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Old 02-11-2004, 12:07 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Texas Mom Faces Trial for Sex Toy Sales

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From CNN.com

DALLAS, Texas (Reuters) -- Joanne Webb is a mother of three, a Baptist, a booster of the town of Burleson, Texas, and a former schoolteacher. She also faces trial for being a smut merchant.

Webb, 43, was arrested in November by two undercover police officers for selling sexual toys and charged with violating Texas obscenity laws. She could face up to a year in jail and a fine of $4,000 if convicted.

Webb is a representative for Passion Parties, a California company marketing potions, lotions and sexual toys sold at gatherings that mimic Tupperware parties.

Women over 18 meet in a private home for what the company calls a "girl's night out of giggles and fun," during which products designed to enhance sex lives are sold.

It was not a secret in Burleson, a small town near Fort Worth, that Webb sold vibrators, edible creams and racy lingerie.

But not everyone was happy about it.

According to reports in the local media, police said a few residents, who they declined to identify, lodged complaints. A few prominent citizens with strong Christian beliefs were angered by Webb and her activities and asked police to investigate, local media reported.

Two undercover police officers posed as a couple trying to spice up their love life and Webb sold the woman a vibrator. Webb instructed her on its use and explained how it could enhance lovemaking.

That's where she got into trouble.

Texas law allows for the sale of sexual toys as long as they are billed as novelties, BeAnn Sisemore, a Fort Worth attorney representing Webb, told the Houston Chronicle before a gag order was issued by the judge presiding over the case. But when a person markets sex toys in a direct manner that shows their actual role in sex, then that person is subject to obscenity charges, she told the newspaper.

Webb said she turned to Passion Parties to supplement her family's income when her husband's construction business went into a slump.

"For women to become self-confident in their sexuality ... that's what I'm in this for," Webb told the Dallas Morning News before the gag order was imposed.

She added that because of her arrest, she has found herself in a role she never imagined -- a public advocate for allowing women and couples to make personal decisions about their sex lives.

Sex, lives and passion parties
Police and Johnson County prosecutors declined to discuss the case, even before the gag order was issued.

Gloria Gillaspie, a pastor at Lighthouse Church in Burleson, said she has met and counseled some women who had talked to Webb about the products she sold.

"It was causing problems with their marriages," she said.

Gillaspie said Webb and her family were asked to leave two churches in town. She did not name the churches.

"They didn't want to comply with what was really Christian conduct and that is why they were asked to leave those churches," Gillaspie said.

But James Brown, a member of the local chamber of commerce and an acquaintance of Webb's, told Reuters: "Most of the people in town support Joanne."

Sisemore said she wants to use this case to overturn obscenity laws in Texas and other states.

"I will fight this all the way with her," Sisemore told the Houston Chronicle. "This is the first time I have felt that my government has overstepped its boundaries."

Sisemore has said she plans to file a federal lawsuit challenging Texas obscenity laws, which she said are so vague that they could be used to prosecute anyone who uses or sells condoms designed to provide stimulation for sexual pleasure.

Patricia Davis, a 59-year-old grandmother and president of Passion Parties, said: "We are very proud of Joanne Webb. She believes in the mission of the company and she is doing a really nice job of representing us."

Passion Parties has been doing booming business. The company racked up $20 million in sales in 2003 and saw 30 months of consecutive growth above the 50 percent mark.

The company has representatives in every state and is doing some of its best business in California, New York and the Bible Belt, a section of the United States where Christian beliefs and clergy are influential.

"Women are looking for ways to enhance their relationship, enhance their sensuality and they have nowhere to go," Davis said.

When women get together at a friend's home to peruse body lotions, shower gels and battery-operated devices the company calls "passion toys," Davis said many are able to overcome embarrassment and talk openly about sex.

"We are doing a lot to help women, to help couples and to help families," Davis said.
Just another reason why the government needs to stay out of the bedroom.
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Old 02-11-2004, 12:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I can't believe that something like this can still happen... sure the laws are on the books but that doesn't mean they need to be enforced to the letter of the law.

/shakes his head in disgust.
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Old 02-11-2004, 12:14 PM   #3 (permalink)
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WTF? Why the fuck do paople have such a problem about normal stuff?
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Old 02-11-2004, 12:16 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Now can we burn the churches????

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Old 02-11-2004, 12:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Yep I think a bit of church burning is in order ! It is scary that the police actually took the complaint seriously and wasted time and money investigating it. I assume that their time could not be better spent catching muggers or burglars or drug dealers etc.
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Old 02-11-2004, 01:31 PM   #6 (permalink)
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thats insane... i had no idea that people were this dumb. i hate people more & more every day. one day i will rule and this sort of thing will never happen.

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Old 02-11-2004, 02:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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damn people in the bible belt.....she was in her own home having a private party for gods sake....I know they have more pressing issues to be dealing with in the metroplex
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Old 02-11-2004, 02:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Ugh, sex toys have to be marketed as "novelty items"? Heaven forbid someone actually explain what they're to be used for instead of pretending they're not used for sex.
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Old 02-11-2004, 02:27 PM   #9 (permalink)
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dildos are illegal (to sell) in texas. Thats why they sell condom instructional devices.

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Last edited by iamnormal; 02-13-2004 at 08:37 PM..
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Old 02-11-2004, 03:05 PM   #10 (permalink)
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i was under the impression it was illegal to own more then 5 dildos/vibrators in texas...
and the whole thing about not allowing them is just stupid.... i mean cmon it is the 21st century....
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Old 02-11-2004, 03:35 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Arrrrrr....I find it really irritating that the religious right feels inclined to try to legislate its morality on the rest of the world. Hopefully within 50 - 100 years this sort of thing just won't be an issue anymore.
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Old 02-11-2004, 04:09 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Wow, that's pretty wild.

I'm a pretty religious guy, that was raised in a very conservative family, and I have a lot of trouble seeing any problem what-so-ever with what that woman did.

The part that really got me was couples complaining that she was "hurting their relationships." The only way she would be having any bearing on a couple (good or bad) is if they were participating in her parties. Bottom line, if you don't like it, don't buy a damn dildo.

I guess this is just another example of why I believe in live and let live. I mean, who's business is it if a couple decides to enhance their sex life? Or if (*sarcasasm* God forbid) a single woman decides to take matters into her own hands and buy a vibrator?

I realize that this may cause some "severe blushing" with Sister Bertha Better-than-you in the Amen section, but it's by no means something that should be illegal.
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Old 02-11-2004, 04:12 PM   #13 (permalink)
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what the hell is so wrong about sex?I'm tired of seeing people ban sexual things just because their parents are hypocrites(they had to have sex to have a child right?).As long as you don't hurt somebody else what's the problem?
People in my hometown actually had playboys and porn videos banned for a little while.
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Old 02-11-2004, 04:21 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Dildos are illegal in texas? Since when?
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Old 02-11-2004, 09:24 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Webb is awesome. She is looking at this as an opportunity to educate and advocate rather than to be angry. The world just may be a better place because of her.
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Old 02-11-2004, 11:59 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Aurgh!! I can just picture the type of "Christian" (what in the heck is Christian about being a vindictive shithead anyway?) who took this thing to the police. Like a deranged Helen Lovejoy, standing there in front of the police talking excitedly about the "fillthy dirty sex toys" (in Gollum voice) while managing to look prudishly fragile AND insufferably smug at the same time.

Damn, that's a mental image I did not want in my head.
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Old 02-11-2004, 11:59 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I'm sure that there was a queue a mile long at the cop shop of officers who wanted to go 'undercover' at one of those parties!!

As said above, a total waste of tax payers money!

Get a grip, it's not as though they were selling drugs and guns as a side line!
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Old 02-12-2004, 01:12 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Land of the free.....................................
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Old 02-12-2004, 07:03 AM   #19 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Golgothas
Dildos are illegal in texas? Since when?
The police are on their way to your house now


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Old 02-12-2004, 08:13 AM   #20 (permalink)
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No offence to anyone, but this is precisely what happens when churches get involved. Live and let live is a phrase that at least Christian churches seem totally unfamiliar with.
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Old 02-12-2004, 08:27 AM   #21 (permalink)
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I hate the "religious right". It's neither!

I hope that church burns the fuck down.
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Old 02-12-2004, 09:39 AM   #22 (permalink)
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http://writ.news.findlaw.com/grossman/20040127.html

Quote:
Is There a Constitutional Right To Promote the Use of Sex Toys?
A Texas Arrest Raises the Question

By JOANNA GROSSMAN
lawjlg@hofstra.edu

----
Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2004

Recently, Joanne Webb -- a Texas mother of three who works primarily out of her home -- advised two customers on which products they should select from the business's catalog, and on how those products worked. Then, she filled their order. The products were sex toys, and the customers said that they were a young married couple in search of some sexual regeneration. Unfortunately for Webb, however, the "couple" turned out to be undercover police officers.

Webb was charged with a misdemeanor under Texas obscenity law -- which makes it a crime to promote a device "designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." If convicted, Webb could face up to a year in prison and a $4000 fine. (She would also probably lose the ability to return to her former career as a grade school teacher.)

Webb is currently awaiting trial. However, the Texas law under which she will be tried may well be struck down as unconstitutional.

In June 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision striking down a Texas law making homosexual sodomy a crime. In the course of the decision, the Court recognized that -- pursuant to the constitutional Due Process right to "liberty" -- adults have a right to "enter into [an intimate relationship] in the confines of their homes and their own private lives. . . ."

The Texas law may violate that right -- a right that belongs to Webb's customers, but which Webb herself may be able to assert. The Texas law may also violate Webb's own free speech rights under the First Amendment.

Targeting "Promotion," Not Sale

Strikingly, Webb did not apparently run afoul of Texas law because she sold sex toys; she did so because she promoted them -- explaining their use and purpose. Adult stores in Texas sell the same kind of products Webb sold. But the stores deem them "novelty items" and provide no information about their intended use.

This leads to an ironic situation: Employees of adult toy stores may be less vulnerable to prosecution than an individual who gives a prohibited device to a friend, and suggests that she use it.

Also vulnerable may be the "passion parties" that Webb hosts at women's homes. The specific sale Webb made to the undercover officers did not occur at a "passion party," but many of her sales do.

"Passion Parties": Similar to Racy Tupperware Parties

What is a "passion party," exactly? According to the stereotype, 1950's suburban housewives delighted in hosting Tupperware parties. And, indeed, to this day there is a whole genre of similar parties--kitchen parties, candle parties, basket parties, and holiday décor parties, for example--that suburban women host and attend. (Though one could imagine a stereotypical counterpart for men--a Home Depot party, perhaps--I've never heard of one.)

The parties usually work this way: One woman hosts the party in her home. A sales representative from the company attends to pitch the products, demonstrate their many uses and fine qualities, and take orders. The host usually gets free merchandise based on the total sales of the party, and the sales representative gets some commission or fee from the sales as well.

"Passion parties" seem to work in the same way. A sales representative from Passion Parties, Inc., such as Joanne Web, attends a party; shows off the company's products, which include vibrators and an accompaniment of gels, lotions, and lingerie; and tells the guests how to use them.

Webb has stressed that the parties and products are about helping couples. Her stated goal is to help women spice up their marriages--and even save them. The parties become "mini-therapy sessions," Webb told one reporter. But since a major purpose of the parties is to promote the products, they may be illegal under Texas law as it now stands.

Possible Challenges to Texas's Anti-Sex-Toy-Promotion Law

That law, however, may well be unconstitutional.

To begin, the Supreme Court made clear in Miller v. California what state obscenity statutes ought to look like -- and Texas's statute generally toes the line. Under Miller, obscenity must include only material that lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value, and only material that the average person would find appeals to the prurient interest. Texas law also includes these requirements.

Typically, material deemed obscene would consist of films, videos, books, and the like -- and their sale would be prohibited. But Texas's statute is unusual in that it includes sex toys in its description of material prohibited as obscene, and focuses on promotion of such devices rather than explicitly singling out sales.

Presumably some kinds of "promotion" of some sex toys may be defensible, within the terms of the statute itself, as having "scientific" value in the sense that it promotes couples' psychological and sexual health, and women's ability to achieve orgasm. Certainly, it would be a sad commentary if a woman's advising another woman on how to use a vibrator to achieve orgasm were to be considered so wholly valueless as to be obscene.

But the problems with the Texas law also go deeper. As I discussed in an earlier column, the Lawrence decision left a variety of laws in a sort of legal limbo -- it suggested they may be unconstitutional, yet they have not yet been struck down. Now, it seems that the Texas law may belong to this class of laws as well.

The Relevance of the Lawrence v. Texas Precedent

Lawrence itself was triggered by the arrest of two men who were engaged in a consensual sexual act in a private apartment. The law under which the men were prosecuted was struck down even under the Court's laxest standard of review--rational basis review. In order to strike the law down under this standard, the Court had to deem the statute criminalizing homosexual sodomy to be wholly arbitrary, and therefore insupportable.

In striking down the statute, the Court made clear that adults have a right to "enter into [an intimate relationship] in the confines of their homes and their own private lives. . . ." This right is part of the "liberty" granted in the due process clause, which, the Court said, "gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives in matters pertaining to sex."

If consensual adult relationships can encompass sodomy, as Lawrence made clear, then arguably, they ought to encompass the voluntary use of legal sex toys as well. If prohibiting sodomy is arbitrary, certainly prohibiting (or in this case, impeding) sex toy use is arbitrary as well. After all, few would say that the historical prohibition of sexual enhancers is as strong as that of sodomy.

More to the point, Lawrence made clear that the fact that a state views a "particular practice as immoral" is not a sufficient reason for upholding a ban on it. To my knowledge, Texas has offered no reason at all for banning sex toy use. And it is hard to imagine what that reason might look like, if it were not simply a general claim that the use of sex toys is immoral. With the use of sex toys -- as with consensual private sodomy between adults -- there is no apparent risk to minors; there is no coercion; there is no prostitution; and the general public is not forced to witness the activity or formally recognize the practice.

(If Texas did come up with some rational basis for the law, Webb might be in trouble. To defend herself, she would then have to contend that sex toy use is a fundamental right. But the state might contend that, rather than being crucial to an intimate relationship, it is only an optional enhancement of it.)

Webb Should Be Able to Raise Her Customers' Rights In This Case

Readers may respond: But even if there's a right to use sex toys, wouldn't that right belong to Webb's customers, not to Webb herself?

The answer is yes -- but under the law of standing -- that is, the law determining who has the right to sue -- promoters such as Webb ought to be able to assert their customers' rights to intimate relationships, as well as their own First Amendment rights.

After all, customers have to learn that the devices exist, and learn how to use them, before they can avail themselves of the right to use them. There is little value to the right to do something, without the accompanying right to learn how.
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Old 02-12-2004, 11:31 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Fucking pathetic. What a waste of our taxes. People weren't being pulled off the streets for this, they came willingly. They went to someone's private home.

Disgusting government, I swear it.
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Old 02-12-2004, 11:31 AM   #24 (permalink)
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What the article failed to mention is the fact she was kicked out of church for wearing her novelty "ballsack-penis" earrings.

Seriously, you would think we lived in a society that actually "got a clue" once in a while.
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Old 02-13-2004, 01:19 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Its this type of attitude that is the downfall of this country...
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Old 02-13-2004, 09:05 PM   #26 (permalink)
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I'd laugh, if the woman wasn't actually facing a trial. I feel so bad for her, jesus.
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Old 02-13-2004, 10:06 PM   #27 (permalink)
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that is so fucked up....i'm so sick and tired of hearing about churches and "religious" people doing things like that. i'm a christian and it seems like more and more i don't even wanna claim that i'm christian because of all the crap from people like the ones in that story. i would totally stick up for that woman, i mean, women really need someone they can go to for help with their romance problems. that just really saddens me that our government doesn't have more sense than that.

plus it's a free frickin country and that woman has every right to sell whatever the heck she wants to.
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Old 02-14-2004, 12:27 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Wow, that is fucking retarded.
What is with our government and sexuality? I want to move to Europe.
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Old 02-14-2004, 06:18 AM   #29 (permalink)
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This sorta reminds me of that movie, Pleasantville.
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Old 02-14-2004, 06:37 AM   #30 (permalink)
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sexymama wrote
Quote:
Webb is awesome. She is looking at this as an opportunity to educate and advocate rather than to be angry. The world just may be a better place because of her.
lemonade out of lemons

Otherwise my opinion on these shenanigans are summed up with these two quotes;

H L Mencken "Puritanism: "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy"

Jim White "Save me from the 'good' people."
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Old 02-14-2004, 06:58 AM   #31 (permalink)
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hehe thats wierd, imean sextoys ilegal??
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Old 02-14-2004, 09:04 AM   #32 (permalink)
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While it is not the law, the Declaration of Independance is the foundation for the philosophy behind the US government. It names three unalienable rights, one of which is the "pursuit of happiness." I don't know what that could refer to if not sex toys.

The ironic thing is how offended I am by the assholes who think they have a right not to be offended by something this woman did in the privacy of her own home involving only willing and invited guests.

Now, if a church functions to save people from their sins, why would they kick out people because of their sins? Maybe they are not living up to their own principles!
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Old 02-14-2004, 10:34 AM   #33 (permalink)
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Originally posted by cnor
Now can we burn the churches????

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Old 02-14-2004, 12:03 PM   #34 (permalink)
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I, for one, welcome our new puritanical overlords.
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Old 02-14-2004, 01:05 PM   #35 (permalink)
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HOLY COW!!!... one of my friends in Fort Worth.. helps host and demonstrate at those parties... wow.. I hope she's ok... this is kinda freaky... I gotta go find a phone..
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Old 02-14-2004, 01:36 PM   #36 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by greytone


The ironic thing is how offended I am by the assholes who think they have a right not to be offended by something this woman did in the privacy of her own home involving only willing and invited guests.

So you would be OK with gang members running a drug and prostitution operation next door to your house?

My parents had these parties when I was a kid. They acted like I was too stupid or naive to know what was going on. It affected me in a big way, and other kids should not be exposed to this kind of bullshit. If you want a fucking 18 inch dildo, buy one off the internet and don't let your kids find it.
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Old 02-14-2004, 02:17 PM   #37 (permalink)
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Is this America or Afghanistan?
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Old 02-14-2004, 02:29 PM   #38 (permalink)
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only in texas? eh..

sexy toys r teh bore... real sex4lyfe
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Old 02-14-2004, 03:00 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by timalkin
So you would be OK with gang members running a drug and prostitution operation next door to your house?

My parents had these parties when I was a kid. They acted like I was too stupid or naive to know what was going on. It affected me in a big way, and other kids should not be exposed to this kind of bullshit. If you want a fucking 18 inch dildo, buy one off the internet and don't let your kids find it.
Wow, that was a leap. In answer to your question, I do think prostitution should be legal. In addition, I am close to being persuaded by the Libertarians about the legalization of drugs. But that is not relevent to my point.

"Gang members" implies lawlessness and potential for violence that is quite unlikely at a sex toy party. I do agree that children should not be exposed to the products. That is irrelevent in regards to their legality. If she is selling them to kids or encouraaging their use by teenagers then prosecute her for endangering children.
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Old 02-14-2004, 03:10 PM   #40 (permalink)
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You know what is the funniest thing about this? There are a hell of a lot of strip clubs in Texas. I mean a lot. They advertise them in public. And this woman is somehow more indecent than having gentlemen's clubs advertised where children are able to see them quite easily (especially in Dallas/Ft. Worth). I personally have no problem with these ads in the public, they're trying to get business. Yet, it's in public, and then they go and arrest a woman who is doing something in private? Oy, sometimes I wonder about my fellow Texans.

/edit: I in no way am speaking out against advertising strip clubs, I'm just saying that logically, that would be more indecent than a private sale/use of dildos and other sex aids.
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