The politics of oral sex
Not long after I wrote a column about the North Carolina General Assembly’s obsession with naked nipples, I received an e-mail from Joseph Hirn. Hirn told me that when it comes to “anal legislators,” North Carolina can’t hold a candle to his home state of Virginia. He cited as an example Gov. Bob McDonnell’s attempt to require a woman seeking an abortion to first submit to a transvaginal probe, so she can be forced to listen to the heartbeat of her fetus. Sorry Joseph, but if you thought that was intrusive, misogynistic and moronic, I’d like to know what you think about your state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who, last week proclaimed that oral sex is illegal, even among consenting adults and married people.
Cuccinelli is the Republican frontrunner for this year’s gubernatorial election, and, as AG, he is appealing the Supreme Court’s ruling against his hairbrained sodomy law. As right wing as the high court is, even they realize that you can’t effectively enforce laws in the bedroom. Case in point, 2003’s Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Supremes struck down a Texas law that prohibited sex between same-sex couples.
Unfortunately, the Cuccinellis of the world seem to be growing in number, and they are relentless in their crusade to reform the morals of our society. I suppose we can blame this on the Puritans. They are the folks who burned freethinking women at the stake, and made private adultery a public shame. This was dramatized in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter, in which Hester Prynne was made to wear a large red letter A on her dress to signify that she had done the nasty with a man who was not her husband. In real life, Puritanical laws spread like wildfire as our nation grew and expanded westward. In the years to come, most every state constitution or local statute included prohibitions and penalties for one kind of sexual behavior or another. Amazingly, many of those laws are still on the books, though seldom enforced. Here’s a sampling from sexlaws.org and divinecaroline.com.
In Idaho, it is illegal to kiss someone for more than 18 minutes, while Iowa only allows 5 minutes worth of smooching. In Dyersburg, Tennessee, it is illegal for a woman to ask a man out on a date. In Georgia, it is unlawful for two unmarried adults to have sex of any kind. In Washington, DC there’s still a law on the books that makes it a crime to have sex in any position except the missionary. In Minnesota, it is unlawful to sleep in the nude. And in Oregon, where the age of consent is 18, it is illegal for minors to engage in any kind of sex act. That means a 17-year-old boy cannot perform oral sex on a consenting 17-year-old girl, which is kind of ironic for a state that worships beavers.
Speaking of consent, not only are there scores of puritanical, unenforceable laws still on the books, but there’s not even consistency from state to state as’ to what constitutes the legal age of consent. Hawaii, Idaho and South Carolina say age 14. Colorado, Connecticut and Virginia define the age of consent as 15. Thirty-one states, including North Carolina set the legal age at 16, while eight states say you must be 18 to engage in sex. But, regardless of age, oral sex itself is still illegal in 19 states, including North Carolina. And, if you’re underage and have oral sex in Georgia, you face a mandatory prison sentence up to 20 years.
Sure, it’s fun to talk about out-of-date sex legislation, and it’s reasonable to assume that one day these states will repeal their antiquated sex laws. But what’s really frightening is that politicians like Virginia’s Cuccinelli and the Nipple Nimrods in the North Carolina House are still trying to pass puritanical legislation in the year 2013, and they want to be able to enforce those laws.
Personally I’d like to see us bring back the scarlett letter, except instead of making women wear an A for adultery, make guys like Cuccinelli wear an A for A-hole.
I for one hope the Supreme Court will reject any further attempts to criminalize oral sex, but I know that today’s puritanical politicians won’t be going down without a fight. In fact, they aren’t going down at all. And isn’t that what started this fight in the first place?
JIM LONGWORTH is the host of “Triad Today,” airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11am on WMYV (cable channel 15).