Disturbing Threat to Sexual Consent

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According to several sources, North Carolina has taken a disturbing step backwards by recently citing a law where a woman can’t back out of sex once underway. As reported by several news organizations, the courts in N.C. has ruled that once sex has started a woman no longer has the ability to withdraw consent once it begins.  This effectively allows the sexual partner to ignore pleas to stop if the act has turned violent or otherwise unacceptable. Such was the scenario in the case involving a woman who agreed to have sex at a party but wanted to stop once it became violent. The end result is that the offender was not charged with rape, but is serving time for assault.

Jeff Jackson, a Democratic state senator who represents Mecklenburg County N.C. is working to get the law changed, but faces an uphill battle. “Right now, if a woman tells a man to stop having sex he is under no legal obligation to do so, as long as she initially consented…North Carolina is the only state in the country where no doesn’t really mean no.”   At present, there are at least nine US states which explicitly recognize the right to withdraw consent during sex, either via state statutes or court rulings.

From a personal perspective I can understand both sides, to a degree.  On the side of rights of consent revocation, there are more than plenty of those that believe that a “yes” to one type of act is equivalent to blanket consent to any and all types. Because folks have a very poor sense of impulse control (increasingly worse as of late) the idea that you MUST be that some self-restraint and mindfulness must always be maintained is absolutely required.  Communicating what is consented to, and what isn’t up front helps, but adrenaline and the primal mind can hijack you and there needs to be a way to say “Whoa! I didn’t agree to THIS!!” and have it respected.

On the other hand, it is not unusual for those of a more vindictive nature to use any and all possible means to cause harm to another, including false accusations of rape.  Once such an accusation is made, it is often incumbent upon the accused to prove their innocence and endure assumptions of guilt which often harms their personal, family, and professional life.  I know plenty of those that have had such an experience and its a very ugly experience that makes it hard to restore trust in others.  It is probably the most intimate sort of betrayal there is.

Is there, as so many wish there were, a simple magic bullet solution?  No. You educate and help change social behaviors and expectations, but it takes a LONG time for a society to change and adapt to new values.  Until then, the fight for sanity will continue to be a legal battle and very often a war of attrition in both financial, emotional, and psychological resources.