North Carolina Doesn't Let Women Stop Having Sex If They Change Their Minds

June 23rd 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

When it comes to consenting to sex, "no means no" in every state, except in North Carolina.

A decades old court decision doesn't allow women to stop having sex after they've already consented, and a new bill to change that sexual assault loophole isn't getting enough support from the state's lawmakers.


The Fayetteville Observer reported that a woman named Aaliyah Palmer (she requested to be named) was pulled into a bathroom by a man at a party. She consented to having sex initially but yelled for the man to stop after he pulled pieces of her hair out. He didn't stop, and she noticed a phone at the bottom of the door recording the encounter.

The 19-year-old reported the rape but later found out that what happened to her was not legally considered rape. “It’s really stupid,” Palmer told the Observer. “If I tell you no and you kept going, that’s rape.”

People on Twitter were shocked to hear that a change of consent is not rape in North Carolina.

Another woman in North Carolina, Amy Guy, stopped her estranged husband in the middle of sex because it became violent. Although, he was initially charged with second degree rape, the charge was dropped to a misdemeanor assault charge because of North Carolina's rape loophole.

"I was devastated. I didn't understand how that could be because I knew I had been raped," Amy Guy told local station WRAL News in May. "I don't understand how the law can say that I wasn't." Like Palmer, Guy also requested that media outlets name her so that people would know her story.

In 1979, the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled in State vs. Way that if a woman initially gives consent then a man cannot be guilty of rape, even if she changes her mind in the middle.

"If the actual penetration is accomplished with the woman's consent, the accused is not guilty of rape, although he may be guilty of another crime because of his subsequent actions," according to the court's decision.

Woman with hair covering her face

State lawmaker Jeff Jackson introduced Senate Bill 553 to close this loophole.

The bill would specifically make an assault rape if a woman changes her mind after initially consenting. “There’s no reason for this to be partisan,” the Democrat told the Observer. “It’s about doing what’s obviously right.” However, Jackson expects it to be dead for the rest of the two year legislative session from lack of support. Jackson told Broadly that one reason this proposed fix is stalled is a conservative blog that "carries some influence" with state lawmakers is spreading misinformation about his bill. However, Jackson said once the information spreads about his bill and the 1979 ruling he's confident lawmakers will want change.

"Very few legislators are aware that this is the current state of our law," Jackson told Broadly. "They're very surprised when I tell them. Most of my conversations have been educating our members about this plainly unacceptable loophole in our rape law."

RELATED: Woman Shares Her Experience With a Form of Sexual Assault That Was Nameless Until Now