By: Rachel Elliott
Thousands of dildos will be emerging from the backpacks, satchels and purses of University of Texas at Austin students on August 24th, 2016, if the Campus (DILDO) Carry event organizer gets her dream.
On May 31, 2015 Texas joined eight other states in allowing concealed handguns, with appropriate licenses, on public university campuses. Governor Abbott signed the bill on June 1 despite the fact that many university officials advised against it, including the new Chancellor of the University of Texas William McRaven, a former Navy admiral. UT-alumna Jessica Jin is one of the many dissenters of the new law, but she took a unique approach to protesting.
On October 10 Jin created the event “Campus (DILDO) Carry” on Facebook – less than a month later, the event has nearly 10,000 RSVPs. In the event description, she explains, “Starting on the first day of Long Session classes on August 24, 2016, we are strapping gigantic swinging dildos to our backpacks in protest of campus carry.” She further explains how, according to the Texas Penal Code, dildo displays are against obscenity laws and that this event would be a form of civil disobedience as protest to demonstrate the absurdity of how America glorifies violence and allows concealed handguns, but abstains from overt displays of sexuality. SMEAR talked to Jin in an interview where she further commented on her motivations, expectations, and hopes for the event and for future gun laws in America.
Why do you think this event went viral?
The humor was easy to catch onto, but the passionate arguments within the group have also demonstrated a pervasive fear. People feel they will be vulnerable to an attack without a gun and some others feel that their safety is at risk if concealed murder weapons are allowed in classrooms. The lighthearted nature of the event seems to have made everyone comfortable enough to come together and discuss this very problematic universal lack of a sense of safety.
Will you be present for the “strap-in?”
Yes! The captain must go down with her ship.
Is that your trademark gallows humor or do you think the event won’t be as successful as you hope?
Now that it’s drawn a lot of attention, I do think there will be a big showing. We can set up booths and register voters, and hopefully also bring more established advocacy groups to campus to educate and power longer term involvement. It won’t go down as just a big prank that flies by then disappears.
Do you think the movement will maintain enough speed to carry through to the August date? Do you think with the coverage of this event will fade by the time the “strap-in,” takes place?
No idea, but hopefully with enough continued community engagement, we can keep it afloat. The eyes of the world are on UT now, and I feel a huge responsibility to use this opportunity to put a tangible dent into the status quo. Hopefully I’ll be able to tether this to experienced groups or institutions that can provide the guidance, stability, and legitimacy to help us make a real difference in the national gun control conversation, and ultimately, legislation.
There have been a lot of complaints saying that this protest is immature and futile, and that there are less provocative ways to make a difference. I saw a comment from a current UT student the other day that I think says a whole lot about the way traditional advocacy avenues have played out so far, and why this protest means so much to some people. It made me feel a tinge of pride for having stumbled upon a creative way to shed new light on the struggle.
Why did you pick August 2016 for the event?
Because I made originally made the event jokingly, I didn’t put that much thought into the date. It was a literal interpretation of “This is the first day everybody will be back on campus. Some will be carrying guns, others will be carrying dildos.” Now that I think about it, it’s not a bad time to have a protest. It’s in the middle of election hubbub, is a great way to start a school year, and buys me time to find a dildo for every student who wants one.
This is the first day everybody will be back on campus. Some will be carrying guns, others will be carrying dildos.
Are you doing anything to inspire students at other universities in Texas to hold similar protests?
Students at other schools have said they want to hold their own Campus Dildo Carry. I’ll help them in any way I can.
I’m interested in this idea you emphasize that guns are obscene. The legal definition is “ The character or quality of being obscene; an act, utterance, or item tending to corrupt the public morals by its indecency or lewdness.” How do you qualify guns as obscene?
The definition of obscenity is so nebulous and objective; where it’s outlined in the Texas Penal code there is also a definition for “patently offensive,” as something “so offensive on its face as to affront current community standards of decency.” Our current community standards have crept up on us so gradually that we haven’t noticed or questioned the fact that we don’t find it indecent to carry a loaded murder weapon into a classroom of higher learning. Our laws now reflect that too. It’s barbaric.
It’s silly that we glorify violence and vilify sex. We’ll hungrily watch a marathon of human slaughter in Rambo, but aren’t allowed to see a woman’s nipple on screen.
It’s silly that we glorify violence and vilify sex. We’ll hungrily watch a marathon of human slaughter in Rambo, but aren’t allowed to see a woman’s nipple on screen. I’m glad that this “Dildo Carry” has switched peoples’ indecency-detectors back on. It’s been an absolute comedy show to witness what triggers alarm and what doesn’t.
You originally made the event with the notion that UT would view this protest as illegal because dildo displays are against obscenity laws. However, now that UT has stated it is free speech does that affect the message you’re trying to get across at all?
I don’t think so, choosing not to enforce the rules doesn’t change the fact that they’re still the rules. UT had this legislation shoved down its throat and I’m glad that it has decided to look the other way to allow its students to take a stand. College is supposed to be a safe place for young people to explore ideas and keep open minds, but the passing of SB 11 and the negative reactions to this event have shown how far people will go out of their way to restrict the spirit of higher education.
If people had to walk away with one message from this whole event and idea, what would you choose to stress?
This proliferation of dildos should demonstrate to everyone how ridiculous it would be if we were all armed. We’re currently standing at an cultural intersection and have important decisions to make about what we want our futures to look like. We can continue to arm ourselves in this homegrown arms race until every human in America has to carry a loaded gun to feel equally safe, or we can reject that reality and do the hard work that is required to reverse this dangerous trend.