Orlando Sentinel

Making rape out of wine: Oklahoma uncorks a bad law

By Kathleen Parker
Commentary

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on March 14, 1999.

Say you're a man and want a romantic dinner with your beloved. A little wine, a little candlelight and, who knows, perhaps a little je ne sais quoi later in the evening?

Say the object of your affection -- relaxed by the chardonnay and enchanted by the soft light -- becomes enamored of your immense charms and succumbs to the moment. Say she wakes up next day a tad hung over, remorseful over last night's lapse of judgment, and decides she needs a guilt purge.

Let's hope you're not waking up in Oklahoma, for under a proposed bill, your once-beloved could charge you with rape.

Incredibly, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed by a 99-0 voice vote a bill that would expand to a ridiculous degree the circumstances constituting rape. Basically, the proposed amendment would pardon women for getting high and loose and would condemn any man who had the poor judgment to be born this century.

If the bill passes the state Senate, rape in Oklahoma will be defined as sexual intercourse (ask a third-grader) "where the victim is intoxicated by alcohol, a controlled dangerous substance or other intoxicant to such an extent that the victim is incapable of giving legal consent."

Sponsored by Republican Carolyn S. Coleman, the bill reportedly wasn't challenged in the House. Fearful of a feminist backlash, legislators let the bill sail through without objection, according to one Oklahoma lobbyist.

Somehow, level heads did manage to defeat other outlandish provisions, one of which called for a clear consensual agreement for sex, as in sign-on-the-dotted-line. I've always wondered how such contracts would be enforceable. Wouldn't signers need witnesses? How about a notary? And, having signed a consensual agreement for sex, can you sue your partner for lousy sex? Just a thought.

Another deleted provision defined rape as sexual intercourse with any female younger than 18. You think our prisons are overflowing now? Imagine prosecuting 17-year-old boys for having sex with their girlfriends.

As it stands, the bill draws the line at 16. In other words, any female younger than 16 who has sex with any male of any age, ipso facto, has been raped. Never mind that the girl may have been equally responsible. I've heard that sometimes girls actually request sex with their boyfriends, but it's probably just a vicious rumor.

If this bill goes through, parents better lock up their boys until they're old enough to date teetotaling 18-year-olds. Both of them.

Meanwhile, one has to wonder: Has something happened to the groundwater in Oklahoma? Did aliens contaminate the drinking supply, causing the statewide intelligence quotient to plummet suddenly and mysteriously? Can we call an emergency referendum to allow these people to secede?

I can't fathom the "thinking" behind such a bill. As a former college student who once or twice was in the same room with a keg of beer and a bunch of guys, I'm confounded. As a woman who enjoys a little wine now and then and who has, on occasion, enjoyed a candlelight dinner where everyone's intentions were clear, I'm insulted. As a mother of show-stopper sons who are natural-born chick magnets, I'm outraged.

Laws such as this one may be inspired by good intentions, but they're loose and dangerous. The Oklahoma bill would make a mockery of everyone, endowing women with an intrinsic saintliness and criminalizing men for breathing the same air. Lost forever, it seems, is any expectation of personal responsibility or self-control from the "weaker" sex.

Surely a Senate committee will kill this bill before it reaches the floor for a vote. Meanwhile, should you go West, my sons, steer clear of Oklahoma.

Kathleen Parker's column is distributed by Tribune Media Services. Her column also appears Wednesday in the Sentinel's Living section. She can bereached at Kparker@Kparker.com on the Internet. She welcomes comments but cannot respond to all e-mail.

Copyright 1999 Orlando Sentinel Online.