Republicans Take Aim at Risque Jokes and Romance Novels with Anti-Sex Bills

Republicans are pushing a wave of proposed legislation across the U.S. to outlaw aspects of sexuality. The state bills could have enormous impacts on Americans’ private lives and businesses. 

The laws are already receiving backlash. 

The new bills are part of the right’s strategy in the aftermath of Roe being overturned. The religious wing of the Republican Party is taking aim at anything sex-related now that federal abortion rights have fallen. 

The legislation ranges from banning all businesses that sell sex-related goods to anti-drag queen bills.

Opponents say the planned new legislation could spawn prosecution of breast-pump companies in Texas for nipples on advertising, or a bookstore might be banned from selling romance novels in West Virginia, or South Carolina could imprison standup comics if a risque joke is heard by a young person.

The most prevalent bills relate to age verification of sex-related websites. 

Seventeen states have drafted porn age-verification bills. In many of the states where the anti-porn bills are being put forth, minors can legally have sex and get married. 

Many of the bills were inspired by a new Louisiana law that went into effect in January, which requires websites featuring 33.33 percent or more pornographic content to check government-issued ID to verify users are 18 and older. Websites that don’t comply face civil penalties. Parents can sue the site if kids access it.

Texas has introduced a new bill that requires age verification on websites with pornographic content. It defines images of the female breast “below the top of the areola” as porn. 

Experts say this is dangerous rhetoric as it teaches the public that women’s bodies are intrinsically dangerous and sexual. 

In West Virginia, a bill outlawing all sexually oriented businesses is being considered. Its definition of sexually orientated includes art studios with nude models and wrestling arenas. 

In South Carolina, a bill would criminalize using “profane language” related to “sexual or excretory organs or activities” in front of minors during performances. The punishment is up to a decade in prison.

Some bills define porn so broadly that anatomy textbooks or sex education websites would meet them.

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