As Americans, we like to complain an awful lot about the things we’re not allowed to do. As far as a lot of people are concerned, places like Amsterdam are a wide-open playground of the soul while we’re still stuck in this confining and pee-soaked sandbox of puritanism. But the truth is that we are able to do a lot of things that we probably take for granted. No, I’m not talking about voting, I’m talking about the stuff that really matters, things like drunken sex and violence. You know, the true hallmarks of freedom. In fact, just to make you appreciate the good ol’ US of A a little more, here are eight things you do all the time that are banned in other parts of the world.
8. Chew Gum
In 1992, Singapore passed a law banning chewing gum because – and this is completely serious – they decided that people sticking used wads of chewing gum underneath desks and chairs had become a national crisis worthy of criminalization. Singapore is famous for its anal retentive laws, but this is a little much, right? You can still get chewing gum in Singapore, but only if it’s prescribed by a doctor as “therapeutic chewing gum,” which, uh… therapeutic chewing gum? The best part is that even if you get your doctor’s permission, they then have to add your name to a national chewing gum registry like a sex offender or something, which just makes me wonder if gum enthusiasts have to go door to door whenever they move and tell their neighbors their secret shame.
7. Play Video Games
Okay, fine, not all video games. And while you’re probably thinking “Yeah, sure, maybe in some third world fundamentalist country,” you’d probably be surprised to learn that one of the most censorious countries on Earth when it comes to video games is actually Australia. They have banned many video games over the years for everything from sex to drug use to violence, the most recent being Saints Row IV, so we’re not talking just a bunch of seedy underground snuff games here. It’s so bad that one game, Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, was banned unilaterally by the country’s attorney-general because it “glorified graffiti.” Look, no one’s gonna take you seriously as a country when your best and brightest are stuck playing Crash Bandicoot. That’s no way to live, Australia.
6. Use Plastic Bags
Plastic bags are still the norm in many parts of America, especially in the Midwest, where eco-friendly means switching to a slightly cleaner burning jet fuel for funny-car races. But in much of the rest of the world, plastic bags are completely forbidden. Look, I get it, it’s better for the environment, and using paper bags – or even better, reusable cloth bags – isn’t exactly a hardship, especially considering plastic bags rip just as easily as their paper cousins, but how is a hitman supposed to quietly sneak up on someone and suffocate them to death if he doesn’t have a plastic bag? Are you even thinking of the murder for hire game, rest of the world? Times are tough, and instead of making it harder for a trained killer to earn a living, you have to go and force him to try to kill people with paper bags instead. I understand we’re all trying to balance concerns for the environment with economic interests, but a sociopath’s gotta eat too.
I’m not talking about smoking weed, which as we all know, is still illegal. Barely, but still. I’m talking about cigarette smoking, which was banned in Bhutan in 2004. The law made it illegal to both sell tobacco products and to smoke it in public places, but people mostly ignored it and kept on smoking anyway. After all, have you ever tried to get your friends to quit smoking when you’re out drinking? That shit is impossible. Now imagine an entire country going through that. Still, officials wouldn’t let the matter drop, and another bill was passed making the selling of tobacco officially a misdemeanor punishable by one to three years in prison. Then again, I’m not sure even the threat of getting cornholed in a Bhutanese prison by a gangster with one eye and gold teeth sharpened into fangs is enough of an incentive to stop someone from lighting up a cig at 3AM after a night of heavy drinking. Be reasonable, Bhutan.
4. Watch Porn
Porn is banned in many parts of the world, mainly in oppressive dictatorial states like North Korea or heavily religious countries where a book that famously starts with a hard K sound is the basis of all law. But there are some much-admired parts of the world that have shut the porn game down too. In merry ol’ England, there have been recent attempts to get de facto filters set in place for all ISP’s to keep people from jerking… I mean, wanking it. Naturally, this all has to do with ambiguous language about exploiting women, and is actually pretty church-ladyish in nature. The most surprisingly oppressive country is probably Iceland though, which has already banned strip clubs and all forms of porn mags, and has recently begun legislation to attempt to ban online porn as well, which seems especially cruel in a country that basically lives in the dark for six months of the year. Look, Iceland, you may have excellent health-care and a high standard of living, but is it truly living if a dude can’t jerk it to pics of a granny pooing on a man with a ball-gag in his mouth?
3. Use the Internet
Yes, sadly, there are many countries that are still trapped in a net-less void, forced to rent movies at Blockbuster, buy CDs and horde Victoria’s Secret catalogs like its 1992. While the Internet isn’t necessarily banned outright in any place, there are several countries where it might as well be. In fact, twelve countries are so restrictive that they have been officially labeled “enemies of the internet.” These are the usual suspects, China, North Korea, parts of the Middle East, etc., but there are some surprising countries that have begun to dabble in Internet filtering, which is basically code for censorship. Australia, I’m looking at you again. What in the hell is going on down there? They seem to be doing their best to ensure that nobody has a g’day ever again.
2. Drink Alcohol
Oh dear God, no. This is hard to even imagine, and yet there are many countries that are drier than the county in Footloose on a Sunday. All are in the Middle East, which probably shouldn’t surprise anybody, but I would like to mention that until 1989, Iceland made it illegal to sell anything with an alcohol content of more than 2.25%. Look, Iceland has kind of become an alluring country for a lot of people, but just imagine being a college kid in Reykjavik in 1988, sitting in your dorm room in December in the dark at two in the afternoon, with no masturbation materials and nothing stronger than mouthwash to get you through the day. That country has issues, man. We’d probably all get the chair.
1. Have Premarital Sex
Oh dear God, no, part 2. Again we turn to the Middle East, where in many countries sex before marriage is considered a crime punishable by all manner of heinous shit. No booze and no sex? No wonder the Middle East is so fucking angry all the time. Look, say what you will about America, but at least young dudes and lady dudes aren’t getting rocks thrown at them in soccer stadiums while people hoot and jeer every time they let loose on a Friday night. Then again, that’s probably only six months away from happening in parts of Kansas. In the end, it would probably be cool if people around the world – from Kansas to Iran to Iceland to Australia – could stop being uptight assholes and just let people make their own decisions like, you know, adults. Until then, just be happy you still live in a place where you can get drunk and then have empty, meaningless sex and then smoke cigarettes before sneaking out in your underwear in the middle of the night. Now that’s freedom.
(Previously pubslished on November 15, 2013.)
Prisoner image by Shutterstock
Kids playing video games image by Shutterstock
Man watching TV image by Shutterstock
Couple having sex image by Shutterstock