The Great Texas Dildo Wars of 2008

Well, I celebrated too soon the new-found legality of female masturbation in Texas (see the classic video to the right about the ongoing sex toy battles in my fine home state). One should never underestimate the lengths to which wingnuts will go to control female sexuality. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who apparently has nothing better to do than to separate women from their dildos, has asked the 5th Circuit Court to rehear the sex toy case.

I'm trying to imagine the mindset of a man who doesn't realize that when you try to take dildos away from women, basically everyone with a brain and/or a sense of humor is going to assume it's because you're afraid you can't handle the competition.

But I am routinely reminded that we face opposition to sexual liberation, the most prominent face of which is the anti-abortion movement that protests clinics and waves bloody fetus signs from street corners. That movement is made up of people who claim to be in it not because they are misogynists who fear female sexuality, nor because they are control freaks who can't stand the idea of someone else having fun. They are in it, they say, because they want to save the unborn babies.

Take, for example, their opposition to making emergency contraception available over the counter. For most of us, this one was a no-brainer: Better contraception access means fewer unintended pregnancies, which translates into fewer abortions. Over-the-counter emergency contraception, then, means the abortion rate goes down -- and since fewer abortions means more "babies saved" in anti-choice-speak, "pro-life" people should embrace it, right?

Wrong. Over-the-counter emergency contraception was framed by reproductive rights opponents as a matter of saving babies, but not in the sense of preventing abortion. Instead, anti-choicers argued that the microscopic fertilized eggs might be sloughed off if you took the pills -- despite the fact that there was no scientific evidence to support this contention, and every bit of research concluded that emergency contraception had no effect on established pregnancies. But no, really, it was all about a "respect for life" instead of a disrespect for female sexuality that manifested itself in an attempt to deprive women of a certain form of contraception. Everything goes back to abortion, we're told.

I realize it's hard to see how a woman masturbating with a dildo is a secret form of abortion. But we promise, this is about the babies and life and stuff. You see, dildos are just so big, and if you stick one up yourself and you've got a fertilized egg banging around in there and don't know it, you could just jostle the little fella and knock him right out. Or at least give the little guy quite a scare. There's no such threat coming from the average wingnut penis, so no need to ban those. Sure, you people with your science and stuff might think that it's impossible to scare a brainless ball of cells, but you have to understand that the good Lord provides little angels for an embryo so they can have all the feelings of fear and prayerfulness and resentment of women's liberation that born wingnuts feel -- at least until the embryos have developed brains and can be trained in Sunday school to hate women all on their very own.

So this is completely, 100 percent about babies. No misogyny, control issues or wariness of female sexuality has any part to play in this.

If that's the case, someone needs to send the attorney general the memo, because he didn't see the need to tie this back to saving babies. But while baby-saving is a killer argument that will obviously convince all cynics that socially conservative anti-choicers have the best of intentions, the attorney general didn't totally flout wingnut standards -- his petition reads like old-fashioned, stodgy slut-shaming. What's a more crucial component of the anti-choice movement than that?

He argues that because criminal laws are generally based on society's moral judgments about right and wrong, the panel majority's decision could invite substantive due process challenges to other, previously uncontroversial criminal prohibitions -- suggesting that laws against incest and bigamy would be the next to go if women are permitted to buy masturbatory aids in Texas.

He should have gone with the saving babies argument. It's all to easy to point to other states that have not seen a complete breakdown of civilization despite large numbers of women hopping on Rabbits in the privacy of their own bedrooms.
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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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