March 18, 2008

18 U.S.C.A. § 2421: Spitzer? I hardly knew her!

By Rooks

For anyone living under a rock – yes, Sub-3 counts – Eliot Spitzer, (newly former) governor of New York, was recently discovered, via federal wiretap, to be patronizing some seriously expensive (like, more than a week’s salary in NYC Biglaw expensive) prostitutes. When the prostitution ring got busted, so did he, and Albany still has a touch of the vapors to prove it.

Since about 37 different people this past week asked me what I thought about Spitzer’s shenanigans and if I was planning to write something about the entire debauched debacle, I figured that popular demand dictated that I weigh in on this, a completely over-reported subject. So, if you’ve reached your Spitzer saturation point and cannot deal with even one more article about the guy, blame your classmates.


So, what do I think? Primarily, I think it’ll come as little surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention that I’m vehemently for the decriminalization of prostitution. There may be slightly more surprise that I disapprove of Spitzer’s actions, for two main reasons. First, by all accounts his wife had no idea, and, let’s face it, that sucks; second, there are a number of rumors going around that Spitzer was paying for unprotected sex, and that really sucks. If he just had to cheat without some sort of arrangement (which I don’t buy, but whatever), he could’ve at least wrapped it up – to endanger not only the wellbeing of his marriage, but also the wellbeing of his wife (presuming they still enjoyed a sexual relationship) is just shady.

A third thing that annoys me about all of this is that he busted prostitution rings during his tenure as attorney general, and was all filled with moral rectitude about it – way to be a hypocrite, Eliot. Of course, this is no different than any number of political and/or community leaders who publicly hate on their own bad habits (see generally Craig, Haggard, et al), but it doesn’t mean it annoys me any less. So do I think what Spitzer did is reprehensible? Sure. Do I think it should be illegal? Not exactly.

But enough about what I think.

In the interest of keeping things (slightly) fresh, now seems like as good a time as any to talk about the Mann Act (also known as the White Slave Traffic Act), which has gotten some press in light of Mr. Spitzer’s poor choice of sexual venue, but not nearly enough.

The Mann Act was originally enacted in 1910, and, in that incarnation, banned the transportation of “any woman or girl” across state lines for prostitution, debauchery, or immoral purposes. (The Commerce Clause: laying the smackdown on getting laid since 1910.) This basically meant that any sex the US government construed as immoral, whether or not it was technically illegal, could be prosecuted under the Mann Act, provided you made a run for the border before you did it. (Take that, Taco Bell.) Though Congress couldn’t regulate any of this activity per se, extra-marital sex, unwed sex, interracial sex, polygamous sex, and, of course, paid sex were all fair game as soon as one or more participants left their state in order to engage in them.

In 1986, someone realized that this was a mite bit ridiculous, and the Mann Act was altered to apply to all genders, and only sex for which one could be charged with a criminal offence. As Bowers v. Hardwick, randomly enough, also came down in 1986, this version would still include gay sex, statutory rape, polygamy, possibly BDSM, and of course, paid sex.

The last time 18 U.S.C.A. § 2421 was altered was in 1998, to change the sentencing guideline. Other than that, the main text remained short, if less than sweet: “Whoever knowingly transports any individual in interstate or foreign commerce, or in any Territory or Possession of the United States, with intent that such individual engage in prostitution, or in any sexual activity for which any person can be charged with a criminal offense, or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

The only way (arguably) to avoid prosecution under the Mann act is if the state to which you travel sports legalized prostitution. (Though the above reading is a valid one, there appears to yet be some argument as to whether the law is actually applied in such a way.) Since Spitzer provided the transportation for his alleged hook-up from NYC to DC (Chinatown bus represent!), and prostitution remains a misdemeanor in our nation’s capitol, he would qualify for prosecution under the Mann Act, should the government seek to pursue it; this could mean the difference between 90 days in jail and 10 years.

The Mann Act probably won’t make it onto your bar exam, but, just in case you, like Spitzer, have a vested interest in its application (ahem), here’s a hypo to make sure you’ve gotten the general idea.

Ren, Ariel, Rusty and Willard travel across state lines to engage in a night of dancing (which is prohibited in their hometown due to its inextricable tie to prurient feelings) and possibly sex. Assuming Ren and Rusty are both 18, while Willard and Ariel are 17, and that all four dance, after which Ren and Ariel engage in oral sex, while Rusty and Willard have heterosexual intercourse in the traditional manner, can any or all of the teens be prosecuted under the Mann Act?

Answer: That depends. (See? Just like a law school exam!) If the age of consent in the state to which the teens traveled is 18, and there are no exceptions for consenting minors, then Rusty can be charged under the Mann Act, provided the state is not one in which the alleged victim must be female to qualify for statutory rape protections. If the state specifically prohibits acts of sodomy to minors, even with consent (a la Kansas), then Ren could also possibly be charged under the Mann Act, as oral sex generally qualifies as sodomy. If all teens were above the age of consent in their destination state, and all acts performed were legal, then it is unlikely, though not, it seems, impossible, that any of the teens would be charged under the Mann Act. Bonus: However, under the Mann Act of 1910 as interpreted by Caminetti v. United States, even if no sex was had, if the government saw fit to agree with the teens’ home community that dancing was, in fact, immoral (John Lithgow is a very persuasive man), all four could still be charged (though it might well depend on who was driving the car and who paid for gas).

Special thanks to Prawfsblog and Volokh Conspiracy for some good info and robust debate, respectively, including the (new to me) fact that prostitution is technically legal in Rhode Island. Who knew?


To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.

February 19, 2008

Reliable Consultants v. Earle, One down, Three to go

"Between the Briefs"
By Rooks

Valentine’s Day may be over, but I have to tell y’all - the 5th circuit down in New Orleans really knows how to show a gal a good time. But more on that later . . .

Would you ever date a guy you knew had cheated on his ex? Because as comfortable as I am with so many aspects of sex, I just can’t help thinking my Momma is right on this one. Ya know, leopards don’t change their spots . . .
-Invests With Fidelity Mutual

IWFM,
Hmm, this is a toughie. As much as my initial instinct is to say “no, I wouldn’t”, we have to deal with a certain reality here: a not insignificant amount of people cheat.

Be more specific with my nouns, you say? Well, I can’t – I’ve done a lot of digging, and suffice it to say that data on cheating, though it seems to be everywhere, is mostly crap. Kinsey’s data (50% of men and 26% of women have cheated before the age of forty) suffers for lack of a probability sample, and it’s over a half a century old to boot. The General Social Survey (as of 2004, 21% of men and 12% of women) and books like Lust in Translation focus almost exclusively on “extramarital” sex – the data is in no way representative of the cheating habits of all Americans, just the married ones.

Now, as we all realize that the law school population is in no way representative of the real world, the best data for your question might be UVa Law’s sex survey, precisely for the reasons that make it statistically dubious elsewhere, namely that it focuses exclusively on a small, inclusive, generally nut-jobby segment of the population who all opted to attend a top law school in a college town. So, for the sake of argument (and since I don’t have Michigan stats, ahem) UVa’s data claims that roughly 30% of law students have cheated at some point in their lives, and further that the numbers were essentially the same for both men and women.

So how about a wee little hypo: Let’s say John (or Jane) Q. Law School cheated on his SO, was punished for his efforts with an uncomfortable, yet eye-opening, trip to the doctor’s office (not to mention a case of the clap no one would applaud), and has since sworn that he will never, but ever stray again. If that scenario happened when he was 14 and he’s stuck to his word, he’s probably a safe bet. If it happened last week, all bets are off.

Essentially, IWFM, as much as I’d like to think that MLaw is rife with stand up people (after all, cheating isn’t very collegial), if the UVa data is in any way representative, it would mean that nearly a third of us have, at some point in our lives, engaged in some sort of illicit extracurricular activity. It would seem illogical to write off all of these people without some context as to how and when the cheating happened; folks do, after all, make mistakes. If, however, someone has a lot of what I’ll euphemistically refer to as non-mutual relationship overlap (chronic cheating), it doesn’t exactly engender a lot of trust.

So let’s amend my answer to no, I probably wouldn’t (but there’s room to negotiate).
-Rooks

What the hell is a P-spot? Someone mentioned it in conversation at a bar and I had to nod along knowingly, but I have no clue what they were talking about.
-See Spot Run

SSR,
The p-spot is a nickname for the prostate gland. Some folks call it the male G-spot, but that makes no sense, as G-spot is actually a just nickname for the Gräfenberg spot, which is not only a distinctly female erogenous zone, but named for the German gynecologist who discovered it, where “discovered” equals “wrote the first paper.” (Fun fact: Since Gräfenberg worked closely with an American, Robert L. Dickenson, the G-spot could have almost as easily been the D-spot. Either way, everything would still rhyme.) Regardless, you can reach the p-spot externally (by deeply massaging the perineum), or internally (trim your nails first) to provide what are apparently some very intense orgasms to a lucky fellow near you.

I wish you’d said what the conversation was about, SSR, but I’m going to hazard a guess that it likely had to do with prostate stimulation, which you can do with a sex toy like the Aneros, which you can’t buy in some states unless it’s for medical purposes, which gives me a good segue into what I want to talk about, namely the 5th Circuit’s Feb.12th 2-1 decision to overturn Texas’ ban on the sale of sex toys! Texas will likely appeal to the Supreme Court, and as the 5th Circuit relied heavily on Lawrence, it’ll be interesting to see if the Court grants cert, seeing as they denied it for the Alabama sex toy case I wrote about last October. Perhaps the nice folks of the 5th read the RG?
-Rooks

January 29, 2008

Your Sex Questions Answered!

"Between the Briefs"

Let it never be said that Michigan students don’t like to procrastinate. After I had essentially given up all hope of ever actually answering questions and/or dispensing advice in this column I got (comparatively) bombarded with queries between the last issue and this one. The lengths y’all will go to to avoid studying are positively mind-boggling.

I’m allergic to spermicidal lubricants, but it seems like all condoms have them – why is that? And where can I go to get condoms that don’t come with this feature?
-Likes the Swimmers to Die a Natural Death

LSDND,
Where on earth do you buy your condoms? There are tons, and I do mean literal, actual, all 2,000+ lbs. of it, tons of condoms in this world without spermicidal lubricant. In fact, in my experience you have work harder to find the sperm snuffing ones, especially these days, as the FDA has recently (like, a month ago) mandated that all standalone Nonoxynol 9 products (foams, gels, inserts, films – if it’s semi-aqueous or dissolvable and you can fit it in a body cavity, there’s likely a sperm decimating agent made from it) be labeled with a warning. Though I was hoping that this warning consisted of something like “slippery when wet” or “if product gets in eye, seek medical help, but seriously, how on earth did you do that?”, it’s a much more standard message about how it’s been conclusively shown that spermicides, like Nonoxynol 9, cannot prevent transmission of various STIs, and in fact they actually increase the risk of infection.

See LSDND, your reaction to spermicide, though I’m sure more severe than normal, since you’ve noticed it, isn’t all that odd – Nonoxynol 9 has been shown to irritate the vaginal (or rectal) canal such that the odds of catching something actually goes up with use. Even though condoms are not a standalone spermicide product (and thus don’t require the FDA warning), this is still incredibly important to bear in mind when choosing a contraceptive. Even though pregnancy has often been termed the most expensive of sexually transmitted diseases, there are so many ways to not get preggers in this world that don’t up your chances of getting some really unfortunate viral below-the-belt action, that to my mind, spermicide just isn’t worth the risk.

As for where to buy condoms, Meijer’s is open 24 hours a day, if you know what I’m saying, but should you have special requirements that need be addressed, like a spermicide or latex allergy, or maybe you just want something in a blue or green color to really bring out your eyes, you can visit S3, just a few blocks from the Law Quad, and those ladies should be able to hook you up nicely. Should you be worried that your fellow students might learn of the extent to which you prefer condoms that make your bits taste like strawberries, there’s always condomania.com, which has an incredible variety of options for all your condom buying needs.
Happy hunting!
-Rooks

Ok, so, why is porn legal in the US but prostitution isn’t? It’s all getting paid for sex, right?
-Just Curious

JC,
Dude, this article is 800 words, not 8,000. Much like an in-class exam, there is no way I can adequately answer that question in the space and time provided. I do have a theory that this vagary in the law is based on the concept that a prostitute “solicits”, i.e., lures others into sin, while a pornographic actor merely engages in sin with another sinner. This would, in some ways, account for the fact that porn distributors are more often targeted in criminal actions than the actors themselves, or how johns are (relatively) rarely arrested for hiring a hooker – more sinned against than sinning, etc. Of course, that could be complete crap.
Thanks for the note topic.
-Rooks

This is maybe a little weird but I figured maybe I’m not alone. I think the guy I’m seeing is really messed up about his grades, like he’s lost a lot of his self-confidence. And with that loss has come the loss of . . . other things, if you know what I’m saying. So I’m raring to go, but he’s barely interested in anything but studying even more, and even when we’re on the same page he sometimes has a problem keeping things going, as it were. What can I do?
-Looking for 1Lovin’

L1L,
Ok seriously y’all, they are just grades. It is the nature of a curve that not everyone can be a unique and special snowflake anymore, and, unless your name starts with a “W” and ends with “hitman”, this is a fact that we’re all going to have to accept at some point.

As for your specific problem, L1L, you can’t force the kid to get his nose out of the books and back in the place it belongs, namely your crotch. However, on the increasingly rare occasions that y’all manage to begin knocking the proverbial boots, make sure not to rush it, or put undue pressure on him to finish the job in the “standard” manner. There’s a whole world of non-tab A into slot B sex just begging to be explored, and plenty of it in no way requires an erection. Hopefully his interest in getting you off will resume as soon as the shock of that first trip to Wolverine Access wears off, and he subsequently realizes that when he lets Con Law ruin a perfectly good sex life, the terrorists win.
-Rooks

Law school has driven me to drink in a big way; is there a way to get a bartender’s attention quickly without having breasts?
-Alcoholic Lawyer is Slightly Redundant

ALSR,
This is something I normally wouldn’t address in this column for two reasons: 1) it’s tangentially related to sex at best, and 2) I, in fact, have breasts, so it’s not really an issue with which I concern myself. However, in the interest of encouraging y’all to ply me with your sex questions, no matter how random, I’ll give it a go. I think the key thing to remember about bartenders, ALSR, is that they’re in it for the money; no matter how regular you are, money is the way to a barkeep’s heart. Thus your options for being served quickly are pretty open, provided they all involve cash. Probably the best way is to be a regular, tip well, and always order the same drink. Barring what I’d call simple sight recognition, I’ve found that leaning on the bar with cash or card visibly in hand is the quickest way to garner prompt service – it clearly indicates that you’re ready to order and, more importantly, ready to pay. Once you have a drink at the ready, distracted though you may be by the sweet nectar of the gods so recently dispensed to you, tip well. Bartenders have an eye for good tippers, cleavage notwithstanding, which should keep you deep in your cups for the evening’s duration.
-Rooks


To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.

December 04, 2007

Here Comes Santa Clause: Ann Arbor Code § 2-03, ch. 119, art. I (2003)

"Beneath the Briefs"
By Rooks

Though I was a little bitter about our incredibly short Thanksgiving break and a lot bitter about getting jacked by PRS, I’ve nonetheless managed to scrounge up a few things to be thankful for this season, namely open exams, presents, and the prospect of two plus weeks of actual, honest-to-goodness downtime (if only we can make it through the bulk of December madness).

Of course, that’s an incredibly big if, because never have I ever met a population of people as neurotic when faced with a test as law students. (Ok, technically that’s not true – there was this one time when I was working at the free clinic – but y’all get what I’m saying.) The darting eyes, frazzled looks and frizzy hair, progressively more unkempt clothing, people falling asleep in carrels and drooling all over their hundred dollar text books with little red creases on their faces from the pages – it’s a complete turnoff. And sure, you may think you have way better things to do during study break than get a little action, what with impending intellectual carnage to contend with, but if I’ve heard it from one exam survivor I’ve heard it from them all: it’s incredibly important to be relaxed come exam time.

To the end of finding all of y’all in good cheer, and since I can’t just force everyone to chill out, I’ve managed to combine a few of my favorite things into a gift guide chockfull of joy and utility, for the law student who may not quite have everything yet, but will certainly be in need of a break (or a forty) before the month is through. Because hey, even if tests don’t get you all bothered (forget about hot), there’s also the looming specter of holiday shopping and job hunting, neither of which is exactly stress-free. (Oh, if any hiring directors are reading this, I’ve heard it’s better to give than to receive. Just, you know, putting that out there.)

Though it may seem at the moment that the only three wise men worth discussing are Gilbert, Glannon, and Emmanuel, study guides can come in handy in more fields than the law. Sex, being the multi-billion dollar industry that it is, is certainly no exception -- there are scores of books out there waiting to tell you everything you don’t know about sex, and didn’t know to bother asking. Of the many manuals on the market, my money’s on The Big Bang: Nerve.com’s Guide to the New Sexual Universe. Not only is it non-heteronormative (which, even these days, is a pretty tall order), it’s also one of the few sex manuals I’ve seen that could double as a coffee table book (if your coffee table is into that sort of thing). The writing is snarky and smart, the text is well researched, expansive, and generally non-threatening, and there are loads of instructions, charts and diagrams to help you visualize what the authors are talking about. (Yes, you read that correctly, diagrams – ever heard of an Alex Chee Inverted Plum Roll? Me neither, until I read this book; a picture really is worth a messload of words.) Though I was tempted to select either Smart Girl’s Guide to Porn (exactly what it sounds like) or Guide to Getting it On (even more exactly what it sounds like), if there’s one non-scholastic sex book folks should check out, I really think The Big Bang is it; I’ve had my copy adversely possessed three times and counting. (PSA: Real friends don’t steal books.)

But maybe study guides aren’t your thing. Maybe you’re a doer, a hands-on, practice test type of person. Thankfully, there are a number of sex toys on the market that are in no way concerned about your aforementioned state of perpetual rumpledness; sex toys, unlike law professors, don’t get jollies from judging you (and finding you wanting). If you’re into aesthetics (and a really big spender), the holidays might be a good excuse to spring for a glass or jade dildo or plug – artsy, chic, multifunctional, and way niftier than a paper weight. On (or in) the other hand, if you get off on technological innovation, companies are constantly trying to suss out new-fangled ways to attract your sexual dollar. A music lover in your life might enjoy an OhMiBod, a vibrator that hooks up with the iPod and vibrates to the rhythm (and intensity) of your music. Someone in a long distance relationship (aka half the law school) might prefer that same company’s Boditalk, which activates when calls are made to or from your cell, vibrating in response to the signal for the entirety of your phone call. The best of the techie toys, however, is likely the Je Joue. It’s compatible with Mac or PC (but not men, sorry guys), offers a range of motions, and allows owners to program those various sensations into “grooves” – telling the vibe how, when, and for how long to move. You can even share your mad programming skills with others online.

Speaking of sharing, if study groups are more your bag (working cooperatively to help everyone, talking out problems instead of writing them down, getting other people to do your dirty work for you), there are many organizations that could use your money and/or time this winter. I’m not going to proffer suggestions, since one person’s safe space might be another person’s den of iniquity, but it’s incredibly likely that somewhere out there, there’s an organization that involves sex and could use your help, so go forth -- the Internet is a miraculous thing. (If you need a less high-minded motivator, tax breaks from charitable donations might well be the gifts that actually do keep on giving.)

Regardless of how (or on whom) you choose to spend your money this winter, be safe, be satiated, and be mindful of the noise ordinance – ‘tis the season to be jolly, not annoy the neighbors. Happy break!


To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s new sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.

November 13, 2007

I Will Not Eat It, Spam I Am, 15 USC 7703

"Between the Briefs"

By Rooks

Though I’m a big supporter of artist unions, and bearing in mind that this Res Gestae gig doesn’t pay very well, I nonetheless decided that my loyalties this week lie not with the Writer’s Guild of America but with my fellow law students. So I’m not on strike (you’re all terribly relieved, I’m sure), but I will say that the blow of being a scab was weighing on me. Then one morning, a few days ago, I opened my inbox to two amazing, tangentially related things. The first was that LSSS is finally rectifying the [lawstudents] confusion, saving my (and everyone else’s) Umich e-mail account from complete anarchy; the second was that, for once, I had no spam. None. Not one piece of unsolicited crap.

Ok, obviously it doesn’t take a lot to amuse me these days, but this was, to my mind, pretty major.

As much as I sometimes have the urge to e-yell (read: type in all caps) at my classmates that no, I am not selling, nor am I buying, an Ohio State ticket, and that I have no idea what the readings for 1st Amendment are, [lawopen] nevertheless serves a valuable, if inbox-cluttering, function. Actual spam, on the other hand, is friggin’ useless. Awesome as it would be to work from home and make thousands of dollars a week, I realize that I’m a deeply flawed individual, and that it’s incredibly unlikely that I’d spend any of my newly discovered free time actually studying, choosing instead to roll around in piles and piles of easily garnered filthy lucre, Scrooge McDuck-style. Further, I honestly have no need for Viagra or MILF gangbangs or hot, barely legal babes. (Hey, if you do, that’s totally your business.)

Apparently the Federal Trade Commission and I are on the same page, as this past month they successfully prosecuted two men who were behind an international porn spam ring (U.S. v. Kilbride) under the CAN-SPAM act. (I can’t even fathom how long the congressional session was the day figuring out a viable acronym for the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act was on the agenda.) CAN-SPAM doesn’t make spam illegal, unfortunate though it may be for the sanctity of your e-mail account, but it does restrict they ways in which spam can be sent and even, to an extent, the kind of content that is initially viewable.

Though this isn’t the first successful spam prosecution since the inception of CAN-SPAM, it is notable in that it is the first that is coupled with obscenity charges. This matters because it greatly increases the penalty for spamming unsuspecting citizens with the best bestiality on the web, from a mere $11,000 fine to jail time. The defendants in Kilbride each got roughly five years, plus $100,000 in fines, all because, beyond violating restrictions about misleading subject lines and sender identification, the two men placed photos of anal fisting and rimming in the initially viewable body of the spam. (Yet another reason not to check your email in class.) That’s very, very illegal, and the charges of obscenity, coupled with CAN-SPAM and a wee bit of money laundering, effectively put the kibosh on at least one porn spam ring. Unfortunately, at just over a million bucks, it seems that this ring was relatively small-time, especially when compared to past CAN-SPAM targets, some of whom were getting $100,000 a month in sales.

Despite the fact that CAN-SPAM was enacted in 2003, I still get weekly offers for a miracle drug to make my penis three times larger. (One of my favorites actually said “let your small penis grow into a purple-headed demon.” I really fail to see how demonic possession of one’s bits is a good thing.) Though I suppose there’s some small comfort in going from sighing about how there oughta be a law (as you patiently delete images of octogenarian oral sex out of your email) to knowing that there is a law (as you patiently delete images of octogenarian oral sex out of your email), CAN-SPAM appears to be just a finger in the dam in the face of approximately 2.5 billion porn spam emails sent daily. Indeed, as of last year spam actually accounted for a greater percentage of all mail than it did in 2003.

Although there’s a lot of debate about the potential harms or merits of pornography, most everyone agrees that the spamming should cease, and there’re a few things folks on both sides of the argument can do to stop the spam. Beyond using a spam filter, don’t be hesitant to report objectionable content to the FTC. You’ll know it’s illegal if there’s no opt-out button, if the content is viewable right away, or if the sender or subject line is fraudulent. (Like if the subject line said “Get the Right Tools in Your Box for Law School” and then the text . . . ok, you probably get the idea). Also, if porn’s your thing, or a thing you’re looking into, now might be a good time to consider boycotting the purveyors who advertise via spam. There are many ways to discover new, interesting or different pornography beyond what ever manages to filter its way into your email (though that’s a column for another day). Paying someone to completely clog your (and everyone else’s) inbox makes even less sense than not getting [lawopen] as a digest.

October 30, 2007

Are You A Sex Offender? MCL 28.722

"Between the Briefs"
By Rooks

My first Michigan football game of the year was Homecoming weekend, and, as fun as it was to bear witness to Purdue’s decisive whuppin’, and that one alum’s startling efforts to castrate himself by repeatedly swinging hooked swords in the general direction of his crotch, I’m not sure much could top the off-the-field action in the student section. Like an episode of Cops in the making, two officers showed up at my row sometime in the third quarter and proceeded to drag, ahem, gently escort a kid who was twelve kinds of wasted out of the stands.

Now, if being entirely hammered in public were a crime, Michigan’s fans would all be ensconced in a much different Big House, so clearly something else was afoot. Turns out that Sloppy McDrunkerson, burdened with the twin problems of a full bladder and a middle seat, had decided that the best solution to his dilemma was to relieve himself in a cup while surrounded by 110,000 of his closest pals.

Classy.

Unfortunately, what our friend Sloppy may not have realized is that whipping it out in public is indeed a crime, and has more far-reaching effects than wet shoes and/or unimpressed neighbors.

Though we live in a world where an attorney can have a three-way with a client and a client’s girlfriend and get off, the looming shadow of Character and Fitness is usually enough to keep even the most debauched law student in relative check. If for some reason, however, the concept of spending 200 grand only to be told that someone’s held a magnet to your moral compass isn’t sufficiently frightening this Halloween, then perhaps the prospect of sex offender registry can serve as a substitute incentive to straighten up and fly right.

Indecent exposure (e.g., peeing in a cup not on doctor’s orders, or the entirety of the Girls Gone Wild canon) is a misdemeanor in Michigan, and repeat offenses (in the case of indecent exposure, two) can have you listed in the registry, searchable on the internet alongside kidnappers and child molesters faster than you can say “school safety zone.” Forget C&F, how could you explain that one to your family? “Sorry Mom, but I really had to go?”

Flashing your bits isn’t the only surprising thing that can get a guy or gal registered. The next time, ahem, first time you have sex in a public space (unfortunately, I think the stacks count), bear in mind that three convictions for obscene conduct in public can result in sex offender status. (That’s right, Larry Craig is just two wide stances away from even greater depths of ignominy.) Thankfully for me and my potty mouth (and the continued existence of this column), speech doesn’t qualify under MCL 750.167(1)(f), the statute prohibiting obscene conduct. On an interesting legal note, this question was actually decided only this year in Leonard v. Robinson, a case in which a man was suing for wrongful arrest. His crime? Saying “Goddamn” at a town meeting. (Luckily the arresting officer didn’t see the preacher’s daughter in her “Dance Your Ass Off” t-shirt, which allowed Kevin Bacon just enough time to teach the entire town about the joy and power of dance.) No, I am not kidding. (Well, I am about Kevin Bacon.)

I’m not advocating that you break the law, but if you find that oftentimes there’s no way you can make it to the bathroom, or you’re a not-so-closet dendrophile, at least make the possible conviction worth it -- a drunken, scantily remembered night at Oasis Gardens isn’t worth arrest in my book. After all, the Michigan legislature asserts that the reason we have sex offender registry is because “a person who has been convicted of committing an offense covered by this act poses a potential serious menace and danger to the health, safety, morals, and welfare of the people.” Even though, what with all the booze and partying, many of my classmates have certainly posed a threat to my liver’s health and my GPA’s welfare, I strenuously doubt that y’all are the type to disrupt the safety of an entire state.

To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s new sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.

October 09, 2007

Killjoys of Toys: Ala. Code § 13A-12-200

"Between the Briefs"
By Rooks

It was a big week for sex and the law, what with the suicide this past Friday of the Asst. US Attorney caught soliciting a child for sex, and the Oklahoma judge whose conviction for multiple counts of public indecency was upheld this week. (His Honor was using a penis pump while hearing trials – if that’s the reason those robes are so voluminous, I really prefer not to know.)

Though y’all can imagine how extraordinarily tempting it was to write on character, fitness, and sex offender registries this week, one particular news item got my metaphorical panties in the proverbial twist. Last Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Williams v. King, a case challenging the constitutionality of an Alabama ban on the sale of sex toys.

Don’t panic – S3 over on South U. isn’t going to shut down Michigan-state-government style.

Thankfully we don’t live in one, but there are still some states in the union where helping folks get their jollies can carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine (mind you, that’s just for the first offense). Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama all have laws that prohibit the sale of sex toys. (Louisiana struck down their similar statute some time ago, realizing that no one in New Orleans was paying any attention anyway, and thus preventing some sort of Deep South Anti-Orgasm Belt quinfecta.) Many of these statutes also technically restrict the purchase of vibrators, dildos, and even ribbed condoms by designating that possession of more than (in Texas at least) six sex toys constitutes an intent to distribute.

The women of Alabama, naturally, refused to take this one lying down, and soon after the law passed in 1998, a group of toy purveyors and users sought to challenge the statute. After their second trip to the 11th Circuit yielded what was, in this columnist’s opinion, a mindblowingly moronic 2-1 decision which, among other things, likened the sale of sex toys to prostitution, the plaintiffs sought a hearing with the Supreme Court to assert that the law unconstitutionally infringes on sexual privacy rights. (The 11th Circuit opinion is Williams v. Morgan, 478 F.3d 1316, for those playing along at home, and was, in a mild piece of irony, filed on Valentine’s Day of 2007.)

Now, I don’t want to picture the Justices talking about Pocket Rockets any more than the next person old enough to have seen Thomas’s confirmation hearings, but I do think that the ban is at least an issue worth examining. The Court’s decision, or rather, lack thereof, seems a far cry from the assertions of sexual liberty advocated in the Lawrence, Griswold, and Casey opinions, and frankly, makes my little sex-positive heart incredibly sad.

All is not lost, however. The plaintiffs say they will seek to bring suit again, under free speech this time, and folks from Alabama can still buy a buzz in neighboring dens of iniquity across the state lines in . . . wait, not Mississippi, not Georgia, ummm . . . Florida! Sex toy sales remain delightfully legal in Florida. And, though hysteria hasn’t been a fashionable diagnosis since the Teapot Dome scandal, Alabamans can still purchase in-state sex toys . . . ahem, personal massagers . . . “for medical purposes.”

Though I doubt that RG has a significant readership in say, Huntsville, I thought we could do our part for the pants of the people of Alabama, not to mention any Michigan law students who might’ve felt a wee bit left out by all the sex their classmates are having, by adding a note on online vibrator shopping, and detailing a couple of great resources for one’s erotic device needs.

There are a number of things to consider when purchasing a sex toy, but they can essentially be boiled down to four: style, volume, material, and cost. Stylistically speaking, when you’re shopping online (not during class, we hope), bear in mind that the essential differences between a dildo, a vibrator, and a plug are that a dildo doesn’t vibrate; a vibrator, eponymously enough, does; and a plug is generally meant for one’s rear entrance. Also, toys are designed differently for a reason – think about what area of your bits you enjoy having stimulated (and how) before plunking down your hard-earned loan money on the first thing that looks serviceable.

Volume and power issues can be a real killjoy, so pay attention to whether your toy, if electric, requires batteries or an outlet, and be sure to read the reviews to find out what other shoppers did (and didn’t) like about your toy. (Are you ok with something that, when on, sounds like a cross between an outboard motor and a buzz saw? Perhaps more importantly, is your roommate ok with it?)

Like any other bed partner, toys run the gamut between high and low maintenance -- there are sex toy materials out there that take longer to clean than your apartment after finals (cyberskin leaps to mind here). The well-being of your new little friend is important, so be conscientious of what kinds of lubricant to buy as well. Silicone lubricant is generally to be avoided with a silicone toy, and oil-based lubricants should not be used with latex . . . anything. (Hopefully I don’t need to tell anyone that if they’re using sex toys with a partner they should also use a condom.)

If that just sounds like a bit too much work, you can go the cheap date route and snag a less expensive knock-off (the sex toy industry is a giant IP lawsuit waiting to happen, seriously), but you risk sacrificing quality; think of it as an investment in happiness. Websites like babeland.com (previously Toys in Babeland) and goodvibes.com have just about everything one could think of (and some things one couldn’t even imagine), in a variety price ranges, so you can feel free to shop with confidence (and minimal guilt about how you’re spending Uncle Stafford’s money). So buy a sex toy for Alabama, and use it however you please . . . though I will say that, if you’re headed to court in Oklahoma, we recommend you leave the plugs and pumps at home.

To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s new sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.

September 25, 2007

Solicitation 101, 18 U.S.C. 1952

"Between the Briefs"
By Rooks

According to a survey conducted at UVA’s law school earlier this year, 52% of students reported taking a long enough break from softball to have sex at least once a week. Here at the Res Gestae, call us optimistic, but we’d submit that Michigan can outsex UVA any day of the week - Facebook pictures don’t lie. (Seriously, if law school really is like high school for most people, then I must’ve gone to the most boring high school in . . . anywhere.)

Unfortunately, while I’m still holding out hope for a survey of our own, it’s likely too early in our columnist/reader relationship to ask classmates to spill the beans about their every sexual move - that’s at least third-date territory. (Besides, you’re all probably far too busy actually having sex to fill out a questionnaire.) So rather than get all up in your dicta, though ever responsive to the needs of the readership, we figured that if folks insist on getting down (or up, or around . . . whatever butters your muffin), the very least we could do is write about it. That would be, I suppose, where I come in.
I may not be Carrie Bradshaw - for one, I smoke a lot less, ‘cause, kids, it’ll kill you - but I am a sex writer. It’s essentially my job to know what people do behind closed doors (not in that stalkerish way) and give some pointers on how they could do it better. Hey, even if you don’t need sex tips, I’m also an endless source of random facts. I know how many calories are in the average teaspoon of a gentleman’s most . . . strenuous objection. (Between 5 and 7.) I can tell you what the tell-tale signs of the pox are and in which states there’s a duty to disclose. (It shouldn’t hurt to go home or burn when you pee, and if you’re in New York and have AIDS, it’s a possible felony to willfully endanger a partner.) I’ve even testified as an expert witness in countless cases concerning sexual health and behavior. (Well actually, that last one’s a big ol’ lie, but I’ve given a lot of workshops, so if you ever need an expert witness, you know who to call.)

Despite the fact that solicitation is only legal in one state of the union, I’m nonetheless ready, willing and able to . . . answer your questions, entertain your suggestions, and generally give voice to ideas, news items, diatribes and whatever else you can throw at me – if there’s an issue you want to know more about (for instance, whether the Character & Fitness board will really call your ex-girlfriend, or in what states it’s illegal to buy sex toys), I want to hear about it . . . and then publish it for the prying eyes of the entire school. But don’t worry – if you spend your nights tormented, wondering why no one else seems to appreciate the brooding and darkly passionate sexual appeal of Supreme Court Justice and President of the United States William Howard Taft, I won’t judge you, and neither will anyone else – anonymity is entirely assured. (Unless you don’t want it to be, you kinkster, you.)

You all have the power to influence what you see in this column. If it’s about sex or relationships, it’s time to stop being afraid to ask, and to start reading the Res Gestae “for the articles.”

To submit a question or idea for Res Gestae’s new sex columnist, please feel free to e-mail rg@umich.edu, or, if you’d prefer greater anonymity, deposit your question under cover of night in the RG student group pendaflex outside Legal Research 116.