Quite often, well-intentioned legislation goes bad. Such a case exists in Massachusetts, where a well-meaning law meant to broaden the standard for rape has now turned into a national punchline.
Under the new legislation, it would be a felony to have sex with someone under false pretenses. In other words, you could go to jail for lying to someone in order to get them to have sex with you.
The bill states:
Whoever has sexual intercourse or unnatural sexual intercourse with a person having obtained that person’s consent by the use of fraud, concealment or artifice, and who thereby intentionally deceived such person so that a reasonable person would not have consented but for the deception, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life or any term of years. As used in this statute, ‘fraud’ or ‘artifice’ shall not be construed to mean a promise of future consideration.
The bill was meant to correct legitimate instances of deception such as the time a sleepy Massachusetts woman had sex with her boyfriend’s brother, thinking it was actually her boyfriend. In another case, a medical technician pretending to be a doctor conducted a full pelvic exam on a woman after telling her he was licensed to give the exam. (Perhaps the fact that the “doctor” was eating a ham sandwich during the exam might have been a tip-off.)
But think about how broad this language actually is. Lying for sex? Is there really any other way? If women really knew what we were like, there’d be no chance any male would get any action. Every guy has some bogus story about what a good job we have, how we spent time on a Greenpeace boat, how this is our real hair, or some such nonsense. Every man pads the resume a little, hoping to cash in before reality sets in. (Although saying the words “I’m a blogger” might be the most effective birth control known to man.)
Even if there’s not overt lying going on, there are implied lies. Suppose your girlfriend cheats on you with Roger Clemens. And suppose, had you known about the affair, you never would have slept with her again. But she doesn’t tell you about the affair, and you continue to have your monthly sexual encounter. Your girlfriend could actually be guilty of rape, since she concealed information that would have kept you from having sex with her.
The list goes on. Tell a girl you will always love her? Get an orange jumpsuit. Cougar looking to score a younger guy at the bar tonight? Better be honest about your age, or you’ll be making license plates soon, sweetie. Telling a man he’s a great lover to keep the love train going? (Never a problem in my case, incidentally.) Get ready for the big house. Tell a girl you work with she looks like Pam from “The Office?” Well, no worries there, since she’ll probably opt not to talk to you ever again.
(As long as we’re handing out sentences, the words “I can’t wait to see the ‘Sex and the City Movie’ out of any guy’s mouth should be punishable by death.)
In 1975, a man named Marty Evans was sued by a woman claiming he lied to get her in the sack, and it went all the way to the New York Supreme Court. In his decision in People v. Evans, Justice Edward Greenfield said:
“So bachelors, and other men on the make, fear not. It is still not illegal to feed a girl a line, to continue the attempt [to obtain sex], not to take no for a final answer, at least not the first time. . . . [A] male [will] make promises that will not be kept, . . . indulge in exaggeration and hyperbole, or to assure any trusting female that, as in the ancient fairy tale, the ugly frog is really the handsome prince.Every man is free under the law, to be a gentleman or a cad.”
Of course, should this bill actually become law, there are fiscal implications, as well. For instance, it might be expensive to turn the State of Montana into a prison big enough to house the entire male population of the United States. Then again, the entire human race may be eradicated within a decade due to the end of procreation.
(Via the Volokh Conspiracy.)