When you think of crazy and stupid laws in North Carolina, most people usually think of House Bill 2, a monstrously discriminatory law that banned local governments from protecting their transgender residents from discrimination. That law was detoxified earlier in the year, but the damage to the state’s reputation will take years to erase.
But believe it or not, there’s a law that has been on the books for far longer than that, and is at least as crazy and dumb as HB2. It turns out that if a woman withdraws consent to have sex and the man keeps going after that withdrawal, it’s not rape.
This bizarre and nonsensical state of affairs dates from a 1979 state supreme court decision. In 1977, Beverly Hester initially agreed to have sex with Donnie Way, but backed out. Undaunted, Way threatened to beat her up if she didn’t agree to further intercourse. Way was initially convicted of second-degree rape. However, that conviction was thrown out on appeal two years later, with the state supreme court finding that a woman can’t withdraw consent once intercourse starts.
Aaliyah Palmer found this out the hard way in January. She was at a party near Fort Bragg when a man pulled her into a bathroom. They initially agreed to have sex, but she wanted out five minutes into the encounter. The man ignored Walker’s pleas despite numerous requests to stop. Although this appeared to be the definition of rape, Cumberland County prosecutors only charged the man with misdemeanor assault. Palmer was dumbfounded. She told The Fayetteville Observer that she had long believed that “if I tell you no and you kept going, that’s rape.”
Democratic state senator Jeff Jackson is of the same mind. While serving as an assistant district attorney in Mecklenburg County, home to Charlotte, this very loophole forced him to throw out a case that appeared to be the very definition of rape. Now he’s trying to change it. In 2015, he introduced a bill that would allow a woman to withdraw consent to intercourse even if she had previously consented. Inexplicably, that bill went nowhere.
Jackson tried again in March, this time garnering two Republican cosponsors. The Young Turks discussed this version soon after it was introduced; watch here.
According to TYT’s Jeff Patreon, North Carolina is the only state in the nation where a woman can’t legally withdraw consent. The amazing thing is that it took this long for someone to have the guts to do something about it.
The 2017 incarnation of Jackson’s bill looked like it was going somewhere. Jackson told Vice that nearly every colleague he’d told about this “plainly unacceptable loophole” were stunned to know it even existed, and agreed it needed to be jackhammered shut.
However, by the time the session ended in June, it had parceled off to the Senate Rules Committee, where bills that don’t have the support of the Republican leadership are usually sent to die. Jackson has a theory about how this happened. He believes that many of the state senate’s more conservative members were swayed by a post in The Daily Haymaker, a conservative blog that seems to be a North Carolina version of Breitbart. The blog’s webmaster, Brant Clifton, branded Jackson’s bill as an attempt to throw a bone to “the Wimmen’s Studies Department.”
Undaunted, Jackson says that he plans to reintroduce this bill next year. He believes that if it ever makes it to the floor, “my bet is that it passes unanimously.” It’s hard not to agree. After all, no civilized society should allow a man to keep going with sexual intercourse after being told not to do so.
As a North Carolinian, I’ve had a lot of reasons to hang my head in shame over the last year-plus. First HB2, then the numerous attempts by the GOP-dominated legislature to neuter Democratic governor Roy Cooper, then a state lawmaker suggesting Lincoln was no different from Hitler, then another state lawmaker saying the media was waging jihad by doing its job. And on, and on, and on.
And now I find out that I live in a state where there is a situation where, for all intents and purposes, a woman can be legally raped. The fact that we may have to wait another year for this loophole to be closed when it should have been closed long ago is nothing short of a disgrace. And the fact that a single blogger had enough clout to allow this situation to continue is equally disgraceful.
(featured image courtesy Jackson’s Facebook)