Toronto Sun

March 3, 2001

A lawyer in every bedroom

By JOHN OAKLEY -- Toronto Sun

While it's axiomatic to say the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation, it's apparent our dungeons may be quite another matter.

In a bizarre case decided in Winnipeg this week, a 58-year-old man pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm for beating his lover on the buttocks with a wooden chair leg.

This despite the fact the woman apparently invited the rough sex as part of the couple's lovemaking.

It seems the Supreme Court of Canada ruled way back in 1991 that people cannot consent to having bodily harm inflicted upon themselves. In other words, you do not necessarily have the liberty to invite liberties or to take liberties with the one you love.

In the context of perversions, this may be the most perverse thing of 'em all.

Except for perhaps safeguarding against a coercive relationship, this law is a ass. A big, round, rosy-pink one at that.

Never mind the implications for the multi-million dollar bondage and discipline industry, this curious statute that somehow passed Canadian legal muster suggests that having a barrister present with you in the boudoir is actually better protection than a wallet full of condoms. This case should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who indulges in a harmless fetish that straddles the fine line between pleasure and pain.

Who's to say you won't, some enchanted evening, find yourself in handcuffs that are not part of your private collection?

At the very heart of the matter it seems, is the personal freedom and individual right to practise your peccadilloes as consenting adults, without having to refer to the Criminal Code as bedside reading material. Isn't it an article of faith that whatever goes on between consenting adults in the privacy of their own domicile ain't nobody's business but their own?

The Winnipeg ruling seems to infer the line gets crossed if one party inflicts enough pain so the other is physically hurt. In which case there's a lot of latitude for interpretation, not to mention confusion. It's like the old Rodney Dangerfield bit, "You don't wanna get hurt. I don't wanna get hurt. If one of us doesn't get hurt soon, someone's gonna get hurt!"

With such ambiguity surrounding the legal implications of robust sex, it's not surprising our buddy in Winnipeg got handed a conditional discharge. But the ramifications of inviting to touch the palm of one's hand with a broken piece of furniture, or some arcane equipment from the medieval tickle trunk, transcends the puritanical shores of this continent.

Sex, Brazilian style

In Latin America this week, the issue of rough sex played prominently in the run-up to the annual bacchanalia that is Carnival.

A little samba ditty called "The Face Slap" has Brazilians divided on an issue unlike any since the great Pele-Romario debate of the 1980s. The lyrics to the song describe a woman imploring her man to slap her when they make love.

Not surprisingly, the song has been roundly denounced by women's groups and the Brazilian Alan Alda. They indict the tune for further stoking the domestic violence that many say has reached epidemic proportions in the machismo culture of Latin America.

In its defence, the 19-year-old composer of the song claims the inspiration came to him from an ex-girlfriend who literally begged to be hit while in the throes of passion. Conflicted, the young man went to his mother. Mom's advice? "Hit her, she'll like it." Did I mention it's a macho culture?

Songwriter Alex Xela is quick to point out his "love taps" were "affectionate, not violent."

But then as the fallout from the Winnipeg case suggests, it's all a matter of degrees of intensity. Some folks may, in Tina Turner parlance, "like it nice 'n' rough."

What's a fella to do? It's a helluva dilemma. While no one in his right mind condones domestic violence, how do you respond to a partner who insists bad behaviour mustn't go unpunished?

Failure to comply can only lead to disappointment. Or worse. Unfulfilled, she may seek solace in the arms of another. Have we learned nothing after watching eight consecutive weeks of Temptation Island? So wrack your conscience, my friends, and act accordingly.

Suffice it to say, whether you comply with your partner's wishes or deny them his/her perverse little pleasure, you'll always end up hurting the one you love.

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Copyright © 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership.