Monday, June 30, 2008

The 'consenting adults' problem

Prior to the 1950s and '60s, most states had a network of laws, well-rooted in the Anglo-American tradition, that had the cumulative effect of outlawing every manner of sex except between husband and wife.

Adultery, fornication, sodomy -- one way or another, if you were messin' around with anyone except your lawful spouse, you were outside the law. Frank Sinatra was once arrested on a charge of "seduction," a New Jersey law that made it illegal for a man to use a false promise of marriage to entice a woman into sex.

Under the guise of reform and "modernization," however, nearly all of these laws were gradually eliminated as our legal system came to recognize the "consenting adults" standard: Anything goes, as long as the individuals involved are over 18 and consent to whatever it is.

The biggest problem with the modern system is that at times it can be maddeningly difficult to determine if there was genuine consent. One party to the act (almost always the woman) complains that she was compelled to do things against her will and, if the guy denies it, you've got the classic he-said, she-said date-rape situation. Kobe Bryant experienced this problem.

In the old days, providing the couple weren't husband and wife, all that was necessary was to establish that sex took place, and if the woman complained, the guy was just about certain to be guilty of something. So any woman who made a claim of sexual exploitation generally had the law on her side.

It was kind of old-fashioned and arguably sexist, but it worked. Welcome to the enlightened future:
A Durham couple charged with kidnapping, rape and assault was involved with a satanic cult, a prosecutor said Monday.
Joy Johnson and Joseph Craig appeared at a bond hearing Monday. . . .
Prosecutors said a man and a woman met Craig through a shared interest in Satan worship, but the pair never consented to physical abuse.
Craig shackled his victims to beds, kept them in dog cages and starved them inside his Albany Street home, prosecutors said. He was charged with beating the man with a cane and a cord and with raping the woman.
"This goes well above what they were interested in doing," an assistant Durham County district attorney said.
Wait a minute: You're a willing servant of Beelzebub, and you're all into the kinky group-sex scene but -- but! -- you weren't down for the whole bondage/S&M trip? Well, what the heck kind of lame excuse for a satanic cultist are you?
You think Mephistopheles approves of your uptight bourgeois hangups? No way, honey: The dog cage, the beatings, the so-called "rape" -- what Your Infernal Master wants, Your Infernal Master gets, sweetheart.

Which is to say, exactly how does the prosecution aim to go about proving that the complainants -- kinky cultists that they are -- didn't consent to the cage-and-whip routine?

All the defendant has to say is, "Yeah, they were begging for it, your honor, both of 'em. Bondage, humiliation, a bit of the old rough stuff -- that's a big part of our satanic ritual. These two knew what they were getting into, but then we had ... well, I guess you'd call it a theological dispute. See, this guy thought he was going to tie my wife up and have sex with me, and I told him that's not the way I learned the ritual. In my demonic denomination, I'm the priest, which means I get to put the other guy in a dog cage and have sex with his wife. So when you get right down to it, judge, this is a First Amendment freedom-of-religion case, and don't you go imposing your values on me!"

Very tough case to prove, you see, because we're so progressive and modern. We're sophisticated and tolerant. Everything's relative and, after all, who are we to judge?

This story was linked at Memeorandum, which is usually for politics, and I didn't really get the political angle until I read down a little further in the story:
Johnson, who was third vice-chair of the Durham County Democratic Party and vice-chair for the Young Democrats, was charged with two counts of aiding and abetting. Prosecutors said she knew her husband planned the crime and watched as they were committed.
She has resigned her positions with the Democratic Party, said state Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.
"She seemed to be a very open, reasonable, responsible person, but certainly, the allegations that have been made are shocking to everybody who has known her," McKissick said. "We wish her the best going through this difficult and trying time."
Johnson also resigned her position as office manager for the Durham People's Alliance.
Obviously, this is a case of political persecution -- a witch hunt, so to speak -- and you know what that means. Yep, just as in the Republican conspiracy against Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, loyal Durham County Democrat (and satanic cultist) Joy Johnson was set up and framed by Karl Rove!

This time, Karl's got his defense ready: "The devil made me do it."

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