If you live in Oklahoma and someone decides to engage in forced oral sex with your mouth when you’re passed out, according to a recent appeals court ruling, it isn’t rape. Yes, you heard that right. People everywhere are scrambling to make sense of the fact that, under current Oklahoma state law, forced oral sex with an unconscious person is apparently not a criminal offense.
The court case centers on a 16-year-old girl, an alleged sexual assault victim of a 17-year-old boy who’d given her a ride home. Teenagers who were in a park on the night of the alleged assault confirmed that the girl was so intoxicated that she had to be carried to the car. Another recalled that she was drifting in and out of consciousness. The girl later went to the hospital, where hospital staff performed sexual assault tests on her. The tests confirmed that the DNA of the boy who drove her home was around her mouth. The accused insisted that the girl had consented to giving him oral sex. But the girl said she had blacked out, so couldn’t recall performing oral sex or consenting to it.
Here’s where things get really sketchy: The Oklahoma court dismissed her case in an absolutely bizarre ruling. According to the court, “Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation.” OK, seriously, WTF just happened?
Apparently Oklahoma state law is so out of touch with the times that it fails to protect victims of sexual assault. Michelle Anderson, who’s the dean of the CUNY School of Law, told The Guardian that the ruling is actually an “appropriate” reading of the law, but the law is “archaic.”
“It creates a huge loophole for sexual abuse that makes no sense,” she explained, calling on Oklahoma to change the law.
This case draws attention to the fact that sexual assault is often dealt with under state laws, which can be murky and outdated, failing to protect victims. While the attorney general updated its definition of sexual assault in 2012, defining it as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim,” this Oklahoma court ruling demonstrates that state laws can contain loopholes for perpetrators of sexually violent acts. U.S. domestic violence and sexual assault organizations have an even broader definition of sexual assault, defining it as “any unwanted sexual activity.”
This case also points to a national failing to educate the public about what entails consent. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, America’s largest organization fighting sexual assault, consent is defined as “an agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity.” They specifically point out that you cannot give consent if you are “incapacitated because of drugs or alcohol.”
So let’s hope this case serves as a wake-up call. It’s time to scrap outdated state laws that only serve to protect sexual predators.