Jul 142017
 

Dildo Diaries (2002) DVD

Dildo Diaries (2002) and the Downunder Toys Hot Banana Rod.

Buying a sex toy is a snap these days. Simply type “adult shop” into your Yelp app, or enter the product name into Google, and in mere seconds you can find a place to purchase the dildo or vibrator of your desires. We take this for granted. I take it for granted. But as recently as 9 years ago, it wasn’t that easy — especially in the South.

Dildo Diaries (2002) is a documentary chronicling the absurdity of Texas’ anti-sex toy legislation. Directed by Laura Barton and Judy Wilder, it’s a joyous defense of our right to purchase and use sex toys. It’s also an invaluable historical artifact, a reminder that in a country governed by old white guys, archaic laws — especially regarding sex — persist far longer than is reasonable.

Seeing Texas’ law spelled out in Comic Sans feels both surreal and appropriate, as the beginning of the documentary reveals that the state not only prohibits the sale or promotion of “obscene devices . . . for the stimulation of human genital organs,” it also outlaws the possession of 6 or more said devices.

Text in Comic Sans from Texas' law: "A person who possesses six or more obscene devices is presumed to possess them with intent to promote the same."

You’re reading that right. Owning 6 or more sex toys means you intend to sell or promote them. Because everyone knows the sixth dildo is the point of no return, the gateway drug into nefarious sex toy distribution. It’s the dildo that makes you quit your job and go to work for the sex toy underground, which is most certainly a real thing and not something I just made up to sound cool.

The sixth dildo is also the dildo that turns you into a felon, because THIS IS ACTUALLY A FELONY.

Columnist Molly Ivins looking enraged

I agree, Molly Ivins.

The law was enacted in 1973, championed by some douchenozzle by the name of Walter Mengden Jr. His nickname was “Mad Dog” because when he got up to speak, other members of the house would BARK AND HOWL. The documentary tells us nothing else about this man, ostensibly because that says it all.

To see this fucked up law in action, we travel to a sex shop in Austin called Forbidden Fruit. Here, to circumvent the law, they do not use “the d-word.” When the filmmaker asks for a dildo, the clerk replies swiftly, “we actually don’t sell dildos here, those are illegal in Texas.” What they do sell are “educational models.” The clerk, whose shirt ironically reads Don’t Trust Me, begins placing various “models” on the countertop.

Clerk at Forbidden Fruit sex shop with dildos — err, "educational models."

The filmmaker catches on to this practice, telling the clerk she needs to buy a product “to educate a friend.” The clerk cracks a brief, knowing smile, before returning to please-don’t-prosecute-me mode to explain that items with suction cup bases are great for demonstrating condom application.

In this arbitrarily convoluted world, sex shops can sell items that resemble penises as long as they don’t vibrate, and they can sell things that vibrate as long as they don’t look like penises, but customers are forced to sign a release form stating their purchase is for “artistic, scientific, or educational purposes.”

Sign at Forbidden Fruit sex shop: "Why We Do Not Sell Dildos"

One poor soul who merely wanted to buy a strap-on is interviewed about her experience. She had to adjust her language, explaining that her “demonstrator” was having trouble getting a condom on the “educational model” and therefore was afraid she might be “losing the audience.” I shit you not — this is the kind of verbal gymnastics required to buy an adult product.

“What are these used for?” the filmmaker asks, pointing to a line-up of anal toys in the case. “These are butt plugs,” the clerk replies matter-of-factly. “The anus is not defined as a sexual orifice by Texas law, so you can buy whatever you want to go there.” Don’t let this lull you into thinking Texas is a-okay with butts, though, because we’re about to witness a horrible example of just how NOT OKAY they are.

At one point in the film, a woman outside a showing of The Vagina Monologues wonders breezily why women can’t just lobby to overturn the law? Ah, you blissfully ignorant creature, perhaps you’ve never met MEN. Or, as Rep. Debra Danberg calls the Texan ones, “bubbas.” It’s an uphill battle, considering these dudes think sex toys 1) promote deviant behavior, 2) are against the bible, 3) bring corruption to the state of Texas. You know, just general, all-purpose, unspecified corruption.

They also think discussing sex on the house floor is hi-lar-i-ous.

A total asshole by the name of Warren Chisum

This is Rep. Warren Chisum, smug bastard and resident white guy villain of the film whose last name sounds remarkably like “jizzum.” Chisum fought to criminalize sodomy, believing that people who engage in the practice should be hanged. In an infuriating bit of footage (that is apparently the most requested video of a house debate in the history of Texas), Rep. Danberg takes Chisum to task, asking him pointedly what she should do if her husband’s penis accidentally touches her anus.

I can’t decide whether I love or hate the people snickering behind him?

The filmmaker asks Chisum if he’s aware this is a billion-dollar industry in the US. “I’m aware of that… mostly run by organized crime, I suspect,” he says with a shit-eating grin. SURE, GUY, SURE. JUST MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS, THERE. Can you imagine if people in the adult industry were taking hits out on each other? I’m mad about bad sex toys, but I’m not that mad. Also, we’re too busy continually trying to prove our legitimacy to the rest of the world?

We need a reprieve from this bullshit. Quick, let’s blot out our pain with some bright lights and loud sounds in the place all sex industry movies inevitably go: Las Vegas for the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo!

Dudes at AVN showing off their Drilldos

An intense man yelling at the camera at AVN, while wearing a sparkly cowboy hat

A plush penis touching itself. Yeah.

OK, this is not helping our case. New idea: a visit to Topco Sales, a not-so-little family sex toy business in San Fernando, California.

Scott Tucker, president of Topco Sales, backed by a wall of sex toys

Scott Tucker is the president of Topco, and I’m kind of in love with him. Flanked on all sides by ~blasphemous~ items, he speaks in a soft, unhurried way, gently bringing the truth into this decidedly ridiculous situation. What even is “phallic-shaped,” he wonders, in the language of an anti-sex toy law? If items designed to stimulate the genitalia are illegal, are feathers illegal? If the people of Texas can buy weapons to experience the thrill of shooting (cut to close-ups of dead animals in Chisum’s office — a sick burn), why can’t they buy sex toys to experience the thrill of orgasm?

Ahhhhhh. I want to fall asleep to the sound of his logic.

Indeed, it seems awfully hypocritical for republicans to be so pro gun rights yet so anti sex toys. Government should stay out of our rifle closets, I guess, but are free to invade our bedrooms — after all, there might be something perverted going on in there!

At Topco we talk to dildo molding guy Fernando who’s worked for the company for 20 years, then we watch them take a cast of a pornstar’s dick (“it feels like I’ve dropped my ice cream on myself… naked”).

Dildo molding guy at Topco, smilin'

This guy loves making dildo molds and he doesn’t give a fuck what you think.

Pornstar Anton Michaels having his penis molded at Topco

Then we tour the production lines. I must admit got a bit bored at this part. So much jelly nonsense, and really, how many times have I watched a sex toy factory worker gingerly paint blue veins onto a dildo? Answer: too many times.

A factory worker painting blue veins on a dildo at Topco

Meanwhile in San Francisco, those free-wheelin’ hippies are up to no good as usual, advocating for sex toys with, um, what do you call it… common sense?! We meet Annie Sprinkle with her voluminous bosom, who likens the Texas law to “making hot fudge sundaes illegal,” and Carol Queen at Good Vibrations reminds us that “the nerve endings on a clitoris are just about the same as the nerve endings around the corona of a penis… most of those legislators could probably use a good vibrator themselves.”

Annie Sprinkle, naked in a hot tub

Perfect, yes.

Finally, what sort of sex toy documentary would this be without a romp back to the 1800s, when vibrators were used to cure “hysteria”? And so we arrive at the Museum of Questionable Medical Devices in Minneapolis, where this kind gentleman, Bob McCoy, is happy to walk us through his collection of old-timey sex toys. His museum boasts 8 sets of “rectal dilators,” all of which were donated anonymously (was somebody cleaning out grandpa’s secret chest?).

I lost my shit when I saw this accessory that connects your vibrator to your rocking chair to make a VIBRATING ROCKING CHAIR…

A vintage clamp that could attach a vibrator to a rocking chair

…and here’s a PROSTATE GLAND WARMER from 1918, said to “excite a man’s abdominal brain”:

A vintage prostate gland warmer

But it’s not all fun and games and abdominal brain orgasms. Dildo Diaries always returns to the truth of the matter, reminding us about the implications of this law. Criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Douglas notes, “the government intrusion into individuality — how you have sex, what you fantasize about — that’s part of an unconscious effort by government to control and eliminate individuality and dissent. [The law] inspires a distrust and contempt for government.” Even today, this feels very raw — and very real.

There’s a good ending to the story, kind of: a few sex shops took Texas to court over the law, and in 2008, they won. Turns out, restricting the sale and use of sex toys is unconstitutional and a violation of privacy! It’s now legal to walk into a sex shop and ask for a dildo, to accrue more than a handful of sex toys without becoming a criminal, and even to have sexual relations with ANUSES!

Yet still, it’s not over. In Alabama, you can only buy a sex toy if it’s for a medical, educational, or artistic reason — not simply self-gratification. No, never that.

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