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Is It Time for Kinkster Civil Rights?

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All over the world and throughout history, people have had to struggle to win the right to be treated equally within their society despite being different. It’s a baffling and depressing testament to how little progress we’ve made as a civilization. Why aren’t civil rights for everybody taken for granted by now? Why do people still want to discriminate based on race, religion, gender, orientation, and so on?

As it’s a hot topic in the news, we hardly have to reach far to make our case that LGBT rights are still under attack in North America. American politicians continue to invoke God in oppressing LGBTs. Hate crimes against LGBT groups continue. And as for that controversial bathroom bill preventing people from using restrooms matching their preferred gender, it’s back and fighting to pass as always.

The present author, were he decreed in charge, would love to solve the problem in the most pragmatic way possible: Designate one gender only. Since we all have at least one X chromosome, the rest can be written off as mere decoration and just like that, we’re all female. Now we all have to use the same bathroom regardless. No, nobody would be happy, but bearing a few months of being awkward and uncomfortable about it, maybe we’d realize after all that it’s no big deal and then the problem goes away forever. There, we’re all equal, next problem, please.

After LGBT Rights: BDSM Rights

There’s another skirmish on the sexual civil rights front that so far we’ve been neglecting, but perhaps it’s time we devoted a bit more print to the topic. That would be BDSM rights: The right to live an alternative lifestyle and living arrangement according to what the individual sees fit. Right now, there is no possible legal way to designate a consensual power exchange relationship, a poly household, or any of the various other alternative lifestyle practices. Beyond that, various aspects of alternative sexual practices are still listed as crimes, in outdated laws that still get enforced.

Law blogs like this one use the popularity of the Fifty Shades series to point out that there is no legal definition for consensual BDSM relationships — which means no legal protection when things go awry. Beyond that, how do we designate the difference between abuse and consensual play? Many kinksters have related the fear of nosy neighbors and unwanted law enforcement visits. To say nothing of having the doctor at your next physical checkup ask funny questions about the occasional bruise on the rear end.

It’s come up in court in at least one case, Doe vs. George Mason University in East Virginia. The court finding in the case ruled that consensual BDSM activities are not protected rights. There have been several cases where people were denied the legal right to consensual BDSM activities, including California, Texas, Iowa, and New York. Beyond that, laws against multiple-participant relationships, aimed at polygamy and polyandry, also work against people in open or swinging relationships. In fact, plain old adultery is still illegal in some states. Now we’re all guilty!

Laws Against Sex Toys

Sex toys are another aspect of alternative sexual practices that are under attack. What, sex toys? Yes, really, Texas had a law against plain old dildos, and Senator (and former presidential candidate) Ted Cruz defended it. In a state notorious for championing the right to own and carry a gun, you could go to jail for a vibrator. A Texas stay-at-home mom found out the hard way when she was arrested for holding a “Passion Party” in her home, selling sex toys out of a catalog. Apparently, this was a big enough deal that two undercover officers attended the party, posing as customers, and then arrested the woman for violating obscenity laws.

There are bizarre laws like this all over the United States, including the infamous laws against sodomy, which stay on the books in twelve states long after they were ordered repealed.

We Need to Fight Harder

At this point, things have gotten pretty ridiculous for sexual freedom. Half the world is still fighting for plain old pro-choice laws, letting a woman have the freedom to say whether or not she’s having a baby. Beyond that, we have laws regulating what equipment you can use to pleasure yourself, what positions you can engage a partner in during sex, the nature of your relationship, and dictating how many people can be concerned in it.

There has been tiny, steady progress in pushing for sexual civil rights in recent decades, such as legalizing same-gender marriage in the United States — an idea that still doesn’t rest easy with many in the country. But we are not truly free until all of us can enjoy our passions however we want, with whatever toys we want, with whatever partners we want.

Further reading: Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in Our Free Country by Peter McWilliams — presents some refreshing thinking on the topic of victim-less crimes. And when a crime has no victim, what is the justification for the law making it a crime?

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