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PR: ‘Sexual Police State:’ NY Times Editorial Highlights Concerns with Expansion of Sexual Assault Laws

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Contact: Gina Lauterio


‘Sexual Police State:’ NY Times Editorial Highlights Concerns with Expansion of Sexual Assault Laws

WASHINGTON / July 1, 2015 – A recent New York Times editorial highlights legal changes that are placing millions of Americans at-risk of running afoul of sexual assault laws. The article warns against the criminalization of sexual activities that are “ordinary” or “unsavory but not illegal.”

Authored by NY Times contributing op-ed writer Judith Shulevitz, the June 27 editorial can be seen here:

Shulevitz spotlights the expansion of affirmative consent policies, also referred to as “yes-means-yes” consent. Affirmative consent serves to remove the presumption of innocence from the accused. “It’s an unworkable standard,” says Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk. Retired judge Nancy Gertner similarly charges that affirmative consent “has no business being in the criminal law.”

Shulevitz also critiques the current efforts of the American Law Institute (ALI) to develop a new Model Penal Code for Sexual Assault. Under the its draft code, merely holding hands or a one-time kiss on the cheek, without a partner’s explicit consent, could become grounds for a criminal complaint.

The ALI project has triggered opposition, with 70 Institute members and advisors signing a Memo opposing the new provisions:

“The United States is already facing a serious problem of over-criminalization and over-incarceration,” notes SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “Does it make sense to send even more persons to jail for failing to follow an unworkable affirmative consent standard?”

The ALI draft policy has attracted criticism from others. Constitutional attorney Hans Bader warns that affirmative consent policies could be employed to “seek even more power over people’s private lives.” American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Sommers has described the ALI draft as rules for a “sexual police state.”


Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is working to promote effective solutions to campus sexual assault: