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This Week in Bans: It's Criminal To Say Men Have 'No Balls'

Also, a British city forbids its own employees from watching the Olympics and a Tennessee burg attacks noisy street preaching.

Andreas Marx/Flickr

Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):


In a legal twist that could only occur in machismo-drenched Italy, a judge has ruled that it's a crime to say a man has “no balls.” Overseeing a case that began in Potenza, a city located in the ankle section of the geo-boot, Judge Maurizio Fumo of the Rome's supreme court declared that aside from "the vulgarity of the term used, the expression definitely also has an injurious quality," according to the AP. Accusations of nutlessness, Fumo added, detract from a man's perceived competence and determination, traits that “rightly or wrongly, are still identified as pertaining to the male gender." The case rose all the way to Italy's highest judicial body after a lawyer named Vittorio verbally neutered his cousin Alberto, who happens to be a justice of the peace, while arguing another case in court. Vittorio may now have to pay his cousin a fine. As of yet, it is unknown how this ruling will apply to castrati.


The city council of Portsmouth, situated on the U.K.'s southern coast, doesn't want its employees wasting time at work by watching the Olympics. So it has installed filters on the computers of municipal workers to block websites that live-stream the Games. Officials say the ban is necessary to prevent a mass network meltdown caused by everybody streaming at once; cut-off employees can still check out the scores on the BBC's site. “I don’t see why the council should be paying people to watch TV,” council head Gerald Vernon-Jackson told the Portsmouth News. Still, the prohibition seems a little odd because the council itself is an official supporter of the event. As one unnamed worker complained, “The building is covered in huge Olympic logos but council employees have been locked out completely.”


Maryville recently suffered a humiliating defeat in the Tennessee Court of Appeals, which ruled as unconstitutional a municipal law that forbids unpermitted public demonstrations. So the city has crafted a different ordinance, based on traffic-flow data, to achieve the same silencing effect. The new law states that for safety reasons, it's illegal to perform “speechmaking” near eight of Maryville's biggest intersections. The chain of logic behind this quizzical argument flows something like this: A) These intersections carry the largest amount of traffic; 2) They also have the highest number of accidents; D) Ergo, people demonstrating on the side of the road are causing the accidents. “It’s a distracting activity,” city attorney Melanie Davis explained in this Daily Times report. “People can do it anywhere else in the city.” The law appears geared toward a street preacher named Wallace Langford, who was arrested a few years ago for screaming the gospel at motorists. He later won out in that court of appeals case, and no doubt will be testifying again when this new regulation is invariably challenged on First Amendment grounds.

Photo of balls by Andreas Marx.

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.