New Jersey state Assemblyman Troy Singleton is proposing a law that would make it illegal to lie to a prospective sexual partner in order to get them in bed. The bill – which is unlikely to pass – defines “sexual assault by fraud” as “an act of sexual penetration to which a person has given consent because the actor has misrepresented the purpose of the act or has represented he is someone he is not”. Elizabeth Nolan Brown loses it:
No no no just no: we do not need a legal remedy for people having bad judgement. Is it a shame that some people misrepresent themselves to get people to sleep with them? Sure. But not every aspect of social and sexual relationships can be a matter for government concern. What’s next, making it a misdemeanor to use outdated photos on your Tinder profile? Criminalizing push-up bras? Throwing people in jail who say they’ll call the next day but don’t?
The situation Singleton says spawned his proposal involves Mischele Lewis, a woman defrauded by a man claiming to be a British military official. The pair had sex and Lewis also paid the man, William Allen Jordan, $5,000 for an alleged security clearance. When Jordan turned out to be a scam artist, Lewis pressed charges and he wound up pleading guilty to defrauding her. Justice served, right? Not in the warped worldview of New Jersey prosecutors, who apparently can’t stand the idea that some areas of interpersonal dynamics aren’t within their prosecutorial reach.
This is too much even for Amanda Marcotte:
Given that this law has very little chance of passing, it shouldn’t matter much. But it does! Because it gives those who oppose any legislation attempting to address sexual abuse (affirmative consent laws, for instance) the ability to point and say: Look, those crazies think everything is rape, even fibbing!
Rape is a fairly straightforward crime. It’s a matter of having sex with someone who does not want to have sex at that moment in time. Despite claims to the contrary, affirmative consent supporters don’t actually want to make it legal to retroactively retract consent. But this law would open the door to allowing people to do so, which actually does muddy the definition and understanding of rape. Jerks who exploit people’s desire to be loved in order to defraud them can be convicted under other laws. Otherwise, relationship fouls are simply not criminal offenses.
It’s good to see that there’s a limiting principle in the state’s sexual policing power. Even for Marcotte.