The XX Factor

Ted Cruz Once Argued That Selling Dildos Should Be Illegal

Ted Cruz, here in Wichita on March 5, once wrote the word genitals in a court brief.

J Pat Carter/Getty Images

As Texas’ third solicitor general, the New York Times reported earlier this month, Ted Cruz transformed an “under-the-radar, apolitical office into an aggressively ideological, attention-grabbing one.” He sent pro-gun, anti-abortion amicus briefs to the Supreme Court, “clashed” with the lawyers on his team, and “inserted himself” into controversial cases in other states.

But Cruz didn’t always approve of inserting some things into other things. One of his most memorable acts as solicitor general was defending Texas’ prohibition of sex-toy sales. David Corn writes in Mother Jones that Cruz waged a legal campaign against dildos, artificial vaginas, and vibrators in 2007, arguing that U.S. residents have no right “to stimulate one’s genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship.”

The simple fact that Ted Cruz once said, wrote, and/or thought the word genitals is the most sickening revelation of this report. But the argument he put forth is pretty awful, too. After two undercover police officers arrested a woman for selling sex toys at a “Passion Party”—an erotic take on the Tupperware party—several Austin-based sex-toy companies sued Texas to challenge its ban on this kind of commercial activity. To fend off the companies’ claims to a 14th Amendment right to privacy, Cruz and his office compared using sex toys to polygamy and sex work. (Read the entire solicitor general’s brief, which calls people who own vibrators “obscene-device users,” at Gawker.) “It is undoubtedly true that some individuals and couples—perhaps even some married couples—believe that hiring a willing prostitute or engaging in consensual bigamy would enhance their sexual experiences,” the filing stated.

To uphold the state’s interest in “protecting public morals,” the government must do what it can to discourage “autonomous sex and the pursuit of sexual gratification unrelated to procreation,” Cruz’s office argued. Cruz wanted Texas sex to mimic assembling Ikea furniture: a dutiful, results-oriented process enacted without the assistance of substantial tools.

A federal court ended up deciding 2-1 against Cruz, okaying autonomous genital stimulation for the people of Texas and ruling that a ban on selling masturbation aids is an undue burden on a right to privacy that protects masturbation. Since then, Texas dildos have been pulling double duty as gun substitutes: They’ve been wielded in protest against a state campus carry law and Photoshopped into the crosshairs of Cruz’s own loving gaze in a meme that replaced guns with dildos in the hands of Republican presidential candidates.

As for Cruz—here’s hoping his future arguments against self-gratification start and end with himself.