It was her mother who encouraged Ana López’s activism. And so the University of Texas sophomore, who is majoring in the Plan II honors program and pre-med, is helping organize a protest this week that will feature sex toys dangling from backpacks.
The protest, with a rally Wednesday, the first day of classes, is an effort to call attention to Senate Bill 11, a new state law allowing concealed handguns in some buildings on public university campuses.
“We’re fighting absurdity with absurdity,” López said.
She and other activists, including Jessica Jin, who graduated from UT two years ago with a music degree, have amassed nearly 4,000 dildos, all donated by sex-toy suppliers such as Hustler Hollywood, with locations in 20 cities, and Forbidden Fruit, whose website boasts of “keeping Austin kinky since 1981.”
The items will be distributed Tuesday evening on the West Mall, just before “Gone to Texas,” a rite of passage for incoming freshmen that will feature music and welcoming remarks by UT President Gregory L. Fenves.
López, who is vice president and co-founder of Students Against Campus Carry, has been storing about 160 of the sex toys in plain cardboard boxes in her family’s garage. She has versions in a rainbow of colors — including yellow, green and red — as well as some supersized phalluses of a ceramic material whose donor fashioned them for a project on “toxic masculinity” at the University of Tulsa in the 1980s.
“I want this movement to be taken seriously,” Lopez said. “It’s hard for the props not to overshadow the message. The Texas Legislature is trying to normalize gun culture. We’re trying to normalize sex culture. This is something that is completely harmless and represents part of the male anatomy.”
The activists’ slogan, “#CocksNotGlocks,” riffs on a popular brand of handgun. The activists’ Facebook page includes this observation: “Just about as effective at protecting us from sociopathic shooters, but much safer for recreational play.”
UT’s rules prohibit displays or performances that are obscene. And state law bars the reckless display of obscene items. But the purpose and nature of the activity matter.
“We are viewing this as a free speech issue,” said J.B. Bird, a UT spokesman. “Students have a right to express themselves. This appears to be protected political speech.”
Bob Harkins, UT’s associate vice president for campus safety and security, didn’t sound in a recent interview as if he were interested in putting handcuffs on anyone for displaying a sex toy.
“That’s not illegal,” Harkins said. “We’re not going to arrest anybody for that.”
The protest is expected to include members of the group Gun Free UT and a march to the Capitol. The law and implementation rules adopted by Fenves allow handgun licensees to carry their concealed weapons in classrooms, some offices and limited areas of dormitories.
A state law passed in 1995 has allowed concealed carry on the grounds of public colleges and universities, but it wasn’t until last year that lawmakers passed a measure extending carry rights into buildings. The law took effect Aug. 1 for public universities and will take effect a year later at community colleges.
Private colleges were allowed to opt out, and virtually all have done so.
It remains illegal for anyone other than law enforcement officers to openly carry a handgun on a college campus, public or private, in Texas.
López, meanwhile, hopes to see the sex toys strapped to backpacks for as long as the campus carry law remains in effect. “I know it’s going to be an uphill battle,” she said. “It’s going to take a lot to get this law repealed.”
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