Turning the Tables

In March of 2017, Texas state representative Jessica Farrar from Houston proposed a bill to regulate a man’s private masturbatory habits and restrict his ability to purchase Viagra.

Ann Harkness / Creative Commons

The Man’s Right to Know Act was introduced in response to the avalanche of anti-choice bills in the Texas legislature, and it mocked the patronizing tone of anti-abortion laws that implies that legislators—the majority of whom are white men—know better than the women directly affected by such legislation. Though it never made it to the House floor, Farrar’s bill effectively made the point that controlling someone else’s bodily autonomy is rarely in the best interest of that individual.

Section 173.010 echoes the sanctity of life rhetoric pushed in much anti-abortion legislation. Part (a) of the section reads, “[Masturbatory] emissions outside of a woman’s vagina, or created outside of a health or medical facility, will be charged a $100 civil penalty for each emission, and will be considered an act against an unborn child, and failing to preserve the sanctity of life.” It either seems laughable or eerily reminiscent of a dystopian society that controls people’s every reproductive choice.

Before dismissing this bill as purely hyperbolic, one must ask themselves: How does the tone of this bill vary from real, implemented legislation that for example, forces a woman seeking safe and legal abortion care to look at her ultrasound, or requires abortion providers to recite factually inaccurate scripts to their patients before providing them with abortion care, or dictates the size of janitor closets in abortion clinics?

Are these laws not dystopic as well? The reality is these are real restrictions blocking women’s access to safe abortion care across the country every day—and even driving up maternal mortality rates—and yet these laws were not deemed too harsh or absurd to make it to the House floor.

The conversation Farrar’s bill sparked is crucial and must continue to be had by women and men alike. When legislation such as HB 4260 is put forward, the disparity between a woman’s and man’s right to control their own body becomes alarmingly evident.




Ciarra Davison is a former Ms. Editorial Intern who graduated from UCLA, where she studied English and wrote for the Politics section of FEM Newsmagazine. After a year and a half of traveling and working throughout Europe, Central and South America, she now lives in Washington, D.C., where she reports on the ground for Ms. She works to bring underrepresented stories to light, and in her spare time, enjoys hiking towards waterfalls and dancing while cooking.