Unlike a gun, a dildo—when used properly—isn't a lethal weapon. Also unlike a gun, a dildo isn't allowed to be carried around the University of Texas at Austin campus. Which is what made it, in Jessica Jin's opinion, the perfect tool to protest the recently passed law that allows students to carry concealed handguns on campus and store them in dorm rooms.
Campus (Dildo) Carry is 24-year-old UT alumna Jessica Jin's response to Texas's campus carry law. What began as a joke on Twitter about UT students strapping "gigantic wagging dildos" to their backpacks to show "how obnoxious" the gun legislation is became a viral Facebook event almost overnight. The premise of the protest is simple—because of somewhat vague obscenity clauses in Texas law and UT campus policy, dildos aren't allowed to be prominently displayed around campus.
"You would receive a citation for taking a DILDO to class before you would get in trouble for taking a gun to class," reads the Campus (Dildo) Carry event description. "Heaven forbid the penis."
Passed on June 1, 2015, Texas Senate Bill 11, known as the "campus carry law," gives students who own concealed handgun licenses the option to carry their weapons to class, to the library, and anywhere else on campus that each school in the state decides is okay. The law goes into effect on August 1, 2016—just in time for the start of the fall semester. In the meantime, college administrators in Texas are trying to figure out how to best implement a law that allows for the carriage of thousands of deadly devices onto their campuses every day.
The law is especially personal for UT. August 1, the day campus carry is officially implemented, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1966 UT tower shooting—one of the first mass shootings on a college campus in the United States—in which a 25-year-old architectural engineering major and ex-Marine shot 43 people, killing 13 of them.
Since Jin created Campus (Dildo) Carry around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, the list of "attendees" has grown from 500 to more than 4,000, which is a lot, considering the event is planned for August 24, 2016. The audience is even bigger. In just a few days, the event page has garnered thousands of comments from people all over the world. Messages range from thoughts on where to get such a large quantity of dildos to support from strangers who've never even been to Texas.
"Je Suis Dildo," begins one of those supportive posts. "Congratulations on a fabulous idea from Australia, where we have no mass gun ownership, no mass shootings, and plenty of freedom." The post ends with "#cocksnotglocks"—the hashtag coined for the protest.
The very public support on the event's Facebook page is backed up by emails Jin said she received over the weekend. "My inbox is also flooded with strangers who are trying to break through the mess on the event page to let me know that they're in my corner," Jin told me in Facebook message Sunday evening. She's become something of an accidental, overnight hero for a large group of people who feel the passage of campus carry was a huge mistake.
But just as there has been an outpouring of support for Jin, there has also been an outpouring of hate and anger from gun rights activists (mostly men) who appear to be threatened by the idea of putting plastic dicks in too many hands. Or possibly by the simple fact that she's going after their guns. Within 24 hours of creating the event—at around 9:30 PM on Saturday night—Jin's Austin address and phone number were doxed on a blog by a man who describes himself as an "anarchist, atheist, realist" on his personal website.
"About an hour before, a friend posted a link to my [Facebook] wall that said, 'you're on 4chan now,'" Jin told me. "And I knew that was the signal that shit was about to hit the fan." She described the feeling to me as a sort of calm before the storm premonition. Sure enough, shortly afterward, the death threats started coming in.
"When I made the event the other night, I didn't expect anything to happen except for a few people to get a good laugh out of it," Jin told me. "But when it actually began taking off, several gracious activists, including students at Georgetown who call Newtown, Connecticut their hometown, introduced themselves to me and gave me the lowdown on what to expect. The ladies who reached out to me … had extra insight on the type of harassment to expect as a woman."
Jin explained that she thinks a lot of the anger has to do with the threat dildos pose to masculinity in some people's minds. Apparently, many people who feel threatened by toy penises also happen to feel passionately about protecting gun rights, based on the volume of backlash from NRA enthusiasts.
"I suppose some toxic combination of sensitive subjects started this fire," Jin told me. "Sex is still so taboo in America, guns are somehow not. People are vocalizing how much more offended they are by sex than by gun deaths, and it really shows how skewed our priorities are."
Opponents expressing their feelings on the Campus (Dildo) Carry event page argue that a sex toy won't stop a shooter. "So, is a dildo going to protect you from the next crazed, unbalanced democrat to shoot up your campus?" writes one user, whose Facebook cover photo is a skull flanked by two Confederate flags. Jin writes those arguments off—they come from people who, she said, are completely missing the satire.
"You know, the anger doesn't make that much sense to me," she said. "I think some people see the word 'dildo' and their eyes just glaze over and they start foaming at the mouth."
Jin said UT has yet to reach out to her, or make any statement regarding the planned protest. Of course, protest and student activism isn't a new concept at UT, or in Austin—a city often described as a blue dot in a sea of red. The city and the university often play host to conflicts like the one now surrounding Campus (Dildo) Carry. It's a perfect clash of gun and gender politics, playing out like it only can in a state like Texas.
In reality, Jin's protest probably won't reverse the law, enacted by the state legislature just a few miles away from the campus clock tower. She knows this. But the conversation she started is valuable. And the instant velocity it gathered is telling. This isn't a law Texas students are going to take lying down. That's just not how Texans are.
"People are wonderful, even friends who are all for guns are reaching out to say, 'what people are saying and doing is ugly and you don't deserve this and I'm so sorry,'" Jin told me. "This really has nothing to do with me. People are praising me for being brave, but I didn't really do anything but crack a pretty good joke."
Hannah Smothers is a reporter for Fusion's Sex & Life section, a Texpat, and a former homecoming princess.