Well this is good news for sexual assaulters everywhere: A Maryland appellate court has ruled that consent cannot be withdrawn once sex has started.
This is an incredibly frightening ruling. It essentially means that once penetration occurs, you have no right to end it until your partner does. Once you’re having sex, you lose basic rights to your own body.
I can already imagine the arguments that supporters of this ruling will put forth — that it’s not fair for a woman or man to withdraw sexual consent while in the act, because it creates difficulty in measuring the time between when consent was withdrawn and when the sex actually stopped. That is, would it be rape if one partner says “stop” in the middle of it, and the other partner keeps going for three more seconds? Ten seconds? A minute?
This argument, though, is silly. Courts apply “reasonable person” standards all the time — the question here, I would think, is how long would a reasonable person keep going if their partner asked them to stop?
Put yourself in the situation: You’re having sex. Your partner says, “Stop.” What do you do?
Most decent people stop right then and there. You don’t keep going for a full minute, or even 30 seconds. When you hear “stop” or “no” or “that hurts,” you stop what you’re doing. I can’t imagine continuing to do something after my partner asked me not to — I further imagine that hearing them say “stop” would be jarring enough to stop me in my tracks.
But we arn’t talking about sensitive feminist types, right? We’re talking about “average people,” and my views on sex and sexuality may or may not be average. So let’s pretend that “average person” Partner A doesn’t stop when “average person” Partner B asks him to. Partner A keeps going. Partner B asks him to stop again. He doesn’t. Then Partner B yells at him to stop. He doesn’t. Partner B tries to push him off. He holds Partner B down. Partner B screams for him to stop, cries, struggles to get away. Partner A doesn’t stop until he’s finished.
What does that sound like? Would a reasonable person, with no intent to harm another, act in the way that Partner A did? Should Partner A have legal protection? Is this a standard that we want enshrined in the law?
This ruling is shameful. Let’s hope it isn’t repeated.
Thanks to Jessica for sending this on.