Justice

An Oklahoma Court Rules on Oral Sex

April 28th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals just made a shocking ruling about oral sex, unconsciousness, alcohol, and consent — and it's leaving both legal experts and the Internet at large baffled and appalled.

The bizarre ruling has critics alleging that the state judicial system is enshrining outmoded definitions of rape, perverse notions about consent, and a legal framework of victim-blaming.

According to the Guardian, the case involved allegations of sexual assault brought against a 17-year-old boy accused of receiving oral sex from a 16-year-old girl, who was floating in and out of an alcohol-induced unconsciousness.

The boy said the act was consensual, but was charged by Tulsa County prosecutors with forcible oral sodomy. Late last month, an appeals court ruled that the act fell through a loophole in the law.

"Forcible sodomy cannot occur where a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation," the court's decision read, noting that the law around force left out incapacitation due to alcohol. "We will not, in order to justify prosecution of a person for an offense, enlarge a statute beyond the fair meaning of its language."

Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit investigative journalism organization, summed up the apparent discrepancy in the law:

"Although Oklahoma’s rape law says a rape can occur when the victim is intoxicated or unconscious, the forcible sodomy law does not contain that language. The appeals court unanimously ruled that because the law lacks that provision, the defendant could not be prosecuted."

Oklahoma Seal

Though many legal experts said the ruling was unconscionable — the district attorney heading up the case was "completely gobsmacked" — they said the ruling was a wake up call to update Oklahoma's statutes to include alcohol. "It creates a huge loophole for sexual abuse that makes no sense," Michelle Anderson, the dean of the law school at the City University of New York, told the Guardian.

Legal experts were baffled, and the Twitter crowd was fuming:

According to Oklahoma Watch, the ruling is what's called an "unpublished opinion," which means that it cannot be cited as precedent. Still, as many pointed out, it stands as just one example of the rift that exists between legal frameworks and the evolving, delicate issue of sexual assault.