The law may be a blunt instrument, but when wielded by a witty hand, it can put you in stitches. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery recently ruled on a case curiously dubbed The Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Bikini Top V. the (More) Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Pastieî.
The case was rather ordinary: The strip clubs of San Antonio, Texas, requested a preliminary injunction against a city ordinance requiring that exotic dancers wear more fabric to cover their breasts, citing an entertainer’s right to free speech.î Rather than responding to this matter dryly, as is typically the nature of the law, the judge saw it fit to add some humor to the mix.
In his ruling, Judge Biery was liberal with his, uh, pointed use of double entendres, beginning with the hilarious observation:
The City of San Antonio (“City”) wants exotic dancers employed by Plantiffs to wear larger pieces of fabric to cover more of the female breast. Thus, the age old question before the Court, now with constitutional implications, is: Does size matter?î
A law in 2005 was put into place with the intention of placing more stringent regulations on businesses deemed human display establishments,î which would have traditionally included strip clubs. The clubs wiggled around the law by requiring that dancers wear pasties, but still, leaving lots of breast otherwise uncovered. Last year, the law was amended to address this workaround with more specific language.
This is yet another component of stigmatizing sexuality and sex work as a whole. After all, what exactly changes when the dancers move from pasties to bikini tops? It seems like yet another overreaching moralistic response to something that isn’t, frankly, a big fucking deal.
A few other notable quotes from the 29-page ruling (read the entirety of the document here):
“An ordinance dealing with semi-nude dancers has once again fallen on the Court’s lap.”
“The Court infers Plaintiffs fear enforcement of the ordinance would strip them of their profits, adversely impacting their bottom line.”
“Plaintiffs clothe themselves in the First Amendment seeking to provide cover against another alleged naked grab of unconstitutional power.”
“While the Court has not received amicus curiae briefs, the Court has been blessed with volunteers known in South Texas as ‘curious amigos’ to be inspectors general to perform on sight visits at the locations in question.”
Though the preliminary injunction was denied on the basis that the ordinance would neither cause the business irreparable harm or violate the dancers’ First Amendment Rightsî, Judge Biery left subtle encouragement for those unhappy with this ruling to continue to pursue their goals. He also acknowledged that the law itself is a bit meaningless:
While the court finds these businesses to be nefarious magnets of mischief, the court doubts several square inches of fabric will stanch the flow of violence and other secondary effects emanating from these businesses. Indeed, this case exposes the underbelly of America’s Romanesque passion for entertainment, sex and money, sought to be covered with constitutional prophylaxis.î
Lastly, he concluded that alcohol, drugs, testosterone, guns and knives are more likely the causative agents than the female breast, proving once again that humans are a peculiar lot.”
Judge Biery plainly and intelligently expressing a naked truth is just the kind of exposure the law needs.æ Hopefully his insights will penetrate the minds of those pearl-clutching micro-managers who feel the need to turn their feelings into laws.