They call my house the “Playgirl Mansion”
Here’s how to start a commotion:
Take a group of women, invite them into your living room, and introduce them to the latest products for enhancing their love lives.
On that cool, rainy night, that was exactly what I was doing. Timed to coincide with Monday night football, my Whoopieware party had the house rocking.
“Herb said if I don’t stop buying this stuff, I’m going to kill him,” Nadine Richards, one of my older guests, remarked. “I said, ‘Honey, at least you’ll die happy.’ ”
The younger women shrieked with laughter. She touched her silver bouffant and smiled coyly. “If you want to know the truth, I’m having the time of my life.”
The group applauded and cheered.
Katie Randall, a young mother, added: “After the twins were born, I sort of lost interest. I think Clark gave up on me. Then, one day, I found him talking to a cute secretary in his office. I knew then that I had to get my act together. You know that passion fruit body cream that I got last time? Let’s just say he ate it up.”
There was another round of applause, interspersed with a few hoots. Katie blushed demurely.
Twenty women had showed up that night and if their laughter was any measure, they were having a great time.
With this being a fairly small town, I knew many of them. Some were regular attendees, but some of them were new, representing a growing following.
Although I’d hosted more than a dozen Whoopieware parties, I never stopped having fun at them. It was a place where women could get together, share some of their most intimate thoughts, and have a good time. Sure, a few were embarrassed or just curious, but most came back for more.
“What surprises have you got for us tonight, Sherry?” one of my regulars asked.
“New toys and teddies,” I said. “And later, with refreshments, a video entitled Playtime.”
While my guests twittered, I opened my “toy box.” Inside were several new plastic gadgets designed to enhance both male and female response. As I passed them around I brought out edible creams—one in a new cappuccino flavor—and a chocolate thong.
There was a teddy made of the sheerest black fabric and a lace-up bustier. There were also scented candles and aromatherapy oils and bubble bath gels. I topped off my demonstration with a board game in which a roll of the dice determined what one partner would be required to do to the other. The object was to teach people new and enjoyable sexual techniques.
“I’ll take all of them,” Nadine said. “That is, assuming the teddy comes in plus sizes.”
“It does,” I replied.
A regular prodded a newcomer to try a sex toy. A timid-looking, middle-aged woman studied a candle.
“Surround your bathtub with lit candles while you and your partner indulge in some aromatherapy in the tub,” I suggested.
The suggestion brought an embarrassed smile to her lips. “I hope to goodness my mother-in-law never finds out where I am tonight. She thinks these parties are just so disgraceful.”
The chatter in the room stopped.
“How so?” I asked.
“She thinks they’re vulgar and immoral, and that somebody needs to put a stop to them.”
My stomach clutched. From the group came a collective groan. Her mother-in-law was Bertha Cochran, a banker’s widow and well-known member of the community.
“But she has never been to one of my parties,” I pointed out.
“Of course not. She’s only heard about them. If she had any idea I was thinking about loosening up her little boy, she’d have me arrested. She’s probably the reason why Hank is so repressed. How we managed to have two kids is nothing short of a miracle.”
She stood up. “I don’t know all of you, but please don’t tell anyone I was here. I even came on foot. Please don’t breathe a word about anything. I shouldn’t have said all those things, but they kind of slipped out. But I just felt I was with people who would understand.”
“Of course we do,” I said. “We’re all friends here. And friends don’t snitch on each other.” Assurances from the others followed.
“I’ll take a few candles and some bubble bath,” she said shyly.
When the evening was over the unsatisfied wife had been sent on her way with a roomful of well wishes, and I’d netted more than five hundred dollars in orders. Not only had it been an enjoyable evening for me, but I’d given others a good time. In addition, I’d be contributing much needed money toward family expenses.
If anyone had told me that I’d be selling sex toys someday to help make ends meet, I wouldn’t have believed it. But when our second child was born prematurely with a host of problems, we went into a financial tailspin.
Davey, who had severe asthma and other lung problems, needed my full-time care. In addition, I had to look after my older son, Jacob. That meant that whatever I did to earn extra money had to be something I could do from home.
I could have sold cosmetics, but I had a special interest in Whoopieware, because similar therapy had helped my husband, Wes, and me transform our sex lives.
The first five years of our marriage were childless. Doctors could find nothing wrong with either of us and said that we simply needed to “relax”. Making matters worse was that the whole ordeal was affecting Wes’ performance.
At one point, he even suggested that maybe I should marry someone else. But that was out of the question; I loved him too much. When I confided my problems to a friend, she handed me a book about sex play, which included descriptions of various sex aids. Before long, we were like new lovers again. The real proof of success came seven years ago, with our first child.
After our second child was born two years ago, I learned about a new company, Whoopieware, in which products are introduced to women at gatherings in private homes. Seeing it as just the extra-income opportunity I’d been seeking, I hosted my first party. Just a few adventurous friends came, but my clientele has since grown to several hundred women. I like to think I’m helping them have the time of their lives.
My business, which I advertised discreetly in my sister’s beauty shop, has been a source of amusement more than anything in our town of about thirty thousand. Of course, there had been a few negative comments. But until tonight, I hadn’t heard of anyone who wanted the parties shut down.
After the party, as I was putting away the last of the folding chairs, the front door opened. It was Wes and the boys.
“Hey,” he greeted me, smiling. “How many ladies did you make happy tonight?”
I gave him a quick kiss and hugged the kids. “About twenty. We had a lot of fun. I’ll get about two hundred and fifty dollars. Not bad for one night’s work.”
“Some of the guys were teasing me during halftime. Max Thornberry said, ‘I bet there must be some good times at your house.’ I told him to send his wife over, but he claimed he was so great in bed that she didn’t need any of that. Can you imagine Max, who can’t see his feet for his pot belly, as some kind of Hugh Hefner?”
“It’s difficult,” I conceded.
“One guy asked me how things were going in the Playgirl Mansion!”
Exasperated, I shook my head. “Wes, I hope you don’t mind being ribbed. You’re not embarrassed by what I do, are you?”
“No, honey, and don’t you ever think that,” he said, taking me into his arms. “They’re teasing me because they’re jealous, and they have good reason to be. You know I’m your biggest supporter—and we both know why.”
“I don’t mind the teasing if you don’t. I’m used to it. It’s to be expected. But one of the ladies tonight said her mother-in-law said the parties ought to be shut down.”
He frowned. “She can think whatever she wants, but there’s nothing she can actually do.”
“I know. But it’s hard not to take something like that personally, like I’m some sort of a madam.”
“Why don’t you invite her to your next party?” His eyes twinkled with mischief.
“She’s a widow, Wes.”
“Okay. Make her a merry widow!”
I landed a playful punch on his muscled arm. “You’re crazy, but I love you anyway.”
“Mommy!” Jacob interrupted. “Can we play this?”
I turned to find him toting the sex game I’d accidentally left on the dining room table. On the lid of the container was a picture of a naked couple squirting each other with chocolate syrup.
I snatched it away from him. “No, honey.”
“Why not?” His large brown eyes were round and inquiring.
“Because it’s an adult game. It’s not for kids.” I groped for the right words. “It’s too complicated for kids.”
“But it doesn’t look hard,” Jacob countered. “It looks like paintball.”
“Games are like books,” Wes explained. “There are some you’re not ready for yet. They have too many words you haven’t learned yet.”
“Oh,” Jacob said.
I turned to Wes with a feeling of relief. “While I finish putting things away, why don’t you start getting the boys ready for bed?”
As they disappeared into the hallway, I stuck the game in my “toy box” and took a quick inventory to make sure no devices, which would really be hard to explain to a seven-year-old, hadn’t accidentally been left lying around. The “toy box,” in turn, was placed on a top shelf in our bedroom closet.
The explanation I’d given Jacob for my monthly parties was appropriately vague. I called them “tea parties” for a group of friends. I wasn’t deceiving him; I was protecting him. He simply wasn’t ready for that type of information.
With Davey, the issue was still irrelevant. He was barely two. But the situation that night reminded me that it was something I’d eventually have to deal with. I wasn’t ashamed of my business, but I didn’t want my children to be embarrassed by it. I wanted to raise them to be informed, open-minded, and comfortable with sexual issues.
But in the meantime, I wanted to keep my children’s world separate from the adult world just as long as possible.
A few days later I stopped at my sister’s beauty shop for an overdue haircut.
“Heard you had a great party the other night,” Kim said, combing out my wet hair. “Renee Winchester was in the other day. She said she bought one of those board games.”
I giggled. “Is there anything you don’t hear?”
She began sectioning off my hair. “Not much. Erin Mabry is expecting twins.”
“Another satisfied Whoopieware customer,” I joked.
“Now if I could just manage to get the attention of that new junior high football coach,” she said wistfully. Kim was twenty-eight and an attractive brunette, but she’d yet to meet the right man.
“Let me know if you do,” I said. “I’ve got some things that will run up his score.”
She laughed. “You always were the adventurous one, Sherry!”
I glanced at a display shelf where I’d placed a small plastic case for Whoopieware brochures. There was only one left. “I’ll bring some more brochures tomorrow.”
“They go fast. Some just read them, giggle, and put them back. I saw one lady slip one into her coat pocket when she didn’t think I was looking.”
Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of a bell, signaling that someone had just walked in. I glanced in the mirror to see a couple who appeared to be in their thirties. I didn’t recognize them. Kim’s partner was busy at the shampoo sink, so Kim stepped over to greet them.
“Hi. Can I help you?” she asked.
The couple looked at each other and laughed nervously. “Do you sell Whoopieware here?” the man asked.
“No, but the lady you’re looking for is sitting right here,” she said, motioning toward me.
I swiveled around in my chair to face them. I was suddenly self-conscious. Half my dark hair hung down while the other half was clipped in tufts.
“I’m Sherry, the local representative,” I said. “Please excuse my appearance.”
“She’s under construction,” Kim joked.
“We’re the Browns,” the man said. “We’d like to look over your product catalogue. We’re interested in buying some things.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t sell things at the beauty shop. They’re sold at parties. I’ll be hosting another one next month. They’re for women only. Not even my husband attends. Mrs. Brown, you’re welcome to come.”
“Thank you, but we were hoping to pick up some things sooner,” she said. “You see, we’re going on a trip soon. It’s for our tenth anniversary and we really wanted to make it special. Isn’t there any way you could make a special order? It would mean so much to us.”
I sighed. How could I say no to a couple eager to celebrate such an important milestone? Wasn’t the whole object of my business to help keep couples together?
“I think I can make an exception under the circumstances,” I said. “But I may have to do a rush order, and that costs a little extra.”
Mrs. Brown’s face brightened. “We don’t mind, do we, honey?”
“No,” her husband said.
“If you’ll give me your address, I’ll put a catalogue in the mail today.”
“Um, could we just come by and pick one up?” she asked
“Sure, if you’d prefer.” I grabbed my purse and handed them my card. “My husband is at home now. I can give him a call and have him hand you one.”
“That would be great. Thank you so much. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible with an order.”
“You’re welcome,” I said, pleased.
“That took some nerve,” Kim said after the couple left. “I don’t think I could announce publicly that I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some sex toys.”
Sandra Meyers, who was getting her roots touched up by Kim’s partner, laughed. “Who were they, anyway? I’ve never seen them before.”
“Neither have I,” said Holly, the other stylist. “They must be new. Maybe they’re connected to the new window factory.
I shrugged. “Obviously they found out about Whoopieware somehow. They could be somebody’s out-of-town relatives, but it seems they would have mentioned that. Oh, well—I’ll find out when I place the order.”
Quickly, I called Wes and asked him to slip a catalogue into a brown envelope.
Other than being glad over the prospect of making a few extra dollars, I didn’t give it much more thought as Kim cut the other half of my hair.
When I got home about an hour later, the couple had already picked up the catalogue. I also learned they’d come by the house earlier and that Wes had told them where I was.
“Did they say anything?” I asked.
“They just thanked me.”
I sighed. Whoever they were, I was hoping they would find plenty of things of interest.
As it turned out, they did. Just after lunch, they called with an order for several sex toys, a vibrating device, edible body cream, and Whoopieware’s skimpiest teddy. After thanking them, I asked if they were new in town.
“Well, uh . . . sort of,” Mrs. Brown said. She didn’t volunteer any additional information.
Not wanting to pry, I told her that I’d give her a call when the order arrived.
Four days later, the package came. That evening she came by herself to pick it up. She paid for the items in cash, then asked for a signed receipt, which I very gladly provided.
“I hope you enjoy your trip,” I said. “I have a feeling that you will.”
She gave an embarrassed laugh, thanked me, then hurried out the door.
“Who was that, Mommy?” Jacob asked.
“Her name is Mrs. Brown.”
“What was in that box?”
“Just some household items.”
“Just to keep around the house. Now, don’t you have a spelling test tomorrow?”
“I’ve already studied.”
“Let’s see how well you know your words,” I said, hustling him off to the den.
I thought of what I’d just told him and bit my bottom lip. I didn’t lie to him, but how much longer would it be before I ran out of creative answers for his questions?
One weekday morning, several weeks later, I was getting ready for another Whoopieware party when the phone rang.
“Mrs. Sherry White?” the male caller asked.
“This is Sergeant Franklin with the police department. I’m calling to notify you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest.”
My mind went blank with confusion. “There must be some kind of mistake. You must have called the wrong White—”
“No, ma’am, I’m afraid not. You’re being changed with selling obscene objects. That’s a violation of state law.”
I turned cold. “How could that be? These are romance products. They’re not obscene objects.”
“According to the laws of our state, an obscene device is a simulated sexual organ, or an item designed for the purposes of sexual stimulation. The products you sold our undercover agents fit that description.”
My breath caught. “You mean that couple who came to my house . . . ”
“I’m afraid so.”
I crumpled. “I can’t believe this! These products are sold in adult stores. I’ve never hear about raids on them. What’s going on here?”
“I’ll explain when you come to the station.”
“Come to the station?” I repeated numbly.
“Yes, ma’am. I’ve giving you a chance to come down voluntarily. If you don’t, we’ll have to come and bring you downtown.”
My breakfast started to churn inside me as I envisioned myself handcuffed and being put into the backseat of a squad car.
“Who’s behind this?” I asked.
“We got a complaint. That’s all I can say.”
“Can’t this be settled in some other way? I’m not a criminal. I’m a wife and mother who is just trying to make a little extra money.”
“I’m sorry, but a warrant has been issued by a judge. It’s my job to serve it.”
“How long have I got to come down?”
I hung up with a shuddering sigh. The mother-in-law of one of my party guests—had she done this to me? What was I going to tell my husband? What was I going to tell the boys?
After taking a few moments to get myself together, I called Wes.
“I’ll be right home.” His voice was tight with anger.
About twenty minutes later he came through the door, not bothering to take off his coat. His face was flushed as he gathered me into his arms.
“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I’ll call the police chief.”
But the call was in vain. The chief said he sympathized, but it was their responsibility to enforce the law, no matter how quirky and out-of-date it was. A complaint had been filed and they had to act on it. Like the other officer, he refused to reveal who the complainant was.
“I’m sorry,” Wes said after hanging up. “Other than getting a lawyer, I don’t know what else to do.”
“You know we can’t afford to hire a lawyer.”
“We can’t afford not to.”
“I’m so sorry, Wes, but I’m doing nothing wrong.”
“I know you’re not. I’m behind you all the way.”
The following day Wes went with me to the police station, where we met the officer who’d called me. A thin, weathered man with graying hair, Sergeant Franklin photographed and fingerprinted me, adding to my humiliation. I wanted to lash out, but I knew I would only be hurting myself.
I learned that I was being charged with selling “obscene” devices. It was a misdemeanor, but that was no consolation. I could still face up to a year in jail and a four thousand-dollar fine. I would be notified when to appear before the judge.
On the way home I was in tears. “I want to know who did this to me.”
“We’ll get a lawyer,” Wes said, squeezing my hand. “We’ll get this sorted out.”
I wanted so much to believe that, but I could tell by the slight wobble in his voice that he was just as worried as I was.
That evening I was forced to try to explain things to Jacob. I knew word would soon get out and I wanted him to hear it first from me. Struggling to stay calm, I pulled him on my lap as Wes sat next to us.
“Jacob, do you remember the game you wanted to play and I said it was a grownup game?”
“Well . . . at my parties I sell things that are for grownups only. There are some people who think I shouldn’t sell those things. They want the police to stop me. Today I had to go talk to the police about it. Now I have to talk to a judge about it, and explain why I think I did nothing wrong.”
“But why would someone want to stop you from playing games?”
“Because they don’t like the games.”
“Because they think they are bad games.”
“Why?” he asked, looking pretty bewildered.
“Because they are about lovemaking—kissing and things like that. But your father and I and our friends all disagree with that. We think it’s good that couples who love each other kiss and hug and play games together.”
I explained that he might hear remarks being made, but not to worry, that I believed I had done nothing wrong and that a lot of people stood behind me.
I gave him a hug and silently prayed that he wouldn’t be hurt by my circumstances. But a few minutes later, when a newspaper reporter called, I realized the situation could be even more trying than I’d anticipated.
The following day the newspaper story came out, reporting that I’d been arrested for selling “erotic devices.” I was quoted saying that I believed I’d done nothing wrong in trying to help couples improve their relationships. Immediately, the phone started ringing. Most were calls from my clients.
“Honey, if there’s anything I can do—baby-sit, house-sit—I’ll do it.” It was Nadine.
Several offered to make contributions toward my defense and testify in my behalf. If there was any upside to this awful fiasco, it was this outpouring of support from my friends. It brought me to tears.
But there were heckling calls, as well. “Smut-peddler,” one woman snapped and hung up. “If you don’t pay for this now, you will in the afterlife,” an old man railed. After someone called with a suggestive remark, I unplugged the phone.
Later that day, there was some good news: A lawyer friend had agreed to take my case, and Whoopieware, which had never had a consultant charged with obscenity before, decided to pay my legal expenses.
“I just don’t understand how this could happen,” I told Gary Bartley, my attorney. “Why aren’t people running adult stores arrested? They sell similar products.”
“It’s because they call them ‘novelties’,” he said. “Under our state law it’s okay to sell or promote them as novelties, but not as sex aids.”
My head spun. “But no matter what you call them, they’re used for the same thing.”
“You’re right. That’s what makes the law contradictory. Under the law, owning the items is legal, but selling or promoting them as anything other than a ‘novelty’ is not.”
“How am I going to get out of this then? I can’t go to jail. I have two children.”
“I think the best approach is to challenge the law. If it’s legal to own these products, then why is it illegal to sell them? You can lie about the products and sell them and you’re within the law. But if you tell the truth and sell them, you’re breaking the law. The law is flawed.”
I agreed that something needed to be done. I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I had.
“It will take a while and legal cases are always stressful,” he warned. “The question is, are you up to it? You can plead guilty to violating the state’s obscenity law, get it over with and go on with your life, or you can fight it.”
“I want to fight it,” I said without hesitation.
The consultation with my attorney had given me new strength. But that began to waver the following day when I picked Jacob up from school. I could tell from his troubled expression that something was wrong.
“Mom, Danny Ketchum said you got arrested for selling dirty pictures. Is that true?”
My stomach tightened. I’d expected Jacob to take some flak for this, but judging from the hurt and bewildered look on his face, there was no way I could have completely prepared him for it. Seeing him hurt made me hurt.
“Yes, I got arrested . . . but it wasn’t for dirty pictures.”
“Then what was it?”
“It was for games and toys for—for adults. Some people think that’s bad, but most people don’t. It’s one of those few people who reported me to the police.”
“Who reported you?”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Are you going to have to go to jail?” There was a hint of fear in his voice. “Danny said you were.”
“No, I don’t think so.” I reached over and squeezed his hand. “My lawyer is working hard to prove I did nothing wrong. I would never knowingly do anything that would take me away from you, Davey, and Daddy.”
“Some of the other kids were looking at me and laughing.”
His words drove the ache deeper into my heart. “I’m so sorry, honey, but none of this is your fault. Remember that I love you. If anyone bothers you again, tell them this is all a big mistake, and it’s going to get straightened out.”
He was quiet for the rest of the ride home, but I could tell he was still concerned and confused. No matter how hard I tried to explain things, I could only go so far. At seven, he simply wasn’t ready for much more.
For Jacob’s sake I tried to be cheerful that evening. I made him his favorite dish—macaroni and cheese—and spent extra time playing with him and Davey.
But all the while I silently fumed. Whoever had done this to me had hurt my child. That was what bothered me most of all.
“I’m going to find out who reported me,” I told Wes after putting the boys to bed. “I want him or her to realize what they’ve done.”
“Do you think it would make any difference?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but maybe it will make me feel better.”
He put his arm around me. “Don’t worry about it. I doubt if it’s anyone we know. Let’s just focus on putting this behind us.”
“I hope I’m not causing too many problems for you.”
“A few people have brought it up, but it’s no big deal. Most people think the police ought to concentrate on more important things, like drunk driving. Don’t worry about me.”
I kissed him good night, but I had trouble sleeping. Despite his show of support I knew that this was an ordeal for him, too.
In the meantime, my curiosity about who had turned me in only grew, along with my indignation.
The next day I phoned Mrs. Cochran, whose daughter-in-law had reported that she disapproved of my parties. When I identified myself, there was a pause at the other end of the line.
“Under the circumstances, I know that my calling you may be a bit of a surprise . . . ”
“You’ve got nerve if you’re trying to sell me something,” she snapped.
“No, no. That’s not the way I operate, Mrs. Cochran. I called about something else. I know that there are a number of people in town who disapprove of what I do. . . . ”
“There certainly are,” she interjected then.
“Whoever reported me had that right. But I’d like to talk to that person, to better help them understand my situation.”
“Why are you calling me about this?” she demanded.
“Perhaps you know who did this,” I said delicately. “I would like to talk to them with the hope that they would withdraw their complaint. I can deal with this, but I hate to see my husband and child suffer.”
“You must think that I had something to do with this,” she retorted. “I did not. I don’t know where you would get such an idea.”
“Do you know who did? I’m asking for the sake of my family.”
“You should have thought of your family before you started having those disgraceful parties. A decent mother would not be peddling pornography. The whole thing is disgusting. And furthermore, even if I did know who reported you, I wouldn’t tell you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Mrs. White, I have things to do.” The line went dead.
I stood by the phone, frozen with disbelief. I struggled to hold back tears. No one had ever maligned me as a mother before. It was the worst thing anyone could have said. Were other people thinking that, too?
Stunned, I picked Davey up off the floor and held him close, listening to his labored breathing. No one could love their children more than I did. I read to him a while, then got up with a new resolve. I was not going to let people shame me.
I continued to receive calls of support from my clients. That meant a lot to me. But one day I got some news that I hoped could help with my case. It came from Nadine.
“I found out who turned you in,” she said.
My blood surged. “Who?”
“I don’t know her.”
“She’s lived here only a few years. Don’t ask me how I found out. All I can say is that a friend found out from someone she knows. That person is a volunteer for an agency that helps the physically disabled. Beverly Vickers volunteers there, too.”
A new energy took hold of me. “Maybe I can talk to her, let her know that I’m not the bad person she thinks I am. Maybe she will reconsider.”
“Please don’t let her know how you found out,” Nadine said. “My friend would kill me. She’d never trust me again with any more gossip.”
“You have my word. Thank you so much, Nadine.”
“I don’t know if I’ve been any help, but you can give it a try.”
I thought about calling Mrs. Vickers, but in the end I decided to go to the rehabilitation thrift shop where she volunteered. I thought it would be my best chance of our meeting face to face. The following afternoon I strapped Davey into the backseat and drove to the center.
Pushing him in his stroller, I entered the thrift shop. There were several women behind the counter. My heartbeat quickened. “Is Beverly Vickers here?”
“I’m Beverly,” a middle-aged woman wearing glasses said.
“Could I talk to you privately for a few minutes?”
She looked baffled. “Why, I suppose so.”
She led me to a staff break room and closed the door.
“Mrs. Vickers,” I said, maintaining a friendly tone, “ I’m Sherry White.”
Her gaze turned hard and intense. For a moment she seemed to stunned to speak. “What do you want with me?” she asked finally.
“You know who I am, don’t you? I’m the local Whoopieware representative. There was a story about me in the paper.”
“I understand that you are the one who turned me in to the police.”
Her mouth dropped open. “Who said?”
“I couldn’t give you the information if I wanted to. The information came to me third-hand.”
She said nothing.
“Mrs. Vickers, you were well within your rights to go to the police. I didn’t come here to cause trouble or create a scene. I just thought if you could meet me, maybe you would see me in a different light. As you can see, I’m a wife and a mother who is trying to help others improve their relationships while earning a little extra money for my family. I’m not a porn peddler.”
“Well, that’s a matter of opinion,” she retorted.
I tried to explain how much fun the women had at the parties and how the products had even saved a marriage or two.
“I don’t know what respectable women would want with things like that,” she said disgustedly.
“They want closer and more meaningful relationships with their partners. Did you know that without some of these devices, some couples wouldn’t be able to have regular sex at all?”
“What do you mean?”
“One of the products I sell enables impotent and handicapped men to perform,” I explained. “You obviously have special feelings for the handicapped, or you wouldn’t be volunteering here. You certainly must feel that they should live life as fully as possible.”
She swallowed hard. “But other people have no need for such rubbish like that.”
“The people who need it would never call it ‘rubbish’. Please think about that, Mrs. Vickers. For some people, it’s a physical necessity. For others, it’s therapeutic. For many, it’s a novel and fun way to express love. Is there anything so wrong with that?”
“What do you want from me?” she asked.
“I’d like for you to consider withdrawing the complaint against me.”
“But you’re breaking the law,” she argued.
“The law is full of loopholes—it may even be unconstitutional. Sex shops sell the same products I do, and it’s legal for them because they call them ‘novelties’. You’re not just punishing me, Mrs. Vickers. You’re punishing my entire family. My seven-year-old is being teased at school over his mother’s business—one he’s not ready to understand yet. Please put yourself in my place.
“Your complaint won’t stop me from selling these products. From now on, they’ll be sold legally—as ‘novelties’. So nothing will be really gained by the charge that has been filed against me. I’m asking you to reconsider. I don’t want my family hurt anymore. And if you have any doubts about what I’ve said, please contact my lawyer.”
I gave her his card. She looked at it for a moment, but said nothing.
“Please think about it,” I repeated before leaving.
I’d all but concluded that my visit with Mrs. Vickers had been an act of futility when my lawyer called. He said that she had agreed to withdraw the complaint against me.
My spirits rose like a balloon. “That’s wonderful!”
“Don’t get too excited,” he said. “It’s not over yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“The authorities may want to go ahead and pursue it.”
“But I thought . . . ”
“I’m sorry, Sherry. It’s more complicated than that.”
I hung up, dispirited once again. Still, I was hopeful. But the following day, hope vanished.
“The district attorney is still going to prosecute,” my lawyer said. “Technically, you’ve broken the law, even though the law is flawed. He can’t ignore that.”
“I’m going to file a motion to dismiss the case, because the law violates someone’s right to own a sexual device, which is not illegal. It’s only illegal to sell one, which makes no sense at all.”
In addition, he said he was also going to file a request for a restraining order that would bar my case from proceeding until a judge rules on whether our state’s obscenity law is constitutional.
In the meantime, I’ve pleaded innocent. The judge has approved a pre-trial hearing, but has not set a date. I am in legal limbo in a case that will take many months to resolve.
Sometimes I’ve wondered if this is worth what I’m putting my family through. I could have pleaded guilty and taken the slap on the wrist that my lawyer thinks I would have gotten and gone on with my life.
But there are bigger issues here. It has to do with the intrusion of my state’s government into the private lives of consenting adults. It has to do with trying to fix the flaw in an outdated law that says sex toys are obscene. It has to do with helping others.
My parties may seem silly, but they have changed the lives of many of my clients and their partners. They have helped couples stay together.
Most importantly, it has to do with standing up for what I think is right. I want to set a strong example for my children. It will be difficult to explain things to them until they’re older. But it would be even harder to explain why I wouldn’t fight for what I believed in.