Is it rape if a man pretends to be a woman’s boyfriend and has sex with her while she sleeps? Of course it is, but in a bizarre case in California, what one would think is common sense is being disputed.
Here’s the setting: A woman and boyfriend were sleeping soundly in bed. The boyfriend left, and another man entered the room as the woman slept. She believed it was her boyfriend who climbed into bed with her, but instead it was another man, who then began to rape her.
But a law written into the California Legislature in 1872 states fraudulent rape only occurs if the woman is married to the man who is being impersonated.
Part of the California law reads, “spouse-impersonators ought to be punished, and it has done so by stating that victims of spouse impersonation are victims of fraud in the factum.”
So what’s a spouse? Only after a couple has made a commitment to each other by signing an obligatory legal document has their relationship evolved into true spouse-hood. Without this label, the relationship doesn’t count toward convicting a rapist by fraud if he impersonates a mere boyfriend.
Can’t we agree some things go without saying and brush aside the semantics of less-modern values of the time? Nope. The law is law; in fact, most states have the same language in their laws as well.
It would take far too long and entirely too much effort to go into each specific law and change the wording to include the many forms impersonation rape can manifest. So I suggest we change the definition of spouse. We could change it to simply refer to someone you are consistently “shtooping” or in a relationship with. But even then, this is a truly sexist mindset. A woman is only raped if she’s married, and her husband must validate her legal rights? This concept is outrageous and offensive and should be corrected immediately.
The case was overturned because of the wording of the law, but the rapist will still get jail time because having sex with a woman while she is asleep is considered a type of rape.
The American legal system needs to flex some modernity and announce to us and the world this is unacceptable. We should not let this type of patriarchal legal jargon slip through the cracks. Rape is rape; the victim’s marital status is not important.