On the 50th anniversary of the deadly UT Tower Shooting at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), new gun rights legislation in the state went into effect.
Senate Bill 11 (SB11), also known as the Campus Carry Law, was passed in June of last year, and took effect in August. The law allows licensed gun owners age 21 and older to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses, possibly including classrooms and dorms. Despite the fact that an FBI investigation showed only one campus shooting stopped by a civilian with a gun (the civilian happened to be an ex-marine), Texas state senator Craig Estes told Breitbart that the bill “makes Texans safer.”
In a signature statement released by the state, Republican Governor Greg Abbott claims that “by signing these bills into law, Texans can be assured that their Second Amendment rights will be stronger and more secure than ever before.”
Students and professors at the university are very unhappy with the new legislation. According to a video posted by the group Cocks Not Glocks, UT Austin professor of economics Dr. Daniel S. Hamermesh said that “if you asked the professors at this university to vote on this issue there’d be about ten to one at least saying ‘no guns on this campus.’” This consensus among students and professors prompted the creation of Gun Free UT — from which Cocks Not Glocks was born.
Former UT student Jessica Jin said that though students would soon be able to carry firearms into classrooms and dorms, UT’s student rules prohibit the open display or carry of obscene objects like dildos on campus. She started the Cocks Not Glocks group after creating a Facebook event called “Campus (DILDO) Carry.” The event claims that dildos and guns also have a statistically equal ability to protect students from campus shootings. According to Jin in the description of the Facebook event, the association between dildos and guns stems from her belief that “there’s no reason for people to be afraid of sex, but there’s every reason for people to be afraid of violence.”
Despite the media attention it’s received, Texas has a long history of favoring gun rights groups over gun control. The Republican controlled legislature regularly broadens gun rights, including allowing open carry of firearms in the state and eliminating background checks for private sales of weapons. One pro-gun UT Austin student told The Guardian, “Shooting sprees happen in gun-free zones. It’s just crazy not to arm yourself.”
Gun rights groups who favor Campus Carry have sent death threats to the organizers of Cocks Not Glocks as well. Gun rights activist Brett Sanders recently released a video in which a black man breaks into the home of an actress playing organizer Ana Lopez, and shoots her. Though the video has received backlash for its graphic nature, it rather accurately represents the message and fears of pro-gun Texans.
Taking this response and Texas’ political leaning into consideration, how effective can a protest like Cocks Not Glocks be?
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Jin justified the protest: “I need this proliferation of dildos to offer people a visual representation of what it would be like if we all carried guns. It should look ridiculous to you. That is the point.”
From that perspective, one could say that Jin has accomplished her goal. The protest has received national attention and garnered the support of celebrities like Nightly Show host Larry Wilmore, who started the hashtag #solidaritydildo.
Though Cocks Not Glocks has garnered national attention, the protest is relatively unknown at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Many Texan natives in the SAIC community seemed to be unaware of the protest, though they were not surprised by the legislation which prompted it. SAIC academic advisor and Texan native Turnip Van Dyke said that he and others are “frankly not sure how effective Cocks Not Glocks is going to end up being at UT. The organizers talk about how it started off fairly satirically, and without a specific goal in mind.”
Van Dyke then added that “Cocks Not Glocks has been effective at highlighting how gendered American ideas about violence and security are.”
Aside from the fact that SAIC students live in a community that is much more pro-gun control than UT Austin, Cocks Not Glocks’ dildo distribution is a truly unique style of protest. That is not to say that dildos have not been used in protest in the past. A famous example is the November 1974 issue of Artforum in which artist Lynda Benglis posed naked with a dildo in protest of the centerfold and its contributions to the sexualization of women.
While this is a noble fight, it exemplifies the dildo’s single use in past protests: to comment on gender and sex. Until Cocks Not Glocks, sex toys have been confined to use in protest surrounding sex, gender, LGBT issues, and feminism. Cocks Not Glocks is the first protest of its kind simply because it ties sex into the protest of other conservative issues. In a state known for legislators who fear sexual health and education whilst promoting the carry of weapons, Cocks Not Glocks’ smartly unique message hits two conservative birds with one stone.
However, it’s unclear whether the cleverness of Cocks Not Glocks could translate to other protest movements. Recently, Black Lives Matter protests have filled the streets of Chicago, often going right past the Art Institute of Chicago.
Cocks Not Glocks trivializes the issue of gun control in order to show its absurdity. While one could argue that gun control is a very personal matter just like the police brutality that Black Lives Matter works against, the principles behind the movements are different. Black Lives Matter protests are fueled by long standing social constructs with deeply rooted societal impacts. These constructs are too large, too institutionalized, and too personal to be affected by a style of protest that is both satirical and largely symbolic. Above all else, the activism currently taking place to address these issues is much more intensive than Cocks Not Glocks, and change still comes slowly.
While Cocks Not Glocks is noble in its attempts to address an issue that frankly shouldn’t exist, it’s an anomaly. Very rarely have we seen protest like this, and it is unlikely that we should see it again. With a limited range of applicability, short history, and variance from past use of sex toys in protest, Cocks Not Glocks has a lot to prove. While it may not be a totally effective protest, Cocks Not Glocks has created an effective and creative form of bringing awareness to the issue it represents.