Ted Cruz's dildo dishonesty: With an eye to N.Y., Cruz denies being out for your sex toys — but he's aligned with the movement to police private sexuality

Cruz has distanced himself from his anti-dildo past, but don't believe he supports your sexual privacy

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published April 18, 2016 3:50PM (EDT)

Ted Cruz; dildos (Reuters/Carlos Barria/Tobias Schwarz/Photo montage by Salon)
Ted Cruz; dildos (Reuters/Carlos Barria/Tobias Schwarz/Photo montage by Salon)

Even though Ted Cruz has had a string of good fortune in the primaries lately — winning Utah, Wisconsin and Colorado — he is facing a serious obstacle when it comes to closing the delegate count gap with frontrunner Donald Trump. The billionaire is the favorite to win New York on Tuesday, as well as Pennsylvania and Maryland next week.

Winning New York is likely out of the question for Cruz, but since the state isn't winner-take-all, he could mitigate the damage by minimizing the margins of victory for Trump. Unfortunately for Cruz, that's an uphill battle. He was already handicapped by his heavy association with the Christian right, which has less pull with New York Republicans, and he compounded the problem, months ago, with a swipe about Trump having "New York values", an unsubtle sneer suggesting that the state, one of the biggest in the country, somehow doesn't count as real America.

Under the circumstances, it's easy to see why Cruz was quick to disavow his anti-dildo history. By which I mean not just a history of refusing to use dildos himself — sorry about putting that image in your head — but a history of trying to block others from exercising their choice to purchase dildos for personal use.

Cruz was on the radio show of Curtis Sliwa, a New York City radio host who dresses like this for real, and Sliwa asked if Cruz intended to ban dildos if he became president.  This issue came up because, as Mother Jones reported last week, Cruz defended a Texas law banning the sale of dildos, arguing that the state had an interest in discouraging "autonomous sex" and  that there is "no substantive-due-process right to stimulate one's genitals for non-medical purposes unrelated to procreation or outside of an interpersonal relationship".

But when asked if he believes these words he wrote, Cruz acted like such a thing is preposterous.

“Look, of course not, it’s a ridiculous question, and of course not,” Cruz replied. “What people do in their own private time with themselves is their own business and it’s none of government’s business.”

Cruz is echoing defenses of his anti-dildo crusade offered by places like Mediate and Snopes that argued that Cruz was just doing his job and there's no reason to think he had a personal interest in the policing of dildos.

The problem is that, while it's technically true that Cruz's job was to argue for the law as written and not as he wanted it to be, there's a real missing the forest for the trees quality to the argument. After all, it's not like the ban on dildo sales was just some random thing that slipped into Texas law by accident. It's part and parcel of a long-standing war by the religious right, which Cruz is intimately tied up with, on policing private sexual choices, especially for women and LGBT people.

It's not "ridiculous" to think Cruz generally supports the war on sex. Indeed, there's significant amount of evidence that, while he's downplaying it now, he is an especially avid warrior when it comes to controlling and punishing private sexual expression outside of heterosexual marriage and for non-procreative purposes. If anything, most of his anti-sex ideas are much more damaging to people's health and safety than a ban on dildos would be.

For instance, Cruz has a deeply disturbing history of aligning himself with the "personhood" movement, which wishes to declare fertilized eggs "persons," not just for the purpose of banning abortion but also the majority of female-controlled contraception methods. (Proponents of personhood frequently claims that IUDs and birth control pills work by killing fertilized eggs, when in fact they work by preventing fertilization in the first place.)

When Chuck Todd pressed Cruz on this issue last week, Cruz dodged and weaved. He kept trying to turn the subject to late-term abortion or those hoax Planned Parenthood videos, but when asked by Todd if he supports a woman's right to use an IUD as contraception, Cruz resorted to some lawyerly language that managed to sound moderate without actually committing to protecting a woman's right to use IUDs.

“I told you I’m not going to get into the labels, but what I will say is we should protect life," Cruz said. "But I’m not interested in anything that restricts birth control."

It may not sound bad on paper, but it's worth noting that the hardline anti-choice forces Cruz aligns himself with do not consider female-controlled contraception to be "birth control", but instead prefer to claim, falsely, that it is abortion. In the past, the only form of contraception Cruz would commit to protecting is condoms. This answer doesn't add any more clarity to this. When Cruz says he won't restrict "birth control", does he mean all forms? Or is he implying, as he has in the past, that as long as you have condoms, you don't need access to forms that just so happen to be more effective and easier for women to control?

Equally telling is what Cruz said next.

"And I’m not interested in anything that restricts in vitro fertilization because I think parents who are struggling to create life, to have a child, that is a wonderful thing," he said.

The problem with this opinion is that, if you actually believe that life begins at conception, in vitro fertilization is worse than abortion. Abortion is usually the result of an accident and only involves killing one embryo. In vitro fertilization, on the other hand, means deliberately creating a bunch of embryos with the knowledge that many, if not most of them, will eventually be killed.

But, of course, Cruz's opinions aren't about "life" at all, but about policing sexuality. In vitro fertilization, which literally allows you to reproduce without having sex at all if you want, is okay, because it's about procreation and traditional families. Abortion is wrong because it's about sex for pleasure instead of procreation.

This is the constant theme in Cruz's opinions on the subject of sexuality and family life: If it limits sexual pleasure and channels people into traditional gender roles, it's good, but if it allows people to enjoy sex for non-procreative reasons, it's bad. Cruz has a lengthy history of opposing any efforts to protect the civil rights of LGBT people and has made pro-discrimination efforts a central part of his campaign.

And while he's mostly avoided the issue on the campaign trail, Cruz's party has a long and continuing history of opposition to sex education, something it is extremely doubtful that Cruz, who runs to the right of even most of his party, would disagree with them about this. Instead, Cruz has spent most of his career  aligning himself with right wing extremists who are positively obsessed with policing sexuality.

Under the circumstances, the question of how he feels about dildos is not "ridiculous" at all. On the contrary, his brand-new pro-dildo stance is completely out of step with his entire history of backing multiple efforts to chip away at policies and technologies that allow women and LGBT people to conduct their private sex lives on their own terms.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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