Can you ‘consent’ to violent sex acts?

The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom, based in Baltimore, Maryland, is worried that a recent case involving rough sex could end up curtailing the freedom of many other people from engaging in said rough sex.

Because as Bill Draper reports for the Associated Press, prosecutors claim that a husband groomed a young woman to be his sex slave, and plan to show the jury evidence that the man perpetrated “sadistic sexual assaults” against his own wife (even though she consented) to help plead their case.

As for the young woman, the purported sex slave, Missouri prosecutors claim she would not and could not give legal consent.

The sexual practices in question involve bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism (otherwise known as BDSM), and, in this case, the young woman was only 23 at the time. The question is whether or not she gave her consent, was old enough to do so at the time, or may have withdrawn her consent at some point in the process.

The debate swirls around what line to draw in the sand, and will inevitably concern some amount of bias among the decision-makers. A person’s sex life, after all, is one of privacy, the reasonableness of such up to an extremely subjective determination.

Draper quotes Baltimore’s National Coalition for Sexual Freedom: “Courts tend to inflate the risk and harmfulness of an activity they want to denounce,” in effect, predicting that the outcome of this case rests in the hands of those who will probably have considerable bias when it comes to people who engage in BDSM.