Sex and the Law
What you do behind closed doors could land you behind bars.
By Ivonne Valle
Sex. We are all interested in it.
Everyone knows of the president's sexual activities, but judging from public response which ranges from "leave the man alone, the economy is all good" to the question"where is morality heading," it is clear that public opinion remains divided. Since laws are derived from what is acceptable to the majority, it isn't surprising conflicting sexual codes of conduct exsists between states in the U.S.
Problems regarding sexual behavior have transcended eras, races and religions. Let's face it, sex is sex. But based on public ethics, sexual behavior has been restricted for a variety of reasons.
"Most laws [relating to sex] center on restricting non-reproductive sex as a way of controlling 'different' behavior," says Dave Lefebvre, co-director of the Educational and Referral Organization for Sexuality (EROS) at SFSU. "That is why there are always problems with religion and things like contraception because use of such promotes a hedonistic image of sex."
Whereas in California pretty much anything goes, states like Florida are rather conservative in their view of sex. Practices such as oral sex and cohabitation are illegal under any circumstances.
Is it time laws outlawing practices such as oral sex between a married couple were repealed? Or are people even aware that such a law exists in 19 states? How can we go about changing such antiquated laws?
"Laws relating to sex crimes are the easiest to change," says East Bay attorney Craig Pinto. "All you basically need is a public outcry and politicians act soon after."
Interestingly enough, laws relating to sexual conduct undergo the most changes or amendments because so may of them are antiquated and irrelevant. Nevertheless, interest in a particular sex law almost never comes unless someone makes use of it.
Oral sex is perhaps the issue that causes the most problems in a legal sense.
Sodomy is legally defined as homosexual behavior in most cases, but in some states its meaning extends to include anything seen as "deviate sexual conduct" and hence unnatural. In states like Kansas, Missouri and Indiana, oral sex is classified as sodomy.
Georgia, the state where the last Olympics Games were held and where without a doubt oral sex was commonplace during that period, the act between two people, even if married, could result in no less than a year and no more than 20 years imprisonment. Let's face it, it is doubtful many were even aware of such a law and since no one was charged for doing it, is such a law even necessary? Can such laws be abused by some to get their own way?
There was a case featured in the November 1996 issue of "Marie Claire" involving an Atlanta wife who tried to have her soon-to-be ex-husband charged with rape. She had persuaded her then hubby to tie her up and later used the bondage as a means of proving that the sex had not been consensual. Her sister came forward and informed the court of the plot against the man, but there was another twist in the story.
Although the man was acquitted on the rape charge, the man was sentenced to five years in jail for having performed oral sex on the woman. He had admitted to that during the course of the case and so he was charged and sentenced under Georgia law.
Laws relating to sexual conduct usually land in a gray area. Even though many may not know such laws exist, such laws are most commonly used in divorce cases or in cases where there is an element of revenge.
"California is liberated. Things like cohabitation, anal sex, S & M, oral sex (heterosexual or otherwise) are not illegal," Lefebvre says. "As long as it is between two consenting adults."
"The only limit to sexual practices in this state is that sex in any shape or form must take place between two adults, and only two," says Nina Jo Smith, Coordinator of the SAFE place at SFSU.
So, for those of you who are into orgies or menages-a-trois, you will have to make other arrangements--just like the thousands of people who don't practice oral sex in Georgia or Florida.