Everyone likes shopping, whether they admit it or not. Spending money on things you like is good times. At least it should be good times.
We're all well aware of the more common shopping complaints. Crowds, malls, people, parking lots ... it's all terrible. There are a few lesser known problems with shopping out there as well, and most of them are forced upon us by legislators and lawmakers. Rules put in place from way up high that make shopping a pain in the ass for the people like us, way down below. We talk about one of the biggest "shopping restrictions" of all on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comics Lou Perez and David Huntsberger. For the purpose of this column, though, I'll kick things off by going in a slightly different direction.
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Is it really true that you can't buy sex toys in Alabama? It sure is! The law has its own Wikipedia page and everything. It's called the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act, and it absolutely legislates what men and women can and cannot put in their various sex spots. It was originally intended only as a measure to prevent nude dancing, meaning fuck it still, but it has since expanded to include the purchase of any and all sex toys.
There is one allowance, though, in that Alabama understands that, sometimes, you're just going to have to show someone a dick to further their education. For those people, a clause exists that allows the sale of certain items for educational or medical purposes. So, let's say you're a high school sex ed teacher in Alabama and ... just joking, you know Alabama doesn't have sex ed anymore. I'm sure it's been replaced with Bible study or advanced sandwich artistry by now.
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Having to carry the work home with you is the hardest part of any teacher's job.
Still, they do allow that, so at least it's not a completely unreasonable law, right? You know I wouldn't ask that question if it was. See, even with the educational/medical exemption, you still have to fill out a questionnaire that covers all facets of your sexual history and inclinations. Does a medical reason for a dildo exist? I'm sure one does, and if that's the case, at some point in history, some low-level hospital employee has no doubt been tasked with purchasing one somewhere and in the process had to admit that they sometimes like it in the butt.
It's a thing with nurses.
If you think the law is crazy, wait until you hear how it briefly got overturned. In 2005, a novelties dealer named Sherri Williams teamed with the ACLU to challenge the law, arguing that the case of Lawrence v. Texas, which finally granted Texans the right to have consensual gay sex, set a clear precedent for allowing sex toys in Alabama. Fucking how? It doesn't matter, because somehow the courts agreed, and the sex toy ban was overturned ... briefly. A few short months later, the decision was overturned by the appeals court.
Nary a pocket pussy has been seen in Alabama since.
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If you're a fan of conspiracy theories, I'd like to introduce you to sodium cyclamate. It's an artificial sweetener that I talked about once before way back when I was a little feature-writing puppy. Its street name is "magic sugar," and in practically every other country in the world, its use is allowed without restriction. Think of pretty much any "sugar-free" item in America. In most countries, the artificial sweetener that makes it palatable is sodium cyclamate.
The soccer of sugar substitutes.
In the United States, though, sodium cyclamate has been outlawed since way back in 1969, when FDA scientist Dr. Jacqueline Verrett went on NBC Nightly News to inform the world that, after tests in which she injected baby birds with sodium cyclamate while still in the egg, most were born with birth defects.
Chicks can be so cruel sometimes.
She even brought pictures, you guys. Do you want to see one?
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Neither do I, and the people watching NBC that night certainly didn't want to see any more than they already had, so it was widely agreed that this third nipple-causing calorie saver must be jettisoned from grocery store shelves nationwide.
So here's a question: Why is it still available everywhere else? Well, because the science behind Verrett's study was a bit flawed. For one thing, humans don't consume their artificial sweeteners by way of direct injection. If we could still taste it that way, we probably would, but alas, we do not. Further tests were done, though, and it was revealed that out of 240 rats, eight of them developed bladder cancer when given sodium cyclamate. How much sodium cyclamate, you ask? Just the equivalent of a person consuming 350 cans of soda per day, which I'm not sure is even scientifically possible.
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But today, these people will try, for science.
Even better, not a single subsequent test has been able to replicate the findings of these two studies from 1969.
So, while the rest of the world agreed that this ban was a farce, for some reason the United States stands firm in their refusal to let us eat magic sugar. This is the kind of story that gets tinfoil hat types in a total uproar. Does the government know something that the rest of the world doesn't? Are they withholding it to protect us or to harm us? Are we sending Coke and Pepsi out into the world to deliver sodium cyclamate because we know it will help us win one day? Was the Cold War just a ruse meant to distract us from the far more important Cola Wars? Is it just a money thing?
The possibilities are endless, unless you're talking about the possibility of drinking soda sweetened with sodium cyclamate in the United States. Still not possible.