Are you breaking the law? When it comes to sexual expression, exploration and pleasure, you may be a criminal and not even know it. Both historically and currently, some of our most intimate moments have been made punishable by law.
And — wouldn’t you know it? — the United States takes the cake. While countries around the world are all guilty of trying to control our sex lives, the U.S. has more laws regulating sexual behavior than all the European countries combined.
Outdated, unthinkable, erotophobic and downright ridiculous, we should thank our lucky stars that enforcing them is another matter.
Sex toys are banned in some states, such as Alabama. Sexual intercourse between unmarried couples is illegal in Georgia. Flirting is banned in San Antonio, Texas. Oral sex is banned in Indiana. Anal intercourse is banned in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sexual positions beyond missionary are illegal in Washington, D.C. Sleeping naked is illegal in Minnesota.
Laws protecting minors aside, most people will agree that the government should not be telling you what to do in your bedroom. As President Bush has said: "In our free society, people have the right to choose how they live their lives."
The way I see it, what consenting adults do in their own bedrooms is their own business.
But rather than go into a diatribe on the need for the government to stay out of our private sexual affairs, I think a good laugh is in order. Who knew that you could land yourself in jail for any of the following? ....
Don’t Get Caught Kissing
When it comes to puckering up, you may need to keep a time check.
— If you’re in Idaho, you’re not allowed to engage in any type of public display of affection for more than 18 minutes.
— In Iowa, you've got a five-minute time limit to make out. But that’s an eternity when you consider that it’s illegal to smooch for more than one second if you’re in Halethorpe, Md.
Talk About a Challenge!
Many laws simply invite the question of "how are they going to pull that one off?" Seems that H.L. Mencken’s definition of Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" was well and alive when these were passed:
— An ancient law in Alabama bans men from attempting to seduce "a chaste woman by means of temptation, arts, deception, flattery or a promise of marriage."
— Connecticut has a law forbidding any "private sexual behavior between consenting adults." We have to give them credit, though, for at least making this law pretty clear. An old Florida statute states that two people cannot commit "unusual acts" together, but there’s no specification as to what that means!
— An old law in California made it illegal for either partner to reach climax before the other during foreplay.
In Case You Were Tempted ...
You know, some things you just never think about doing. But for any of these laws to have been passed, one has to assume that someone somewhere actually tried to do one of the following; otherwise, some politicians had way too much time on their hands:
— Florida once made it illegal to have sexual relations with a porcupine.
— You can’t marry the same man three times in some Kentucky townships.
— It is illegal for men in Minnesota to have intimate sexual relationships with a live fish.
— If you’re a member of the Nevada legislature, you cannot conduct business, while in session, wearing a penis costume.
— In North Carolina, it’s an offense to have sex in a graveyard.
Wooing Made Wrong
As if finding a date weren’t hard enough! Pick-up artists, beware ...
— Women in Dyersburg, Tenn., cannot call a man for a date.
— If their car is in motion, male drivers in Detroit are banned from "ogling" women.
— It is illegal to serenade your girlfriend in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Even Married Couples Can’t Misbehave
One would think that tying the knot is your ticket to paradise. Apparently not ...
— In Oblong, Ill., it’s illegal to have sex on your wedding day if you’re fishing or hunting.
— A man in Ames, Iowa, cannot take more than three swallows of beer while holding his wife in his arms in bed.
— Alexandria, Ariz., once banned husbands from having sex with their wives if their breath smelled of sardines, garlic or onion. (Funny enough, all of those have been considered aphrodisiacs at one time or another!)
— Husbands in Willowdale, Ore., can be fined for talking dirty during intercourse, but their wives can say whatever they please.
— An old statute in Florida banned a man from kissing his wife’s breasts.
Laws Lacking True Logic
These laws simply speak for themselves:
— A man cannot seduce a woman by promising to marry her in Mississippi.
— While up to 120 men can live together in Pennsylvania, it is illegal for more than 16 women to do so, since this could constitute a brothel.
— It is illegal in Utah to marry your first cousin before the age of 65.
— In Nebraska, couples sleeping at a hotel must wear the clean, cotton nightshirt provided by the hotel, even when they have sex.
— Florida has a statute making it an offense to shower in the nude.
As with most of these laws, ignorance is bliss ...
— Women in New York cannot be seen wearing "body hugging clothing."
— An old Mississippi edict holds that men cannot become sexually aroused in public.
Just So You Know
In case you were thinking about it, any of the following can get you into trouble ...
— If you’re unmarried in North Carolina and you and your lover register yourselves as a "Mr. and Mrs." when checking into a motel, then you’re legally considered husband and wife.
— In Oklahoma, if you’re arrested for soliciting a prostitute, your name and picture will be shown on TV.
— Sex with an animal is perfectly legal for men in Washington state, as long as the animal weighs less than 40 pounds.
— It is illegal for a man to fire his gun in Connersville, Wis., when his lover reaches climax.
— Having sex in a walk-in meat freezer is banned in Newcastle, Wyo.
More Liberal Than We Realized
Believe it or not, there are a few laws on the book that actually allow for sexual expression instead of stifling it.
— The Arizona State Supreme Court considered it perfectly all right for women to go topless in public, since breasts weren’t deemed private parts.
— You can streak in Louisiana as long as you can prove to a court beyond a doubt that you had no "lascivious intent."
— Couples in Carlsbad, N.M., can have sex in their parked car during their lunch break, as long as the curtains are drawn.
— Women in New York can go topless in public, unless it is for "business" reasons.
In the Know Sex News …
— Testosterone spray for women no better than placebo. A new Australian study reports that women ages 35 to 46 with low libido and low serum-free testosterone levels experienced slightly improved sexual satisfaction when using a testosterone spray.
Yet women who used the placebo also reported increased frequency of sexually satisfying events, suggesting that a lack of testosterone isn't necessarily linked with sexual dissatisfaction. The majority of participants in both groups reported adverse side effects, most commonly hair growth on the abdomen, where the spray is used.
— HIV may spread more quickly within the body than previously thought. A study of rhesus monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus indicates that each SIV-infected cell produces at least 50,000 viruses over its life span. SIV and HIV act similarly, so HIV may behave in a similar way, according to researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratories.
— "Natural supplements" seized. U.S. federal authorities seized more than 14,000 dosage units of an unapproved drug marketed as products that treat erectile dysfunction and provide sexual enhancement.
Distributed by Shanghai Distributors Inc., these products should have been deemed drugs and sought FDA approval. Use of the products can result in serious side effects and interact with other medications in dangerous ways.
Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hand Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."