Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"She looks like, one of those, librarians' girlfriends."

From Brooklyn Arden via my fraternity mailing list: Baby Got Book.

I've got a few minor quibbles with the song, but props for the effort.

Nice Guys' fantasies about women's fantasies about non-Nice Guys

BetaCandy at my new favorite feminist-media blog The Hathor Legacy points out that the misogynist who gets the girls is a male fantasy:

I’ve been thinking about this character I see on screen everywhere. He’s mean to women. The women know they’re being mistreated. And yet they can’t get enough of being used and abused by him.

He doesn’t exist.

Let’s just dispel that myth right away. As presented in TV and film, he doesn’t correlate to anyone in reality. He’s actually a fantasy concocted by male screenwriters who have issues with women.

As straightforward as the explanation is, though, I have a feeling most Nice Guys(TM) won't buy it, because there's another meme that goes around that What Women Say They Want and What Women Really Want are unconnected. "Look at [Attractive Bad Boy] on [Popular Show]!" they cry. "It's not just the characters that are attracted to him; the fans are too!" (Of course, the fact that the Attractive Bad Boy is virtually always played by the most conventionally attractive actor on Popular Show has nothing to do with this.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Except that the A&F mannequins aren't my type

What PortlyDyke said.

(As referenced in this post, another worthwhile read.)

Drama stars

There's an interesting set of discussions going on at Tales of the Rampant Coyote and Blog of War about how to crack the save game problem, that problem specifically being that, in a situation where the outcome is dependent on a roll of the virtual dice, players will save and restore until they get the desired outcome. Sometimes it doesn't actually involve a save game - lots of old school RPGs encouraged obsessive-compulsive rerolling of stats and balanced the game accordingly.

I've done this before, Fallout 2 being the most egregious example to come to mind. There, I played my typical scientist/diplomat main character (because I like having as many dialogue options as possible), only to find out that, unlike the first game, you can't talk your way out of most fights. So instead, I just did a lot of save-scumming, restoring the game on a per-combat-round basis, to get through the tougher fights.

There have been plenty of methods employed to limit this behavior, the most common being save points, prerolling and "roguelike" saves (i.e., where quitting automatically saves, saving automatically quits, and dying forces you to start over). Save points are often annoying because they parcel out the game into chunks that aren't always manageable (if I have 20 minutes of free time, there's little point in playing a game that spaces the save points around 30 minutes apart), and because they can give away the pacing of the game. Prerolling involves making decisions involving randomness far in advance of when they would actually be checked - for example, determining the contents of a treasure chest at the start of a level rather than when the chest is opened. If the player wants to try for better treasure, he or she will have to replay the entire level. This works tolerably well for something like treasure, but not at all for something like combat, where there's not much way to determine outcomes in advance. Roguelike saves work for roguelikes because those games involve randomly generated content; for a story game, replaying the beginning stages will quickly become repetitious.

The Rampant Coyote has come up with an alternative mechanism to discourage save-scumming: "drama stars." These work analogously to the "drama points" used by many tabletop RPGs - if you engage in what the game deems risky behavior (e.g., "dangerous" dialog choices, and presumably anything requiring a nontrivial skill check with consequences for failure) or when bad things happen (e.g., a character getting knocked out or killed in battle), you accumulate "drama stars" which can be redeemed for in-game benefits like reviving a fallen character.

The system reminds me of a variation I thought up a while back of a battle system proposed by Shamus Young for lightsaber duelling, wherein the concept of "hit points" was stupid (nobody gets scratched by a lightsaber). My system had various types of analogues for hit points, from armor that took damage to magic potions that wore off over time (I aimed for "interesting" and "varied" more than "realistic"), but the version that applied here was a character whose survival was based on "luck." "Luck" was a kind of RNG karma; unlucky circumstances (e.g., failing to hit an opponent) would build up karma and lucky ones would build karma. Enemy attacks, however, would always miss, using up karma dependent on the likelihood of hitting and the ferocity of the attack, until the character's luck ran out. Under such a system, you don't want to be the golden boy/girl who succeeds all the time, because that'll deplete your karma and you'll lose faster. (I'm not sure how one "recharges" one's fortune - perhaps going to a casino in town and losing money?)

The tricky bit in the "drama stars" system, though, and the one that really discourages save-scumming, is this: drama stars aren't saved. You restore your game, you're back at 0. Thus it's arguably better to play out poor consequences, because the drama stars earned more than negate those effects. However, this creates a new challenge: how do you maintain game balance when some players play in 20-minute "coffee breaks" and others play marathon sessions? One suggestion in the comments was to allow a "progress save" that works like a roguelike save - you want to stop playing, you save and exit, and when you come back your stars are intact. If you restore any other save, though, you're back at 0.

All in all, it's an interesting concept, and I can't wait to see more about Frayed Knights. (Why does this sort of thing only seem to show up in indie-game discussions, anyway?)

Jeff should really go to sleep

Sometimes it feels like everyone else out there has a textbook to life with all the theorems explained, and I just got a handful of axioms and have to derive the rest. Except that the textbook was put out by a less than competent publisher, and is rife with confusing language and out-and-out errors, so I really am better off figuring it all out myself, even if I make the occasional mistake and spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't be That Guy

Via tekanji: synecdochic (whom I discovered through this post on being sex positive in the wake of the OSBP explosion), has a post about not being That Guy:

I thought: hey, good post. And then I stopped myself. Because fucking hell, those parameters -- though nicely stated and I'm really glad the guy has both figured them out so early and can articulate them so well -- shouldn't be something that's so rare. They should be standard default operating assumptions.

I particularly appreciated this bit of advice, which I hadn't thought of before:

And if you see a man and a woman having an interaction and the woman's displaying those signs -- backing up, pulling away, looking away, her mouth smiling politely but her eyes nowhere near the person she's talking with -- the way to gracefully stage a rescue is to step in from a distance (not in her space, not within touching distance of her) and distract the guy by striking up a conversation with him, not with her. That gives her the chance to slip away if she feels the need, with less of a chance of making her feel more threatened. (Not no chance, sadly. But less of one.)

I see this happen pretty often (especially riding the bus - women riding alone get singled out for being chatted up just about any time they're not actively avoiding it). The best response I could think of on my own was frown power, because I really didn't want to take it upon myself to interfere for fear of coming off as a "white knight," and I didn't trust myself to read the interaction right. Even now, I'm not sure what my intervention threshold in such a situation would be--especially given that the particular accoster I'm thinking of has in the past tried to start conversations with me when there wasn't a single woman to hit on, and wouldn't take "I'm sorry, I'd like to read my book" as a hint to back off - it's selfish, but I fear that if I do that I won't have a moment's peace again (then again, I'll be changing bus lines in a month when I move)--but it's nice to have more recourse than just saying "dude, that's not cool."

2008 Nebula winners

Congrats to the 2008 Nebula Award Winners!

I feel a bit out of the loop, as I've only read/seen the really mass-appeal ones (Harry Potter and Pan's Labyrinth). I've seen The Yiddish Policemen's Union in the bookstores, but placed in general fiction it had the appearance of your typically pretentious modern-lit. I'll probably check it out soon from the library, as I've been reading that sort of thing a bit more of late.

Apparently the short story and novella winners are available online at Asimov's, so I'll probably read them soon as well.

And all we got when I was there was TMBG

I don't know if this is awesome or horrible.

Brown Daily Herald: Gunther, Sunshine Girls 'Tra la la' audience

Friday, April 25, 2008


Apparently the old Adam West Batman show had a supervillain called the Bookworm (played by Roddy McDowall), whose lair was a library, whose henchmen were named Printer's Devil, Typesetter, and Pressman, and whose power was to read books in a matter of seconds, giving him the knowledge of all recorded criminal plots.

How cool is that?

Of course, this being the 60s Batman, he merely speaks in quotations and leaves Riddler-esque literary clues to his crimes.

For a darker, more modern twist on the literary-minded supervillain, there's Tatterfiend from Madness: Minority of One, a (regrettably incomplete) Justice League fanfic.

EDIT: From derspatchel come these links to the cute and hilarious "The Amazing Adventures of Little Batman":

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

The 50 best cult books

The Telegraph lists the 50 best cult books.

Whenever there's a list like this, I like to construct a histogram from the list. For series, I'm arbitrarily using the date of the first book in the series.

1700-1799 **
1800-1899 ****
1910-1919 *
1920-1929 **
1930-1939 **
1940-1949 ****
1950-1959 ********
1960-1969 ***********
1970-1979 **********
1980-1989 **
1990-1999 ***
2000-2008 *

Unsurprisingly, like every other such list it approximates a bell curve, this one peaking in the 60s. (That early bump is an artifact of condensing the 18th and 19th centuries.) While the argument can be made that that era was more conducive to these sorts of books catching on, I think what we're seeing here is a skew from the compilers of the list and society in general. This peak corresponds to the postadolescence of the Baby Boomers. Cult books from previous generations are largely forgotten; cult books from later generations haven't attained the same level of sustained notoriety.

Commenters have pointed out some of the more egregious omissions, and I think it's telling that (at least among the ones I agree with, which is admittedly biasing things), they're either more modern works that haven't gotten credit (Fight Club, Trainspotting), or genre works (Stranger in a Strange Land, Lord of the Rings).

Things are falling into place

Just got a call from the UB saying that I've been offered a scholarship. It's not a full ride, but it's a couple thousand dollars less than I'd otherwise have to pay.

Now all I have to do is find a bus-accessible apartment closer to the university.


Thanks to this whole "Open Source" debate, I've learned a new catchphrase: OH JOHN RINGO NO. And now I've become aware of the source.

Now I've seen his books (with covers like those, how could you miss them?) taking up lots of shelf space at the chain bookstores around here, and I'd mentally put them in the Military SF is Not My Thing[*] pile next to folks like David Weber and Eric Flint. But these excerpts? Gah. I'm not surprised any more by mild squick in SF novels (thanks, Jack Chalker), but this stuff makes Chalker look like Tiptree - in writing style as well as gender relations. How does a guy like this get such a huge chunk of shelf space (outside of the theory that other authors' books sell and don't stay on the shelves)?

[*] At least conservative military SF; I dislike Starship Troopers, am equivocal about The Forever War and enjoy the Bill, the Galactic Hero series.

EDIT: Ringo replied to the review, and was a surprisingly good sport about it. (Though folks like Annes Rice and McCaffrey set that bar pretty low.) His response did have this gem, though:

If I needed the sun coming up in the east, I'd do it. It's that kind of story. Reality be utterly damned.

Which strikes me as summing up this series (assuming the review is accurate, which it seems to be if Ringo himself is saying "touche") excellently.

It's not OK just because he's a Republican

His stated policies are bad for the United States and the world. He gets a lot more credit from the media than he deserves. From all accounts, he's not a very good person. So why does every criticism of John McCain have to be about his age? This isn't any more acceptable than stereotyping Sen. Clinton by sex or Sen. Obama by race.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Forking the Project: Open-Source Body Positivity

This started as a reply to Sunflower's comment in my earlier post, but it's sufficiently lengthy that I'm going to make it its own post.

Admittedly, I'm less familiar with cons than a lot of the participants in this discussion. The only one I've attended was a heavily commercialized experience, and when I think of "hallway" in that context my mental image is one of the spaces outside of an event room where people are waiting to go in. In other words, a public space, and an already-purposed one.

By "semi-private space," I'm thinking more of something like a hotel room or set of rooms, which Joe and Jane Congoer can access but where (a) it's safe to assume everyone is there by specific intent, (b) that specific intent is for the touching and not something else that's unrelated, and (c) it's possible to exclude people if necessary. (It should be pointed out that (a) and (b) are rebuttable presumptions; if I accompany a friend to the area it doesn't mean I can't say no to participating, and I shouldn't be pressured to.)

As for the "ass contest" Sunflower described in her comment, that's actually a good concrete example to help me figure this out because I'm trying to look at it from as many perspectives as possible. Not exactly a role reversal, because there's all sorts of surrounding issues of socialization, perceived safety, etc., but more immediate than "what if I were a woman at that con?"

When I think about it from the perspective of the person being asked for permission to touch, three questions come up: (1) How do I feel? (2) What do I want? (3) How do I respond? One of the things I find problematic about the whole situation is that the answers to these questions are often very unrelated. For instance, I may be flattered by the attention, but not actually want to be touched, or I may actually not mind the touch but be put off by the way I'm propositioned. And I may agree to be touched even if I don't want to, because I see it as the price of admission to the party, or because I don't want to hurt the asker's feelings, or because I don't distinguish between wanting to be asked and wanting to be touched. Or, conversely, I may want to be touched, but something about the situation triggers a shyness response.

I've been giving some thought to how to create a positive version of this event (it is "Open Source," after all). In addition to the ideas that have already been thrown out, there are a few other changes that could radically shift the tone:

Insist on respect.
This means actual respect, not just going through the motions and saying "please" so you don't get slapped. It also means that you don't give somebody a pass on bad behavior because they're a Big Name, or because they're your friend, or because they're in the less-represented gender and you're finding it difficult to keep the ratio from becoming too lopsided.

Police the space.
If people are transgressing the boundaries of the interaction, then they need to be removed from the space. This goes even for "positive" forms of interaction; if some people decide they're okay with fewer boundaries (i.e., they want to make out, or be naked, or whatever), they should probably do that elsewhere to avoid shifting the focus of the space and making others feel uncomfortable or pressured.

Make the fundamental unit of interaction the compliment, not the touch.
If it's about being body-positive, that seems like it should go without saying.

Don't gender the interaction.
Making this primarily about breasts means that those interactions involving men are always going to be unidirectional. Being about body in general doesn't make it totally egalitarian (this is still a patriarchy, after all), but it's a start.

Change the dynamic of touch interactions from request/consent to offer/acceptance.
From what I read in the original post, offer/acceptance was how the whole thing started, and it was only when people wanted to expand the scope that they started asking other women if they were okay with being touched. While offer/acceptance doesn't by itself totally negate the peer pressure aspect, I think it's a lot easier to say nothing than have to actively turn someone down, and it separates the compliment element and the physical element. (This was suggested in the comments to theferrett's post, but was rejected by him as being "too passive," which comes across as "but then I wouldn't get to feel as many boobs!")

What it comes down to in the end, I think, is that this idea relies on "trusted strangers" (among friends, it's a very different dynamic), and that's hard to achieve. (I think it's possible to at least conditionally trust them, if there are enough safeguards in the environment, but everyone's mileage varies in that regard - yet another reason to get a room.) For some folks, the fact that the other person is at a con is a sufficient basis for that trust; it seemed that one of the problems theferrett had was that he assumed that that basis was sufficient for everyone.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Harlan Ellison was just ahead of his time

I love it when friends I know from non-feminist circles get feminist.

Tablesaw, whom I know from ifMUD, critiques a write-up of something calling itself The Open-Source Boob Project.

As for what I think about the Project itself, not having been there I don't know the actual dynamic, but the summary sets off a lot of warning bells. Tablesaw addressed most of them in his comment on the post, but the ones that stuck out for me:

1. The validation aspect:

There wasn't that undertow of desperation of come on, touch me, I need you to validate my self-esteem and maybe we'll hook up later tonight.

They were awesome breasts, worthy of being touched.

By the end of the evening, women were coming up to us. "My breasts," they asked shyly, having heard about the project. "Are they... are they good enough to be touched?" And lo, we showed them how beautiful their bodies were without turning it into something tawdry.

Which is it? Is it about validating self-esteem or not? And seriously? "Good enough to be touched?" Do insufficiently attractive breasts communicate diseases or something? The impression I get from that is that it became less about body positivity and more about being "good enough," which leads to the next issue.

2. Groping as grouping:

My God, these are beautiful breasts you have, along with the backstream compliment of Thank you, you're worthy of touching them.

And if you weren't a total lout - the women retained their right to say no, of course - they would push their chests out, and you would be allowed into the sanctity of it.

It was an Open-Source Project, making breasts available to select folks. (Like any good project, you need access control, because there are loutish men and women who just Don't Get It.)

Though I've lumped them into one issue, there's two things going on here. First, there's the idea of "access" as a measure of "worthiness." If she says yes, you're special and honored. It's that whole tired "gatekeeper" idea. Second, there's the idea that it's all or nothing, that this is a group acceptance and not an individual one. If you're a lout, no boobs for you; if not, nobody refuses you. Again, I wasn't there, and don't know the real dynamic, but I suspect there's an element of peer pressure involved, and an element of wanting to avoid "Why did you say no to me when this other woman didn't?" And while there's lip service paid to the voluntary nature of the activity, there's *always* lip service paid to the voluntary nature of the activity. The fact that nobody in the hallway situation said no makes me a little suspicious about the claim that the decisions were all totally free and uncoerced.

I think it's a little telling that the "Yes, you may" button says only that - it keeps it in the Super Secret Boobie Touchers Club. Yes, I recognize the problems with a more explicit button, and having to deal with the fallout from that; on the other hand, I don't think it's entirely coincidental that the statement elides "Yes, you may ask" and "Yes, you may touch."

3. Making it about the menz:

In this moment, all of the societal restrictions had fallen away

I felt the terrors of high school washing away from me. It could be this easy. Just ask!

For a moment, everything that was awkward about high school would fade away and you could just say what was on your mind. It was as though parts of me were being healed whenever I did it, and I touched at least fifteen sets of boobs at Penguicon. It never got old, surprisingly.

Well, that's great that touching women's breasts gets you over your personal issues with high school, but so what?

4. Keepin' it patriarchal:

exploring thoroughly but briefly lest we cross the line from 'touching" to "unwanted heavy petting."

It could have been a base lechery. But instead, it was sexual desire made simple.

We weren't degenerating into an orgy, but rather exploring the amazement of how beautiful this body was and how wonderful it was to have access to them.

This could go wrong, collapsing and turning us into cruel lechers who'd make her feel uncomfortable and shamed of who she was....

But it was a miraculous sexuality that didn't feel dirty, but clean.

And there haven't been any hookups that I know of thanks to the Open-Source Boob Project. It is, as I said, a very special thing.

it's strangely wholesome and sexual at the same time.

There's a definite sense of "good sex" versus "bad sex" going on here. The "Open-Source Boob Project" is "good sex" because it doesn't lead to anything else, particularly to "bad sex." Why is it a bad thing if people hooked up? Why is the touching/"heavy petting" distinction equated with the wanted/unwanted distinction? Why would additional sexual activity be a "degeneration" and not, say, a "metamorphosis"?

5. Short skirt chasing:

Because a beautiful girl in an incredibly skimpy blue Princess outfit strode down the hallway, obviously putting her assets on display

You didn't just ask anyone, but rather the ones who'd dressed to impress

Abso-fucking-lutely not. I can't see how any cosplayer wouldn't be insulted by that.

Power Girl, for example, is a favorite among a lot of my comics-loving friends. Her costume has a relatively revealing cutout. Does that imply that someone dressed as Power Girl is there to "impress"? (Heh, I can just imagine someone asking Peej for a feel. Stick with Starfire, boys.)

Or take some of the more elaborate anime/videogaming costumes. The ones for women (and some of the ones for men) are often quite skimpy, but also very elaborate. Someone who makes (e.g.) a Lulu costume may be wearing it low-cut to "put her assets on display," or it may be more about the fact that that's how the costume is designed, and accuracy is important.

Now I have no doubt that this "project" was a positive experience for many or most, for all kinds of reasons. Hell, in other contexts (at somewhere like Burning Man, for example, or maybe some part of the con that's semi-private space), with other spin, I'd probably be posting about this as an example of the direction our attitudes need to go. But it's not above examination. Basically, the problem I'm having with this "Open-Source Boob Project" or at least the summary thereof is that it seems to take something that is, or at least could be, "free-as-in-speech love" and turn it into "free-as-in-beer love."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Sexual Defense of American Women

Maga reviews some book from the mid-1960s entitled A Sexual Defense of American Women. It's great reading if (like me) you're a sucker for historical relationship advice. The library of my literary fraternity in undergrad contained the enormously entertaining How To Get a Teenage Boy and What to Do with Him When You Get Him, and online there's the Social Guidance section of the Prelinger Archives.

There's really not too much to add, but this bit stuck out:

The point of this book, clearly, is male aspirational envy; it's ostensibly directed towards women, but I can't help feeling that this is at least partially misdirection. The book's main energies are spent on playing up the hotness of the hot chicks into whose heads and pants Rankin has got, and on pouring scorn on Inadequate Men, so I'm guessing that teenage boys and young men are at least partially the target. The publishers don't seem to be quite sure about this - the advertisements on the final pages include both male-targeted sex pulp and female-targeted romance pulp.

These sorts of books are absolutely targeted to men; selling masculinity back to men is their raison d'etre. (Sure, some of them do it because they want to reshape what masculinity means, but I suspect the vast majority just play up the stereotypes because that's where the money is.)

One thing I do wonder is how these sorts of guides read prior to WWII, second-wave feminism, and the contemporary form of anxious masculinity. There's a pretty big gap in my knowledge between Capellanus and 50s social advice.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Milliways has a great article about the development process, such as it was, of Milliways, Infocom's vaporware sequel to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, now slightly less vaporware due to a playable early version.

I haven't tried the game yet, but I wonder what it'd be like if someone from the contemporary IF community took it over. The question, then, would be who? My first choice would probably be Nick Montfort, though Jon Ingold or even Graham Nelson himself would probably do an excellent job. (This is all idle speculation, of course, as there are all kinds of intellectual property issues in the way of such a thing ever happening.)

There are also interesting design ideas, such as a MEANWHILE command to switch viewpoints and several proposed methods of scene-changing. The puzzle design is definitely from before The Craft of Adventure, even before the more player-friendly LucasArts games. In the first game synopsis, the notes for the very first puzzle state that "this is a nasty trick puzzle because if you solve it, you lose the game." (Despite this, unlike the author of the article I like the first synopsis better than the second. A Barry Manilow CD is a very specific cultural reference that isn't particularly entertaining and feels out of place among the intergalactic weirdness.)

The other thing that struck me in the article was the time involved in creating these games in ZIL. Amy Briggs complained that it was impossible, even with a completed script (I'm not sure if "script" means general plot points, or all the main text, or what), to code a game that size in nine months. And yet it seems that, these days, that's about the median for a comp-length (i.e., ~2 hours to complete) written by an amateur in their free time. I suspect an adaptation that's already got a script Which makes me wonder - what if Infocom had had Inform at their disposal, rather than ZIL? Maybe they'd have been able to produce even more great works. Then again, people asked "What if George Lucas had CGI at his disposal?" and what we got were Episodes I-III.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

...with its sword.

Adam Cadre (he of Ready, Okay!, Photopia and the MiSTing of The Eye of Argon) has posted the 2008 winners of his Lyttle Lytton Contest, a harder, better, faster, shorter version of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.

Adam points out that his examples of sentences that don't belong in the competition may be funnier than the actual winners because they're intentional-intentional comedy, not intentional-unintentional comedy. In a few cases that's true, but most of the examples come across to me as far too precious - the sort of thing you find in humorous genre novels that try to be the next Hitchhiker's Guide (I'm looking at you, Rob Grant), but aren't actually the sort of jokes that make that sort of novel good for me - it's the longer conceptual jokes that make or break that sort of book.

The other thing that stands out is that unintentionally bad writing routinely trumps intentionally bad for the funny. I don't know if it's just that the contest entries tend to be overcrafted, or whether I'm giving credit for the unwittingness of it.

I still suspect the winner cribbed from LaHaye and Jenkins, though.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Next Chapter

I just received my official acceptance to the UB's library science program.

Now to figure out what to take, when to take it, and how to pay for it.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Indiana protects the children, one Alison Bechdel comic at a time

From Tom Smith comes this story of a new law in Indiana requiring anyone who sells sexually explicit material to register with the State, and the response of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

Here's the text of the law (in italics), with my commentary (in roman):

[NOTE: I'm not a lawyer, and this isn't legal advice. If you're a bookstore owner in Indiana, don't rely on anything I say here.]

Chapter 55. Intention to Sell Sexually Explicit Materials

Sec. 1. This chapter does not apply to a person who sells sexually explicit materials on June 30, 2008, unless the person changes the person's business location after June 30, 2008.

This is a "grandfather clause" that means that bookstores that already exist don't have to register - but if a business changes location, changes ownership, or opens a new branch, it may apply.

Sec. 2. A person (as defined in IC 35-41-1-22) that intends to offer for sale or sell sexually explicit materials shall register with the secretary of state the intent to offer for sale or sell sexually explicit materials and provide a statement detailing the types of materials that the person intends to offer for sale or sell.

I'm assuming, without having looked it up, that the "person" definition there is meant to include corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies.

The actual definition of "sexually explicit materials" occurs later in the act, and will be discussed there.

Sec. 3. (a) As used in this section, "local officials of the county" refer to all of the following:
(1) The county executive.
(2) If a person described in section 2 of this chapter intends to locate in a municipality, the executive of the municipality.
(3) A local entity that supervises a zoning board in the county.

(b) After receiving a registration described in section 2 of this chapter, the secretary of state shall notify the local officials of the county in which a person described in section 2 of this chapter intends to offer for sale or sell sexually explicit materials of
the registration filed under section 2 of this chapter.

This is procedural stuff that says the Indiana Department of State (with whom the bookseller registers) must notify local officials, and which official needs to be notified. Most telling is section (a)(3), which says that the supervisor of a zoning board needs to be notified. It's curious - you'd think that a zoning board would *already* ask about this sort of thing; one of the whole points of zoning laws are so that local authorities can say "not in my backyard" to porn stores and sex shops. More on this later.

SECTION 2. IC 23-18-12-3, AS AMENDED BY P.L.60-2007, SECTION 6, IS AMENDED TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 2008]: Sec. 3. (a) Except as provided in subsection (e), the secretary of state shall collect the following fees when the documents described in this section are delivered for filing:
Document Fee
(1) Articles of organization $90
(2) Application for use of
indistinguishable name $20
(3) Application for reservation of name $20
(4) Application for renewal of
reservation $20
(5) Notice of transfer or cancellation
of reservation $20
(6) Application of registered name $30
(7) Application for renewal of registered name $30
(8) Certificate of change of registered
agent's business address No Fee
(9) Certificate of resignation of
agent No Fee
(10) Articles of amendment $30
(11) Restatement of articles of
organization $30
(12) Articles of dissolution $30
(13) Application for certificate of
authority $90
(14) Application for amended
certificate of authority $30
(15) Application for certificate of
withdrawal $30
(16) Application for reinstatement
following administrative dissolution $30
(17) Articles of correction $30
(18) Certificate of change of
registered agent No Fee
(19) Application for certificate of
existence or authorization $15
(20) Biennial report filed in writing,
including by facsimile $30
(21) Biennial report filed by electronic medium $20
(22) Articles of merger involving a domestic limited liability company $90
(23) Any other document required or
permitted to be filed under this article $30
(24) Registration of intent to sell
sexually explicit materials, products, or services $250

I've kept the full list in there for a reason. Look at the costs of other registrations - they're anywhere from no fee (for updating information about the registered agent) to $90 (for articles of organization or a certificate of authority). In contrast, the registration fee for intent to sell sexually explicit materials, products or services is a whopping $250. That kind of fee isn't meant to cover the costs of processing or keep the number of applications filed under control - it's meant to discourage people from engaging in the business altogether. Sure, a sex shop is likely to just absorb the one-time fee as a cost of doing business, but what about the folks for whom these "materials, products, or services" are more incidental? Remember, it's not *just* that extra $250 that's at stake, it's the zoning application as well. If it jeapordizes the main business,

[Sections (b) through (e) omitted, because they're not relevant to the new law].

Chapter 16.4. Sexually Explicit Materials
Sec. 1. As used in this chapter, "person" has the meaning set forth in IC 35-41-1-22.

This is the same definition of "person" used above.

Sec. 2. (a) As used in this chapter, "sexually explicit materials" means a product or service:

(1) that is harmful to minors (as described in IC 35-49-2-2), even if the product or service is not intended to be used by or offered to a minor; or

This is an interesting phrasing. The presumed rationale is the "what about the children?" argument - that minors may have access to the product or service even if they're not supposed to, by sneaking in or shoplifting or whatnot. But the whole point of "harmful to minors" being a standard in the first place is that the State has an authority to regulate these materials with respect to minors that it does not have with respect to adults. The definition of "harmful to minors" is an adaptation of the Miller test (with S&M thrown in), as modified by Ginsberg v. New York, which allowed a different standard for minors than adults:

Matter or performance harmful to minors
Sec. 2. A matter or performance is harmful to minors for purposes of this article if:
(1) it describes or represents, in any form, nudity, sexual conduct, sexual excitement, or sado-masochistic abuse;
(2) considered as a whole, it appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors;
(3) it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable matter for or performance before minors; and
(4) considered as a whole, it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

Those uses of "for minors" aren't incidental. Since the cultural narrative is that *every* instance described in subsection (1) appeals to the prurient interest in sex of minors (cue Kristy Now from Southland Tales: "teenage horniness is not a crime!"), this makes every representation fit subsection (2). Since the adult community typically decides *no* such material of any explicitness is suitable for minors (hell, even frank sex ed books get challenged), subsection (3) is easy to fulfill. The inclusion of "for minors" in subsection (4) is most insidious of all, because it strips many literary, artistic, political and scientific works of protection because a hypothetical 16-year-old might not appreciate their merit, but get off on a nude figure or description of sex. And don't forget - we're not just talking about restricting these works from minors, as in Ginsberg; you need to pay several hundred dollars to sell these

Back to the new law:

(2) that is designed for use in, marketed primarily for, or provides for:
(A) the stimulation of the human genital organs; or

In other words, vibrators. (Yeah, I know there are other products that fit this category, but they're much, much rarer.) And just after Texas lifted its ban. Is there a Law of Conservation of Patriarchy or something?

Aside from the fact that there's a disparate impact here - or arguably because of it - what's the state purpose here? Is there really a correlation with the sale of vibrators and criminal elements? Are they worried about hordes of sexually satisfied women running riot?

(B) masochism or a masochistic experience, sadism or a sadistic experience, sexual bondage, or sexual domination.

Wholly unsurprising, for two reasons. Not only is it straightforwardly anti-kink, it gets around the issue of BDSM where everyone stays clothed and no conventional sex happens.

Of course, these terms aren't defined (yeah, good luck with that!) so it's pretty much a guarantee that someone's going to argue that a corset at Hot Topic is for the purpose of sexual domination.

(b) The term does not include:
(1) birth control or contraceptive devices;

Because that would be obviously unconstitutional.

(2) services, programs, products, or materials provided by a:
(A) communications service provider (as defined in IC 8-1-32.6-3);

Because that would pre-empt the federal Communications Decency Act, which gives "communications service providers" immunity from liability for the content they distribute;

(B) physician;

Again, that'd be pretty obviously unconstitutional.

or (C) public or nonpublic school.

They're obviously trying to make sure that schools aren't required to register in order to conduct classes, but I have to wonder something: given the definition of "sexually explicit materials" above, what sexually explicit materials does one expect to be sold at a school? Last I checked, schools typically didn't sell vibrators or BDSM gear on campus. That leaves, of course, "material that is harmful to minors." You know, I have this sneaking suspicion that, if it's okay to exempt schools here, this material may not actually be harmful to minors.

Sec. 3. A person or an employee or agent of a person may not offer for sale or sell sexually explicit materials unless a registration and statement are properly filed as described in IC 23-1-55-1.

Sec. 4. A person or an employee or agent of a person who knowingly or intentionally offers for sale or sells sexually explicit materials in violation of this chapter commits unregistered sale of sexually explicit materials, a Class B misdemeanor.

And, of course, we need to actually make it a crime, or the law has no teeth. Of course, the big issue isn't the penalty from the misdemeanor - it's losing the ability to do business. The effect of this law is actually relatively minor on dedicated sex shops and porn stores - they're not going to be run out of business by a one-time $250 fee. (Not that they should have to pay it, and not that there's a good chance such a registry would be misused either by a zealous prosecutor or by people who want to harass the business.)

Another effect is that, while businesses are required to register, anyone who's not a business is still covered by these sections. So if I live in Indiana and I put a book of Leonard Nemoy's photography up on eBay, I've broken the law.

I'm reasonably confident (though not certain - Indiana seems to be a very conservative place) that this law won't survive the first court challenge, but still - how does it even get that far?

I'd call for an "I Am Spartacus" style protest, overwhelming the state with registrations, but there's that pesky $250 fee again.