Sexual Intelligence Awards, 2008

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Each year, Sexual Intelligence Awards honor individuals and organizations which challenge the sexual fear, unrealistic expectations, and government hypocrisy that undermine love, sex, and relationships—and political freedom—today.

One of this year’s recipients is Sherri Williams, Sex Toy Activist. Here’s why:

For nine years the state of Alabama has insisted that Sherri Williams is a criminal. And so she has taken the state to court over and over during those nine years. She has won a handful of times, only to have the state appeal and win a subsequent round in court.

As we have documented (SI #s 9, 33, 39, 54), Alabama has criminalized the sale of sex toys. And that’s what Williams does for a living—sell objects to adults designed to enhance their sexual pleasure. “Dangerous,” “immoral,” “obscene” objects like vibrators, dildoes, anal beads.

Last fall Williams (and a dedicated team of pro bono attorneys) asked the Supreme Court to overturn a recent, final decision affirming Alabama’s right to criminalize sex toys. When the Supreme Court declined to take the case, it looked like Williams—and five million Alabamans—had reached the end of the road. But earlier this month, a Circuit Court overturned Texas’ law banning sex toys. The case had been brought by another SI Award winner, our beloved Phil Harvey (SI #s 18, 67, 76).

This leaves Alabama holding the bag (empty, as it were) on sex toys. Most observers agree that Alabama’s law will either wither or be repealed. Either way, most people will live and die without knowing about Sherri Williams’ fight. We salute her for her commitment.

Why is the fight for sex toys important? Because anti-vibrator laws are based on the belief that the state has the right—indeed, the obligation—to patrol the “morality” and “safety” of private bedroom behavior. Such beliefs have been used to criminalize contraception, homosexuality, pornography, and sadomasochism. They can be used to criminalize anything—adultery, oral sex, premarital sex.

Any of those interest you?

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