed by the costs of doing so. Pastors who haven't learned to turn the other cheek when it's a b.u.t.tock say they don't care, as long as the businesses leave town.

Sometimes it works in the opposite direction. Munic.i.p.alities will attempt to zone adult businesses out of existence, and the businesses take the city or 84 84 county to court. Local, state, and federal courts are all over the legal map on the rights of adult businesses to exist and the rights of communities to ban them.

When courts do affirm the right of adult businesses to exist, locales typically respond by changing the rules: nude dancers have to wear pasties, or have to stay a prescribed distance from the audience (in a restraining order neither the dancers nor the audience want), or aren't allowed to touch or be touched, or must be clothed when not on stage. One city requires nude dancers to buy permits, which they have to display while dancing. while dancing. They say they're concerned for the dancers' health and safety.5 They say they're concerned for the dancers' health and safety.5 UNICORNS AND SECONDARY EFFECTS:.

IS ADULT ENTERTAINMENT DANGEROUS?.

Concern about the "secondary effects" of adult entertainment is the last refuge of scoundrels.

Americans are guaranteed the broad right to express themselves regardless of the content they wish to convey. Theoretically, the government may not single out particular forms of expression (like, "The President is insane!" [which is illegal to say in Turkey]) for restriction. Legally defined "obscenity" is one of the few exceptions to this protection. But the citizenry's increasing acceptance of s.e.xual materials in the 1980s made obscenity convictions harder to obtain.

In 1986, the Supreme Court finessed the Const.i.tutional protections of free speech ( Renton v. Playtime Theatres Renton v. Playtime Theatres)6 by creating a new, non-content non-content criterion that munic.i.p.alities could consider when limiting the operations of adult businesses. This was the "secondary effects" (coined by a dissenting Justice Stevens) which adult businesses supposedly have on the surrounding community. And, unlike in every other regulated industry, munic.i.p.alities didn't have to prove these effects existed (nor would businesses have the chance to refute these a.s.sumptions). criterion that munic.i.p.alities could consider when limiting the operations of adult businesses. This was the "secondary effects" (coined by a dissenting Justice Stevens) which adult businesses supposedly have on the surrounding community. And, unlike in every other regulated industry, munic.i.p.alities didn't have to prove these effects existed (nor would businesses have the chance to refute these a.s.sumptions).

The secondary effects that give local government a "compelling interest"

in stopping adult entertainment have typically been crime, reduced property values, "blight," STDs, and a vague "lowered morality."

For years, cities and counties have had the luxury of banning adult entertainment because of these supposed effects. Americans have had no reliable right to enjoy s.e.xually oriented entertainment; across the country, that right abruptly ended whenever local officials decided it was bad for the community. Some of our most respected jurists were uneasy about this. In 1988, Supreme Court Justice William Brennan warned that the secondary effects doctrine "could set the Court on a road that will lead to the evisceration of First Amendment freedoms."7 And that's exactly what happened. For two decades, the secondary effects doctrine has been used to restrict commercial and political speech, with cities citing concerns about noise, security, privacy, appearances appearances of impropriety, compet.i.tion, and of course, "harm to children." of impropriety, compet.i.tion, and of course, "harm to children."

Battleground: Adult Entertainment 85 Adult Entertainment 85 Officials in Erie, Pennsylvania, for example, tried for over 10 years to prevent nudity in the Kandyland strip club. The city knew it couldn't simply ban nude dancing, which the Supreme Court has given some free speech protection, so Erie claimed it was addressing the club's alleged secondary effects on its neighborhood-even though it couldn't prove any.

In 2000, a split court used the secondary effects rationale to uphold the criminalization of nudity. Justice Antonin Scalia argued that society's "traditional judgment" that nude dancing is "immoral" was sufficient justification.8 Justice John Paul Stevens dissented, saying, "To believe that the mandatory addition of pasties and G-strings wil have any kind of noticeable impact on secondary effects requires nothing short of the t.i.tanic surrender to the implausible."9 When experts or businesses challenged munic.i.p.alities to prove the existence of secondary effects, they couldn't. Fulton County, Georgia tried. When their studies didn't find the results they expected, the county ignored them and relied instead on old (and ultimately discredited) studies from other states.

In 2001, a federal court looked disdainfully on this ( Flanigan Flanigan' s Enterprises, s Enterprises, Inc. v. Fulton County, GA Inc. v. Fulton County, GA).10 The county was using deceit to uphold "moral standards." That's what desperation, and the narcissism of fundamentalism, will do.

In a blatant attack on Americans' civil rights, the government validated the secondary effects concept in 2002. In City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, City of Los Angeles v. Alameda Books, the Supreme Court ruled, "It is rational for the city to infer that reducing the concentration of adult businesses in a neighborhood . . . will reduce crime."11 The bookstore's attorney, John Weston, challenged the city to produce evidence of secondary effects. It had none. the Supreme Court ruled, "It is rational for the city to infer that reducing the concentration of adult businesses in a neighborhood . . . will reduce crime."11 The bookstore's attorney, John Weston, challenged the city to produce evidence of secondary effects. It had none.

Backed by the Supreme Court, munic.i.p.alities have written their s.e.xual prejudices into law. Ohio's 2005 law restricting adult entertainment, for example, "finds" it necessary in order to protect "health, safety, morals, and welfare;"

a.s.serts "convincing doc.u.mented evidence" that clubs "have a deleterious effect," "lend themselves to ancillary unlawful and unhealthy activities," and that some employees "engage in a higher incidence of certain types of illicit s.e.xual behavior."12 "Morals," "illicit"-if that's where a law starts, you know where it will end. Similarly, a law banning swing clubs in Phoenix, Arizona, "finds" that these clubs are dangerous to the public welfare.

Munic.i.p.alities and religious leaders also attempt to justify s.e.xual censorship by appealing to "common sense," the same source of wisdom that mandated racial segregation, criminalized oral s.e.x, and declared that rape wasn't possible between husband and wife.

For people who are unfamiliar with a broad range of s.e.xuality, or the experience of adult entertainment, common sense can be very different from the facts. For example, among nightclubs that serve alcohol, those with with nude entertainment have nude entertainment have lower lower rates of crime than clubs that rates of crime than clubs that don don' t t offer nude entertainment.13 Contrary to common sense? Only if you a.s.sume that men offer nude entertainment.13 Contrary to common sense? Only if you a.s.sume that men 86 86 go to strip clubs, see naked women, and get provoked into an uncontrollable frenzy.

In reality, strip clubs have clear rules about behaving respectfully, and most customers are delighted to have visual access to attractive nude women. Since everyone has the same limited access to them, there's nothing to fight about, and the patrons themselves subtly patrol the environment. Men are watching the women and aren't talking very much. At bars without without nudity, men focus more on each other, or on the sports on TV, and they drink more, all of which can lead to violence more easily.14 nudity, men focus more on each other, or on the sports on TV, and they drink more, all of which can lead to violence more easily.14 In America, laws regulating virtually all industries have to be based on fact.

You can't prevent markets from selling ham simply because you believe believe it leads to heart attacks or immorality, you have to prove it first. You can't require drivers to wear seat belts unless you can prove they reduce injury and save lives. it leads to heart attacks or immorality, you have to prove it first. You can't require drivers to wear seat belts unless you can prove they reduce injury and save lives.

But when the subject is s.e.xual entertainment, citizens allow governments to a.s.sume it's bad for customers, bad for entertainers, and bad for neighborhoods.

That's a fundamental weapon in their War on s.e.x, and it simply must stop.

America requires police to use science in detective work, and inspectors to use science in making food safe. It's time to require communities to use science to determine if a business actually ruins neighborhoods or harms families. This data is already already being collected by police departments in every American city; it straightforwardly shows that adult entertainment doesn't usually have these negative effects-which is why cities have never used it, and don't want to. being collected by police departments in every American city; it straightforwardly shows that adult entertainment doesn't usually have these negative effects-which is why cities have never used it, and don't want to.

As far as adult entertainment lowering property values, one club's attorney recently said, "Send all your neighbors to the tax a.s.sessor's office every time the tax a.s.sessment in the area goes up, and let them say, 'We are right next to an adult business, so our property values must be going down.' And the tax a.s.sessor is going to say, 'No, we track this, and the property values are going up.'

That would be good evidence for court. There's a bookstore in Seattle next to a strip club, the tax a.s.sessment last year doubled. If that doesn't refute the idea that adult businesses reduce property values, nothing does."15 Similarly, when the Phoenix, Arizona, club The Chute sold its building, it had tripled tripled in value. in value.

Hardly evidence of plummeting property values.

Preventing property values from declining used to be an excuse to keep blacks from moving into white neighborhoods, which our courts have ruled was simply legitimized discrimination. Keeping strip clubs away for the same reason should be similarly banned.

But Ohio legislator Jim Jordan said studies that look at police reports aren't relevant. He believes people frequenting adult establishments are involved in criminal activity and use drugs and have illicit s.e.x. "Common sense tells you these things are going on," he said. Jordan conceded that he would outlaw all strip joints if he could: "I think they're degrading to women."16 Canada has recently changed its approach to supposed secondary effects.

In 2005, its Supreme Court ruled that swing clubs are legal, overturning the traditional test for indecency-whether an activity violates a "social consensus"

Battleground: Adult Entertainment 87 Adult Entertainment 87 of community standards. "Criminal indecency or obscenity must rest on actual actual harm harm or a significant risk of harm to individuals or society," wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the majority decision. "Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society."17 Some countries attempt to export democracy abroad. Other countries actually practice it. or a significant risk of harm to individuals or society," wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin in the majority decision. "Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society."17 Some countries attempt to export democracy abroad. Other countries actually practice it.

It's not worth attempting to refute the claim that a certain s.e.xually oriented activity-in this case, adult entertainment-decreases the "morality" of partic.i.p.ants or the community. It is worth repeating that the effect of purchasing a product or service on the morality of consenting adult customers is irrelevant irrelevant.

Eating cheeseburgers or buying a motorcycle are both "immoral" choices because they're bad for your health (and, of course, send the wrong message to kids). But if you don't want those choices taken away from you, leave adult entertainment alone.

CUSTOMERS ARE FROM MARS, CIVIC LEADERS.

ARE FROM VENUS.

There are no consumer groups lobbying to protect the rights of adult entertainment patrons. But who is paying for all this stuff that antis.e.x activists are so eager to wipe out?

These are phantom customers-they don't exist in the polity.

Somehow this invisible group supports billions of dollars worth of commercial activity. This presents a logical conflict: if the c.r.a.p is "everywhere,"

who are these millions of customers? If the entertainment is so perverse and marginal, who are all these perverts keeping them in business?

We need to acknowledge all these silent customers, and wonder why they're quiet. If they're ashamed to admit what they do, it's because of social pressure.

Their shame doesn't keep them from doing it, only from acknowledging it.

That's bad for people and towns. There There' s s a secondary effect that should concern everyone. a secondary effect that should concern everyone.

These customers are getting shuffled from town to town. Some eventually give up and take their interests to the Internet and DVDs, although that's not necessarily what they want. They apparently want a live live experience, and some clearly value the experience, and some clearly value the group group experience as well. It's why many sports fans prefer bars or live events instead of watching at home. Consumers of erotic products deserve that opportunity, too. experience as well. It's why many sports fans prefer bars or live events instead of watching at home. Consumers of erotic products deserve that opportunity, too.

Cities generally act as if these consumers are Martians who drop in for a few hours, throw used condoms and beer bottles around, then leave. Naturally, these cities try to make themselves as inhospitable to such aliens as possible.

Indeed, less than three weeks after Sandy Springs became Georgia's newest city last year, its city council drafted new restrictions on the hours and location of adult establishments. Affecting at least half a dozen existing locations, Mayor Eva Galambos said that as far as she's concerned, adult businesses don't 88 88 have a place in the young city. "They don't fit what the business community is trying to do," she said. Who does the mayor, city council, and the "business community" (hardly unanimous, according to newspaper reports) think patronize these adult businesses? The very people who lived there before before incorporation, of course.18 incorporation, of course.18 Naturally, the demand for adult entertainment is somewhat elastic: if you make it inconvenient or dangerous enough, people will patronize it less. But what's the curve? How many units of increased inconvenience will create one unit of decreased attendance? How much of a city's money, civic energy, and dignity is that one unit worth?

And what will the people who are thereby dissuaded from consuming adult entertainment do instead? The desire for a lap dance is not exactly fungible with playing bridge or going ice skating. The reasons people want a lap dance won't go away just because the psychic or financial price goes up. Will they spend more time in church or listening to their spouses' feelings? Only someone totally out of touch with s.e.xuality would think so.

It's obviously too scary for some of us to admit it's our neighbors who patronize adult businesses. If consumers of this stuff are bad, and my neighbors do it, then they are bad-and I can't trust my kids at their house, let them coach soccer, or borrow my lawnmower. Better to pretend we we aren't like that. aren't like that.

Just like we we don't have same-s.e.x fantasies or enjoy dominating or submitting during s.e.x. don't have same-s.e.x fantasies or enjoy dominating or submitting during s.e.x.

There's a fundamental narcissism of politicians and religious leaders regarding adult entertainment. Bluenoses a.s.sume that since they they would feel ashamed, dirty, and withdrawn from their family if they went to a strip club, patrons who would feel ashamed, dirty, and withdrawn from their family if they went to a strip club, patrons who do do go feel the same way. Antis.e.xuals a.s.sume that everyone winds up at adult bookstores via repression and degradation (which is how an antis.e.x person go feel the same way. Antis.e.xuals a.s.sume that everyone winds up at adult bookstores via repression and degradation (which is how an antis.e.x person would would get there), not via celebration or choice or even mild loneliness. get there), not via celebration or choice or even mild loneliness.

There simply aren't enough perverts to support thriving local adult businesses. So customers are either coming from surrounding towns-which is what every every town implausibly says, too-or the customers are not perverts after all. For a would-be censor, which is more frightening, the idea that a bunch of perverts are watching a strip show, or the idea that the people watching a strip show are town implausibly says, too-or the customers are not perverts after all. For a would-be censor, which is more frightening, the idea that a bunch of perverts are watching a strip show, or the idea that the people watching a strip show are not not perverts? If the former is true, they can mobilize about it. perverts? If the former is true, they can mobilize about it.

If the latter is, however, they have to change their entire view of civic life and reevaluate their goals and tactics. They might actually even have to think about whether customers had some political clout of their own. Thus, the Right is firmly committed to the customer-as-pervert model. There's just no motivation to see it any other way.

BUZZING AFTER VIBRATORS.

More than 1,000,000 vibrators were bought in the United States last year.

And the year before that. And, presumably, will be next year.19 Battleground: Adult Entertainment 89 Adult Entertainment 89 Before there were DVDs, before there was the Playboy Channel, before there was videotape, there were adult bookstores. They sold "dirty magazines"

and "adult novelties," and sometimes had booths in which you could watch so-called blue movies. They were often in seedy neighborhoods, frequented by people who slunk in, hoping to avoid notice. Most store owners had virtually no rights other than what they could buy from local cops.

Now adult stores are better lit, and often better located. They sell DVDs, videotapes, and magazines. They often have video booths, and they sell vibrators, d.i.l.d.os, and other toys. Customers include cla.s.sy people and even couples, in addition to the grim, avoid-any-eye-contact guys. n.o.body goes there looking for attention. Store owners are still treated like dirt.

s.e.x toys used to be expensive, c.r.a.ppy gadgets sold mostly in c.r.a.ppy places, but in 1977, San Francisco s.e.x educator Joani Blank opened a new kind of well-lit, unapologetic store. Good Vibrations offered accurate s.e.xuality information and quality s.e.x toys-selected by female employees, sold to female customers. Stores operated by women opened in several more cities in the 1980s and 90s, and now they're in almost every metropolis in the country.

Nevertheless, those who fear the idea of women and men actually shaping their own s.e.xual experience are trying to shut these stores down in every one of the 50 states. It's ironic, because s.e.x toys are one of the best ways to improve s.e.xual satisfaction, especially in long-term relationships that lack creativity, playfulness, or communication. Seeing them as some kind of threat is really page 1 in the s.e.xual misunderstanding textbook.

The state of Alabama has been in and out of court, trying to criminalize the sale of vibrators for a decade. for a decade. When a U.S. district judge ruled against the state ban on s.e.x-toy sales-twice-the state appealed-twice. Finally, a federal court actually ruled that the government has a compelling interest in keeping When a U.S. district judge ruled against the state ban on s.e.x-toy sales-twice-the state appealed-twice. Finally, a federal court actually ruled that the government has a compelling interest in keeping "o.r.g.a.s.m stimulating paraphernalia" out of our hands.20 Were they concerned that women would stop having s.e.x with their husbands if they could buzz off with a vibrator?

The court also ruled that Americans do not not have a "fundamental right" to use "s.e.xual devices," and so the men and women in the Alabama legislature have the right to police the sale of these devices. In a bizarre forecast (that shows just how frightened of s.e.xuality the judges are), the court worried that if they established a right to s.e.xual privacy, they might be required to uphold that right in cases "including, for example, those involving adult incest, prost.i.tution, obscenity, and the like."21 have a "fundamental right" to use "s.e.xual devices," and so the men and women in the Alabama legislature have the right to police the sale of these devices. In a bizarre forecast (that shows just how frightened of s.e.xuality the judges are), the court worried that if they established a right to s.e.xual privacy, they might be required to uphold that right in cases "including, for example, those involving adult incest, prost.i.tution, obscenity, and the like."21 So although every Alabaman has a fundamental right to own a gun, they don't have the same right to own a d.i.l.d.o.

Six other states (Georgia, Mississippi, Indiana, Texas, Louisiana, and Virginia) also outlaw the sale of s.e.x toys. Even selling these items at home among friends can invite jail time, as Joanne Webb discovered. The church-going mother and former school teacher was arrested in a Dallas suburb in 2003, and faced a year in jail. She was charged with obscenity for selling 90 90 a vibrator to undercover narcotics narcotics officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple. Where? At a neighbor's home, who was hosting a Pa.s.sion Party. Has the narcotics squad finished cleaning up all the dangerous illegal drugs in town? officers posing as a dysfunctional married couple. Where? At a neighbor's home, who was hosting a Pa.s.sion Party. Has the narcotics squad finished cleaning up all the dangerous illegal drugs in town?

That's how common vibrator use is now-it's made it onto the Right's radar, making those who sell or enjoy them more vulnerable than ever before.

There's a recurring theme here. Adult entertainment involves women owning their bodies and s.e.xuality, choosing to use them for self-expression and income. s.e.x toys are a way for women to own their bodies, taking charge of their s.e.xual satisfaction. These are new concepts. Remember, rape used to be a crime against the victim's husband or father. And it used to be legal y impossible to rape one's own wife-unlimited s.e.xual access to her was a.s.sumed. One reason s.e.xual entertainment is outlawed is that it legitimizes women's ownership of their own bodies and s.e.xuality. Some people fear this wil upset the whole social order. They're half right. It wil upset any social order based on repression of, and male control of, female s.e.xuality.

You May Also Like