Legislating the Penis

By Nadia-Elysse Harris

Let’s see how you like it if we legislate your penises, boys.

Because let’s face it, it takes two to tango.  Recent state laws intended to place obstacles in the way of women’s right to abortion don’t seem to notice that women don’t get pregnant without a little help from men. Meantime, on the federal side, the government did keep men in its discussion of women’s reproductive rights — by holding hearings on proposed birth control reform in front of a nearly all male panel of experts.

It’s somewhat surprising there’s a debate about legalized abortion at all.  We thought the matter was settled with Roe v. Wade , when the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny women the right to have an abortion. And then in 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey went a step further, saying that state laws regulating abortions can’t place an undue burden on women. The friction between the rights these cases try to protect and the newly proposed legislation sweeping the nation has left many women bewildered, and indignant.

And some of our elected officials are doing something about it.

In an unconventional turn of events, some state senators and representatives have begun proposing legislation aimed at the sexual and reproductive organs – of men.  For the most part, penis-targeted legislation has been flying under the radar, but luckily for you, dear readers, we rounded up some of our favorites:  

Lie face down, relax and take a deep breath. After Virginia passed a bill requiring women to get an intrusive vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion, State Senator Janet Howell (D) proposed an amendment to the Virginia state constitution that would require men to have a rectal exam and cardiac stress test before being prescribed erectile dysfunction medication.

That’s right, Joe. Let’s make you run on a treadmill at an ungodly speed, then probe you in your most private regions before you can get those tiny blue pills that you so desperately desire.  I mean, it’s only right; Virginia women are going to have to undergo a “totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience,” explained the senator. “If we’re going to do that to women, why not do that to men?”

The amendment was defeated on January 30, but Senator Howell had a valid point, which she got a across in a way we won’t soon forget.

Vasectomies kill babies, too. The Missouri legislature recently approved a resolution objecting to the federal healthcare legislation that would force employers and insurers to cover contraceptives. Why, ask some outraged lawmakers, should the public have to foot the bill for women’s recreational sex? Fair enough, I suppose. But women aren’t the only ones having sex for fun.

So Missouri legislator Stacey Newman (D) proposed a bill that would place restrictions on vasectomies. After all, men who have vasectomies are doing it so that they, too, can have sex without the consequences of becoming a parent.  Ms. Newman’s proposed law says, in part, “In determining whether a vasectomy is necessary, no regard shall be made to the desire of a man to father children, his economic situation, his age, the number of children he is currently responsible for, or any danger to his wife or partner in the event a child is conceived.”  Nope, the only fact to take into account would be whether the procedure was necessary to save the man’s life.

Similarly, in Georgia, State representative Yasmin Neal (D) introduced The Anti-Vasectomy Act, saying “This bill mimics the bills across the nation and just like the abortion bills interfere with a woman’s right to choose, it’s only fair that the general assembly debate the man’s right to choose as well.”  Yeah, not going to happen, but when you think about it – why not?

Every ejaculation counts. In Oklahoma and Delaware lawmakers proposed laws that say that masturbation is a violation of  ‘personhood.’  In early February, Oklahoma State Senator Constance Johnson (D) sought to have an amendment added to the state constitution that would declare sperm sacred. The amendment would make “any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina…an action against an unborn child.”

Because having some fun and then placing your semen in a tissue, or in a towel in your mom’s guest bathroom, is not what true pro-lifers do.  Each little sperm that you release has the potential to grow into a dentist, a professional athlete, or even President of the United States of America.  This is not something to be taken lightly. Don’t just let those sperm go for any old reason.  Procreation matters.

Similarly, in Wilmington, Delaware, the city council passed a resolution that forbids men from destroying semen.  The resolution says that each “egg person” and each “sperm person” should have the same rights as any other dependent minor. Sperm are just little swimmers that hope to be people, too.

Women across the country are up in arms about the resurgence of legislation in quite a few states that would interfere with women’s right to choose. The  bills taking aim at the penis – as silly as they may seem – are sending a message that the people who represent us are listening to women…

Yes, some of them are silly. But they’re kind of thought provoking, too.




5 Responses

  1. Princess Ali says:

    You rock.

  2. NYLS Student says:

    “Sperm are just little swimmers that hope to be people too.” <– this line made me spit out my coffee. HILARIOUS!

  3. Alexa W. says:

    Great piece.

  4. Jacci says:

    Thanks Nadia … Your article sheds light on a serious concern – that would be funny, if it wasn’t so disappointingly true. Legislate the penis!

  5. Abouttobeflamed says:

    At the risk of exposing myself to the general hatred of women everywhere, and with full knowledge of the consequences for my chances of getting a date should this comment ever be leaked to prospective dates, here goes.

    First, a caveat. I fully believe, that a female has the right to choose, both pre and post conception, under the Constitution.

    But… I also believe men have certain rights. I will, for obvious purposes, exclude pregnancy resulting from rape (even right wing nut jobs will grant that caveat- usually). Specifically, I’m referring to the right to not be inflicted with cruel and wantom emotional harm.

    Here is the hypothetical- and a situation that is unfortunatley not that uncommon. A responsible couple decide to have a child. They make preparations. They consult physicians. They examine their finances, and make sure they are in a place to provide for this new child. They are a married couple, with a stable relationship. They go about creating a child in the natural manner. Then, weeks/months later, the wife decides not to go through with it. She gets an abortion.

    The feminist response is, “So? Her body, her rights.” My response is- and this happened to me exactly- “My soul, my heart, my everything was preparing to welcome a child of mine into this world.” But I’m male, a chauvinist, and a pig, for even trying to acertain that I might legitmatley have a right to some input into this kind of decision. Needless to say, I moved out of the house, filed for divorce, and have joylessly watched her sink into depression, drug use, and homelessness. But no forgiveness, not for that.