Conservative Outrage Over Sex Toys In Big Box Stores But Not Guns Speaks Volumes

In addition to buying standard household necessities, we're now able to grab sex toys when we stop at big box department stores like Walmart, CVS, and Target. We might argue that these are standard household necessities, but this sentiment isn't shared by everyone. Certain outspoken conservatives, like U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Fox News' Tucker Carlson, have taken umbrage with the new accessibility of sex toys. Gone are the days when women needed to enter dimly lit sex shops in order to buy them. Walmart first introduced the brand PlusOne to their brick-and-mortar stores in 2018; PlusOne sells high-quality, rechargeable toys both for couples but also for individual use. The addition of sex toys to Walmart's wide variety of retail goods is a step in the right direction toward sex positivity. The packaging is attractive and the ease with which someone can purchase an item takes away the shame and stigma some shoppers might feel, since these products are no longer secretive and taboo.

But conservative outrage over these sex toys continues, and their ire is entirely misdirected. There's more condemnation towards sexual pleasure than there is towards gun violence and it's a sad reality to see that many prominent figures in America would rather see vibrators taken off shelves than guns.

The history of conservative condemnation towards sexual pleasure

Conservative voices in America have long derided sex toys and even went as far as outlawing them. In 1973, Texas passed the Texas obscenity statute, prohibiting the sale or promotion of so-called obscene devices. "'Obscene device' means a dildo or artificial vagina, designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs," a portion of Section 43.21 of the Texas Penal Code reads. It meant that people could be prosecuted for selling these devices, and some were. In 2004, a woman was arrested for selling sex toys, per CNN. The law has never been repealed, but in 2008, a judge claimed that it was "unconstitutional and unenforceable."

This sentiment hasn't left many arenas of American culture. In December 2022, Fox News correspondent Trace Gallagher told Tucker Carlson on air that CVS was selling sex toys, in a bizarrely detailed description. " ... [T]hey appear to be a relative bargain," Gallagher said. "For example, there's a Tush Cush for $11.97, though the accompanying lotion that goes with it will set you back an additional $11.97. And if you've got the cash, right there in the middle, the Buzzy Butt will run you $32.50." Geez, guys, if you want them that badly, go ahead! Carlson replied, "But it's immoral to sell Marlboros, Trace."

Unsurprisingly, people were struck by the oddly detailed shopping list on Fox News and the misdirected outrage. "The GOP will ban adult sex toys before stopping folks from carrying guns into Starbucks, you know, because of the children," one Twitter user correctly noted.

Where's the outrage about gun violence?

This wasn't the end of conservatives talking about sex toys. Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke to an audience in December 2022 about her new discovery. After receiving the Richard M. Nixon Award, Greene said, "By the way, you can pick up a butt plug or a dildo at Target and CVS nowadays. I don't even know how we got here. This is the state that we're living in right now" (via Newsweek). Naturally, the unusual comment sparked conversation about conservative priorities. "Dildos should be more difficult to buy than guns in Marge's perfect world," one person wrote on Twitter.

The repeated effort from right-wing camps to condemn sex toys and, to a greater extent, sex and pleasure, as enemies of American values is completely absurd and largely hypocritical. Where's that anger when it comes to things that actually harm American people, like gun violence? Following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May 2022, Greene tweeted, "Sometimes, meds can be the problem ... We don't need more gun control. We need to return to God." The complete dismissal of any kind of gun reform after such a tragedy shows the skewed nature of right-wing values. After the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville in March 2023, Greene said that children need more "good guys with guns." These flippant statements show a disregard for American safety, while the right-wing expends energy on condemning sexual pleasure. It's a lost opportunity to look at what's really hurting people.