The weirdest laws about sex in the US

America has a well-deserved reputation for prudishness. And nowhere is this more apparent than in the various laws around the nation that concern sex, though many of them are relics that no one has got around to expunging and are usually not enforced. But their existence has led to a lot of wags making up laws that are ridiculous but seem plausible, given the way that people seem to get unhinged when it comes to sex.

Charlie Jane Anders has gone to the trouble of sifting out the true crazy laws from the false, and it appears that the true ones are weird enough to not need embellishing, such as “No marrying your first cousin until the age of 65” (Utah) or “Kisses may last no longer than five minutes” (Iowa) or “You can’t own more than six dildos” (Texas).

Oddly, given our reputation for being foul-mouthed, Ohio did not make the list of the most notable laws but a linked article of the full list does say that in Ohio, “No person shall solicit sex from another of the same gender if it offends the second person”.

I suspect that this law came about because somebody made a pass at a lawmaker of the same gender and that person was offended.


  1. says

    Your last one reminds of my favourite bit from Deuteronomy, which I happened upon during a choir concert in a church some years back. I was bored with the wee mens’ chorus, and waiting for the full choir to come back, so I horked out one of the books and poked around.

    Somehow, I landed on a bit that said something to the effect that if two men are fighting, and the wife of one of them tries to break it up by grabbing the other fellow’s…conveniently-sticking-out parts, then she should be killed by stoning.

    And all I could think was, dude, THAT is a law that came from An Incident. Possibly reported by a hoarse and stooping friend of the priest.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    “You can’t own more than six dildos” (Texas).

    One for each day of the week, but never on Sunday?

  3. moarscienceplz says

    San Francisco just recently passed an anti-nudity law. I guess it was legal up till then. Interestingly, nudity is still allowed at certain events, such as the Bay to Breakers run which goes from one side of the city clear to the other. I guess the idea is that if you are offended by nudity, you now knows which days of the year to stay at home with your curtains drawn.

  4. Randomfactor says

    I lived through the “Great Boobie Pillow Panic” here in Bakersfield, years ago. It’s a local ordinance here targeting one silly item made by a local entrepeneur over two decades ago. And they were convenient things, too. I guess the baby-bottle nipples pushed them a little over the top…

  5. Andrew G. says

    The Texas one is wrong: you’re not allowed to own six or more dildos (“obscene devices”), or to promote or sell them. (The law is actually aimed at the promotion or sale; the limit is just a “if you own 6 or more, it’s presumed to be for promotion” clause.)

    The law has been ruled unconstitutional in Federal court, but Texas criminal courts have refused to accept the ruling.

    Actual law in question.

  6. boadinum says

    Professor Singham, it is indeed strange that America’s reputation for prudishness (religion) contrasts so sharply with its status as the world’s largest purveyor of pornography (commerce). It is also odd that America’s most homo-religious (see what I did there?) state, Utah, is also America’s largest consumer of pornography (hypocracy, repression, homophobia, masturbation).

    In other sexually repressed states, such as Texas and the southern Bible Belt, cousin (and even closer relation) marriage is not unusual at ages much younger than 65 (religion, Southern Baptists, “squeal like a pig!”).

    Even if sexually repressed Texans cannot own more than six, or six hundred dildos (technology, auto-erotica, pleasure), they will make their own out of…um…whatever is available (healthy expression of normal sexual urges). But of course the theocrats (Republicans, religious bigots, creationists…{this list is very long}) will loudly proclaim that they, and they alone, have the Jeebuz-given right to dictate morality for everyone (see all of the above).

    Wow, now I’m hoping that a Rethuglican (or equilvalent) politician will try to solicit me for sex so that I can aim a kick squarely at their lack of balls (and no, I do not advocate violence; I’ve never flattened anybody with a steamroller, a la cartoons; but sometimes those images help to heal the damage that their stupid does to my head).

  7. Mano Singham says

    Actually, it may not be that strange. It is the very public repression that breeds the need to find release of peoples normal sexual desires in other forms and pornography is a natural one.

  8. boadinum says

    Exactly, Mano, and that was my point about Utah being the state with the highest per-capita rate of porn consumption. When normal sexual urges are being repressed by, in this case the Mormon church, it is small wonder that people need to “find release” any way they can

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