Talking Sex Toys


Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has some harsh words for a piece of artwork that originally went by the apt title Twelve Dildos on Hooks. Tsehai Johnson, who created the ceramic and metal installation three years before she received a $5,000 state grant, explains that she renamed it Large Implements on Hooks because "I wanted the title to be a little more open-ended so that it didn't become so easily dismissed." After all, "They're meant to be sex toys, but sex toys that are talking about a lot of issues."

Owens just didn't see it. Literally. Since he was in Washington at the time, the governor had to have a staffer describe the piece to him over the phone so that he could muster the appropriate indignation after the Independence Institute, a Colorado think tank, discovered Johnson's phallic fascination. (It did not take that much digging, since Johnson submitted the piece when she applied for the arts grant, although she had to haul it out of storage for the benefit of a TV news reporter.) "Obviously, this is offensive and in extremely poor taste," Owens declared after getting the lowdown on the well-hung exhibit. "It serves as an important reminder that whenever tax dollars are involved, government must be cautious and prudent."

You might think caution and prudence would require that tax dollars be reserved for the legitimate functions of government, which do not include subsidizing artists who can't manage to support their work through sales or private philanthropy. But for Owens, caution and prudence require only that the recipents of tax dollars have no dildos in their closet.


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  1. Dildos?? It looks like a fancy shower knob collection at Home Depot!

  2. Yikes! The hooked ones leave me greatly concerned.

  3. Well, that’s it. I’m adding Home Depot to the extremely long list of places that I’m boycotting.

  4. “A government-supported artist is an incompetent whore!” -Robert A. Heinlein

  5. I’m sure Owens is just taking part in this little morality play about such a peice of artwork to curry favor with the theofascist nutjobs up the street.

    Incidentally, Owens bears more than a passing resemblance to Woody from PiXAR’s Toy Story films.

  6. Agreeing with Dave on this one. I must be really out of the loop – I’d never have thought those were dildos if they weren’t pointed out as such.

  7. “Obviously, this is offensive and in extremely poor taste,” Owens declared after getting the lowdown on the well-hung exhibit.

    Well-hung is right! Some of those look like fun.

    Back me up on this, ladies. Jennifer? Serafina?

  8. Yeah, I’m no expert, but I’m not sure the casual observer would know those are supposed to be dildos if it wasn’t suggested by the title. Which maybe is the point of the thing.

  9. I think Owens is trying get Tom “Nuke ‘Em All” Tancredo out of the local news.

  10. Well-hung is right! Some of those look like fun.

    What’s the old saw about knowing art when you see it?

  11. Some of those look like cool contemporary bathroom fixture handles.

    I don’t understand all the outrage.

  12. I think the work is really beautiful. With the added bonus of functionality…

  13. I don’t understand all the outrage.

    Owens is kind of a shmuck, with the added pressure of having to cater to the Focus on the Family voting block, who would likely faint at the mere sight of such instruments of sinful delight.

  14. Looking at the other installations on that site, I think this is the best one. I have no idea what the… implements are trying to say, but whatever. At least it shows some craftsmanship.

    As for being functional, porous materials that chip aren’t particularly good for such toys.

  15. What’s really funny is that the work was on display on the Colorado Council of the Arts website until Wednesday – wasn’t a big deal until the ‘implements’ were termed dildoes.

    Denver Post article

  16. If she got a bigger grant she could create a work called 535 Dildoes.

  17. Very nice piece – sort of a friendly yet antisceptic functionality. If I hadn’t seen the title (or spent some time working in a sex shop) I’d never guessed what they were for. The artist definitely should’ve stuck with the original name.

    The whole thing puts me in mind of “Piss Christ,” and Jim Henley’s comments on it. If social conservatives would just bother to take a look at this sort of stuff before they launched into their various diatribes they could spare themselves a lot of hyperventilating.

  18. From the story:

    Jon Caldara, President of the Independence Institute agreed with Owens. “It’s hard to say we’re in a budget crisis when taxpayers are paying for this kind of smut,” said Caldara who also has a talk show on radio station KOA. The Independence Institute is a conservative think-tank in Lakewood. The group found the work while researching a book it plans to publish on government waste in Colorado. It has started a “Fraud and Waste Hotline” for Coloradoans to call if they know of similar cases of government waste. The number to call is 303.380.2900.

    And Reason is a conservative publication. After all, their research director Dave Kopel has had several articles published here.

  19. If she got a bigger grant she could create a work called 535 Dildoes.

    I saw that one on display in a shop on Bourbon Street.

  20. Were these custom-made [term for specific sex toy] ‘s *snicker* or off-the-shelf? The concept’s pretty clever, I think.

  21. What interesting christmas ornaments you have, Grandma.

  22. she could create a work called 535 Dildoes

    I’m really fed up with crap like this. Maybe liberals “just don’t get it” and conservatives really are more concerned with details and how they shape our society because Dan Quayle is the only politician I can think of that has been willing to go out on a limb and take some risks on this matter. Doesn’t anyone care if there IS or ISN’T an e at the end of a word like dildo?

  23. I think they look like Poo. Twelve pieces of Poo on hooks is a better title.

  24. Presumably nice craftsmanship, as I’d have to have a closer look, but I don’t see much beyond that. In fact I don’t see anything beyond that, regardless of what they’re saying. And why ceramic?

  25. scape
    LOL! There is usually no ‘e’, but it can have one.

    This is the perfect gift for the nympho art collector that has everything. Or fans of ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

  26. Yes, yes, let’s have culture war outrage about the government funding an artist who make artwork that involved sex BEFORE she got a grant from the government.

    Yes, yes, let’s argue about whether the government should fund artists at all, given that our country barely funds art.

    Ka snore.

    (not to mention this is actually kind of pretty)

    If the point is talk about fraud and waste in the government, might not someone, please someone, figure out where the hell all the Iraq rebuilding money went?

  27. There is a contest on Ann’s site to suggest artwork that would offend liberals when posted in public buildings.

  28. The Ind. Institute is technically a libertarian think tank, yes, but aside from Kopel, many of it’s big name alumni, such as Caldara and Tancredo (at least the ones I’ve met) are just loud attention whores.

  29. “Well-hung is right! Some of those look like fun.

    Back me up on this, ladies.”

    Usually I would strongly encourage such ladies’ discussion.. but AAAACK!

    I don’t understand why some couples like using “toys”. C’mon. What kind of real man is going to compete with a piece of freak’n plastic?! Screw that. A guy just needs to be creative.

  30. There is a contest on Ann’s site to suggest artwork that would offend liberals when posted in public buildings.

    Any religious article without bodily excretions on it should do the trick.

  31. I encourage everyone who is analyzing this controversy to view Tsehai’s webpage at You will find that she is an extremely serious and lauded artist with one of the best reputations in the state of Colorado. Many people may find it easy to give an interpretation of controversy based on a limited view, which is that of the media as well as the government, but hopefully the larger picture and context of a serious artists work will shed better light on the entire subject. We are anticipating a thoughtful response by the Denver Post’s art critic Kyle MacMillan sometime this weekend, which should also broaden the scope of this unfortunate topic.

  32. Owens is not exactly the one to be preaching about decency and morality. The man should consider the particular choices he made that are rumored to be the downfall of his relationship.

  33. Agreeing with Dave on this one. I must be really out of the loop – I’d never have thought those were dildos if they weren’t pointed out as such.

    Same here. Rarely have I been so starkly confronted by my own ignorance. Obviously, I would never make it as a professional dildologist.

  34. Sex toys are a way of fulfilling or facilitating human sexual pleasure.

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