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Dildo bill flops: A look back at last year's 'odd' ASMSU discussion

February 14, 2019

It is commonly referred to as “the dildo bill,” and to this day, current and former members of the Associated Students of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, have not forgotten it.  

The bill — aiming to “halt the production of adult stimulation devices” by registered student organizations — was followed by a long policy committee meeting discussion on Jan. 25, 2018. 

“I still think about that a lot, when I tell people about my time at ASMSU,” former Residential College in the Arts and Humanities representative Brittany Wise said. 

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In 2018, a canceled University Activities Board, or UAB, event titled “Cookies, Condoms, and Consent,” where students could make their own dildos and win sex toy prizes, stimulated discussion within the undergraduate student government.

Though The State News did not report on it at the time, a member of last year’s Office of the President offered a headline suggestion for the article — “the dil-dos and dil-don’ts of student government” — after the meeting. Lyman Briggs representative Ben Horne said it was one of the top three most interesting meetings he’s ever attended. 

“Going into it, I knew it would be an uphill battle,” College of Agriculture and Natural Resources representative Sergei Kelley, who introduced the bill, said. “But leaving that discussion, it was more so a shock of where the discussion went. I didn’t think there would be so much backlash ... also just the lack of seriousness when this bill was brought up.” 

The bill recognized the Jan. 12, 2018 cancellation of the UAB event, and called on ASMSU to “not stand” for any funding to be put toward the production of “external and internal stimulation devices,” as the event advertised.  

A part of the bill read, “The normalization of sexual acts creates a culture where sex is not reserved or kept dignified between two persons. Sex is only a private matter. It is not a duty of the University Activities Board to proliferate malicious sex to a public event.”

Kelley and College of Engineering representative Ryan Aridi, who seconded the bill, clarified multiple times throughout the meeting that the bill was not condemning sex education in any way. Kelley said some of his constituents expressed discomfort with the event, and some of his constituents felt it was treating sex education as a joke. 

“The people that were talking about it were really just mocking it,” Kelly said. “I heard people saying they would just go there to mess around, that they would throw the dildo they made at their friend.” 

Aridi, who said his dad has donated to UAB in the past, said part of the reason he seconded the bill was because he didn’t see the appropriateness of money going towards funding “dildos and vibrators and such.” 

“There is a group of constituents that are against this sort of thing. It offends them, and I feel like we should listen to their voices,” Aridi said during the meeting. “I’m not either way on this bill. Personally, I think it’s a little bit lewd, it’s a bit scandalous. Somebody might be into that, I don’t know. Personally, I’m not.”

The discussion lasted 40 minutes, and many representatives expressed that if the bill passed, it would be nothing but “verbal condemnation” because UAB is separate from ASMSU, and the event was already cancelled anyway. 

During the meeting, Horne asked Kelley and Aridi to immediately withdraw the bill, saying it was “absurd and an embarrassment to this body.” Wise said there was nothing “explicit about being sex positive” and that she “could not object to the bill more.” 

“We have bigger, and frankly, more important things to worry about than whether or not people are using dildos and vibrators on campus,” Wise said during the meeting.

The topic of the discussion, along with the fact that it came shortly after an emergency ASMSU meeting following the resignation of former President Lou Anna K. Simon, created, as former Vice President for Student Allocations Stephen Brown put it, a “weird energy” in the room. 

College of Music representative Isaiah Hawkins, who said he struggled to keep a straight face leading the committee discussion, said the context of the bill was considered, at the time, “a very laughable concept.”

"Just looking around, in light of the discussion, I could see that a lot of people were very entertained and very amused by this being brought up,” Hawkins said.

Kelley said he felt it was unprofessional of the student government to not take the topic seriously during the meeting and noted, “It’s still a bill, and it’s still student concern that has value to be heard.”

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“If their point is to let students express themselves, and that this is okay, and that this is acceptable — then why are they laughing throughout the whole discussion?” Kelley said. 

The discussion had no climax, and Brown said it quickly became obvious the bill wasn’t going to pass. 

“There seemed to be a lot of people who wanted to get a punch in,” Brown said. “I felt the need, as a member of the Office of the President, to actually step in and try to temper that.”  

Ultimately, the bill flopped. 

“Consent, safe sex, dildos, condoms, vibrators — whatever you want to do with your life, ASMSU is here for you,” Wise said during the meeting. “And I think us voting this down is going to send that message.” 

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