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To Protest Guns on Campus, Students in Texas Are Carrying Big, Fake Penises to Class

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On the first day of the fall semester at the University of Texas at Austin, the West Mall — a large, statue-lined pathway that serves as the campus’s designated rally and protest space — is filled with booths of students promoting campus clubs of all kinds. In a stroll from the edge of campus at West 22nd and Guadalupe streets, all the way up to where the West Mall ends at the steps to the looming clock tower, you could theoretically sign up for a 4,000-mile bike race to Alaska, join a spirit group, and find a church community in less than 10 minutes. But this year, at the very end of the line of booths, Rosie Zander, a 20-year-old history junior at UT, stood atop one of the many planters that dot the West Mall, swinging a giant dildo over her head.

She and a team of organizers and student volunteers had spent the week before school started handing out 5,000 dildos in varying sizes and shapes (some with balls, some without) to UT students, in hopes that they would zip-tie them to their backpacks and walk onto campus openly brandishing veiny, phallic dildos to prove a point about gun control. If it seems absurd and ridiculous, that’s because it’s supposed to be. The slogan of “Cocks Not Glocks” — the gun protest that had Zander wielding a giant dildo and has drawn international attention to UT Austin — is “fighting absurdity with absurdity.”

As of Aug. 1, 2016, students at UT (and every other public university in Texas) with concealed handgun licenses can legally carry firearms on campus. Zander was swinging the 10-pound dildo over her head in protest of a gun law that she (and the university president, and a number of UT faculty members, not to mention the rest of the Cocks Not Glocks protesters) feels makes her campus unsafe. Jessica Jin, a 25-year-old UT alumna with a degree in violin performance, came up with the idea for the protest and coined the phrase last October, after she realized a Texas penal code (and UT campus policy) bans students from displaying “obscene” imagery or items on campus. The penal code explicitly lists dildos as the sort of item that qualifies as too “obscene” to carry openly on a Texas street. “I didn’t even think it would be a real protest,” she told me over the phone a couple of weeks before classes started. “I thought it was just a sarcastic suggestion.” But on Aug. 24, the first day of class at UT Austin witnessed the biggest gun protest (5,000 swinging dildos strong) the state of Texas has ever seen.

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