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“How many condoms it is legal to carry in New York City?”
February 18, 2013 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Arrested for carrying condoms? Maybe not any more. Last week, California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced legislation that will prevent police from arresting or charging someone for sexual solicitation based solely on the possession of one or more condoms.

Condoms are, in fact, already legal to own in any amount. But police and prosecutors around the country use the possession of condoms as a reason to harass or arrest sex workers. In a report [PDF] released last year, Human Rights Watch found it's a tactic used regularly in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, and San Francisco — cities with some of the high rates of HIV among sex workers. At the same time, those same cities give away an estimated 40 million condoms a year; New York City even has its own brand.

“Sex workers in each city asked us how many condoms it was legal to carry,” said Megan McLemore, senior health researcher at Human Rights Watch. “One woman in Los Angeles told us she was afraid to carry condoms with her and sometimes had to use a plastic bag instead of a condom with clients to try to protect herself from HIV.”

Last year the Open Society Foundation also released [PDF] a report on the criminalization of condoms in Kenya, Namibia, Russia, South Africa, the United States, and Zimbabwe.
posted by not_the_water (28 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a good step. Introducing legislation that will prevent police from arresting or charging someone for sexual solicitation period would be better, but this is better than nothing.
posted by kafziel at 11:14 AM on February 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is a particularly good step for transwomen, who are disproportionately arrested for sex work, and also are HIV affected at a greater rate than other populations.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:23 AM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow, that is insane. I had no idea this was happening.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:39 AM on February 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Nothing shows the hypocrisy of vice laws so much as when they actively oppose harm mitigation strategies.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:59 AM on February 18, 2013 [24 favorites]


That's a good step. Introducing legislation that will prevent police from arresting or charging someone for sexual solicitation period would be better, but this is better than nothing.

This will never happen. Aside from the opposition of the moralists it would also severely curtail the police's ability to get freebies.
posted by srboisvert at 12:01 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Irrespective of whether this particular law is misused as a harassment tactic, I applaud any representative who acts to repeal an out-of-date "crime." We have innumerable of these on the books in various states (eg, fornication, adultery, etc.). In most cases they aren't prosecuted, and sometimes you can even find an appellate court that has brushed against it saying, "We decline to consider the constitutionality of this law, because there is no indication it will be used for prosecution." I hate that. Defunct laws should be repealed. Unfortunately that requires some courage from a politician, which can be hard to find.
posted by cribcage at 12:09 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am wary about saying one thing or another will never happen, but it is true that it takes will to effect change. The first step towards building that will is knowing there is a problem.
posted by JHarris at 12:14 PM on February 18, 2013


Holy shit. That's deplorable. And also just plain stupid from a public health and policy standpoint. Thank you for sharing this.
posted by deludingmyself at 12:19 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yay, an Ammiano bill that's likely to pass! (I love the dude and support the stuff he tries to pass 100 percent, but he's definitely a Hail Mary type of legislator and so it can be disappointing to see stuff that he champions end up being just headlines and not law.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Atlanta, Georgia - Popular entertainer Christopher "Ludacris" Brian Bridges was detained on suspicion of carrying multiple condoms in what has been described as a "big ass sack." Investigators are pursuing federal charges as the alleged sack has cross numerous state lines.
posted by wcfields at 1:02 PM on February 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


This law makes about as much sense as arresting people on charges of bioterrorism for carrying antibiotics.
posted by palindromic at 1:06 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


so anyone who picks up a big package of condoms at a grocery store can be arrested for suspicion of being a prostitute*?

this is the ridiculous result of ridiculous law - in fact, there is no way one can enforce private morality upon the public without corrupting the law and the public to a far worse degree than whatever the "crimes" committed do

*of course, as a straight male, i suspect that's something i wouldn't have to worry about, which shows you how screwed up and unjust this is
posted by pyramid termite at 1:07 PM on February 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


WOW. Thanks for sharing this; I had no idea this was going on. What an incredibly crummy way to try to curtail sex work.
posted by epj at 1:23 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ironically, I've found the more condoms I carry around 'just in case' the less likely I am to actually have sex.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 1:33 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next thing you know, some folks will be gettin' arrested for having a penis, cuz clearly that proves they intend to have sex.
posted by Goofyy at 1:44 PM on February 18, 2013


the more condoms I carry around 'just in case' the less likely I am to actually have sex.

Sure it isn't the "free condoms" sign?

Strangely, the less weapons I carry the less I'm mugged. I'm beginning to think there's more than one equation at work here. Or unknown unknowns.
posted by Twang at 2:05 PM on February 18, 2013


New York has also had a pending bill for quite some time, and my understanding is that it continues to be stalled in committee. Still, a coalition has been formed that produced this report on this issue. Here's a nice summary and tips for those looking to get involved.
posted by likeatoaster at 2:16 PM on February 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whenever I hear anyone talk about how great it used to be, I think of laws like this.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:42 PM on February 18, 2013


There seems to be a misapprehension here that Assemblyman Ammiano is trying to repeal a law that actually criminalizes carrying condoms in any form. What he wants to outlaw is police using someone carrying condoms as "evidence" that the person is attempting to engage in prostitution. The question in the title is like asking "How black am I legal to be while driving a nice car in a white neighborhood?"

The answer to each, obviously, is "Whatever the cops want to let you get away with," because the problem Ammiano is trying to solve isn't the use of condoms as evidence in criminal trials. The problem is that the police are arresting sex workers and claiming that anyone who has a bunch of condoms (which the cop didn't see before the arrest) intends to break the law by engaging in sex work.

This bill may make sex workers more willing to carry condoms, so it's good policy, but it won't decrease the number of arrests by even one, anywhere, ever.
posted by Etrigan at 4:44 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


I recall this being a point of outrage at a Take Back the Night rally that I attended in a town in New Jersey in the early 2000s; apparently three condoms was the cutoff between what the local police could consider regular behavior versus evidence to support a prostitution charge. Note that condoms are mostly sold in packages of at least three.

Some of the local police were running their own brothel at the same time.

I guess I'm not surprised that NYC had a similar law; I'm rather disappointed that it's still a current law though. Given how dangerous street prostitution can be, you'd have to be a... person of very poor character... to support criminalizing harm reduction measures for any sort of harm affiliated with street prostitution, even if you thought that prostitution was immoral.
posted by eviemath at 5:02 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Er, don't know why I thought the article was about NYC; same sentiments apply though.)
posted by eviemath at 5:03 PM on February 18, 2013


AB 336 would not legalize prostitution or bar police from arresting offenders based on other evidence, including presence in suspect areas, manner of dress, approach to cars, or possession of sex toys, lubricants or cash.

What I take away from all this is even if this passes, they can still arrest you for carrying a dildo in Sacramento. Noted.
posted by DecemberBoy at 8:08 PM on February 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Step off, klang. Ammiano is my Assemblymember. He's an effective legislator and he really doesn't introduce bills for the media. He's authored and passed bills for my organization and been great to work with. He was an effective member of the Board of Supervisors here before he ran for the Assembly. People who underestimate his effectiveness because he's gay usually get their butts kicked by him. He's not a "Hail Mary" type of legislator at all, unless you mean that in a "Hail, Mary!" queeny kind of way.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:56 PM on February 18, 2013


I think I'll go buy a couple dozen and make a necklace and a hairband out of them. I wonder if our police will arrest a white-haired old lady driving a scooter with a pretty necklace and hair decoration. Every woman in the country should do the same, especially in Sacramento.

They do come in colors, don't they?
posted by aryma at 10:40 PM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Step off, klang. Ammiano is my Assemblymember. He's an effective legislator and he really doesn't introduce bills for the media."

Again, I like him, but, say, that Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act ain't gettin' passed any time soon (he's introduced it twice, and it keeps swirling through the legislature in different forms). He tries to get two or three pot laws passed every session, things like changing the cultivation limits. Likewise, he usually tries to pass a law rescinding the death penalty, that sort of stuff. He gets plenty of actual work done, like passing renter-friendly tax reappropriation laws last year, but I think it's totally fair to note that the guy always puts up a handful of liberal wishes up for a vote every year and that they're rarely granted.
posted by klangklangston at 12:23 AM on February 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


This will never happen. Aside from the opposition of the moralists it would also severely curtail the police's ability to get freebies.

I realize you're being sarcastic, but joking about rape, while not acknowledging that you're talking about rape, bothers me.
posted by jaguar at 8:04 AM on February 19, 2013


The part in the article where they reassure us that cops will still be able to arrest people for having dildos and lube... not very reassuring.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 10:06 PM on February 19, 2013


New York Cops Will Arrest You for Carrying Condoms
posted by homunculus at 12:59 PM on March 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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