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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Laws Of Love

The LA Times Business section isn’t the place you’d expect to see wry social humor, certainly not the kind that smacks of absurdist commentary on the trends that foretell cultural ruin. But then again, maybe it is.

A recent article notes a corporate trend that involves lawyers in creative problem solving in a new and potentially lucrative field.

Fact: The corporate workplace is fertile ground for coupling between employees. 43% of office workers surveyed have had at least one romantic relationship with a co-worker.

Problem: Some of these affairs crash and burn, leaving raw emotions that lead to law suits against the company and former lover, claiming sexual harassment.

Solution: Dating employees are asked to sign a “consensual relationship agreement” that acknowledges the risks and frees the company from liability in case of a break-up.

The issue reminds me of my thoughts some years ago when I viewed a TV magazine piece about the Brown University dating policy.

A male student was in his dorm room cramming for an exam. A female student entered, asking him to join the beerfest that was going on elsewhere in the dorm. The male demurred. He needed to study to preserve his scholarship. The female drunkenly teased him and they wound up in his bed.

The morning after, the female related the incident to her sisters, and discovered that she had been victimized. Even though she had been the aggressor, had “consented” to the sex act, her intoxication negated her consent according to the Brown policy. Since he knew she was intoxicated, he should not have relied on her consent. He took advantage of her inebriation and was liable.

In fact, there is solid legal ground for this view. In California and most other states, "date rape" is similarly defined according to the enlightened interpretations that respond to Feminist complaints about sexist laws. The burden has been shifted almost completely to the male in such cases.

Consent once given can be withdrawn. A consent to kiss is not a consent to intercourse. Consent must be unequivocal; implying consent based on actions is risky.

Applying a “reasonable man” test to figure out if actions can infer consent is an oxymoron, given that no male or female (especially college students) acts reasonably in the heat of such passions.

Even in the midst of consensual intercourse, consent can be “withdrawn” by a “No” or its non-verbal equivalent. Ambiguity or equivocation may not be a defense when the event is later evaluated objectively.

When consent is withdrawn, so must the male, so to speak.

The Brown incident alarmed me. My son was a college student at the time and the threat it implied replaced AIDS in my mind as something I had to warn him about.

I toyed with creating a form contract to send to my son, for him to use when dating. It contained paragraphs covering the incremental contingencies of dates as I dimly remember them from my own barely survived youth.

Here's a partial draft:

1. I hereby give my consent and voluntarily agree to participate in the following:
A. Kissing ______________
1. With / Without tongue (circle appropriate word)
1. On lips _____
2. On neck _____
3. On breasts ____
4. On labia _____
5. Other (specify) __________________________

B. Hands touching of
1. Breasts ________
2. Labia __________
3. Other (specify) _________________

C. Upon completion of or in conjunction with any or all of the foregoing acts as enumerated in clause A and / or B, supra, I also voluntarily consent and agree to the following acts:
1. Fallatio _____________
2. Cunilingus ___________
2. Penile penetration _______
a. Vaginal _____________
b. Other ______________

The contract would be submitted to the potential datee along with flowers or candy and a Number 2 pencil.

The datee would be asked to initial, check, circle, and sign the paper, keep a copy and return a copy to the dater. He would file the original with the University.

But that would not end it.

Because the datee has the right to withdraw consent at any stage, the parties would have to initial each interval as the date progresses before performing any of the specified acts.

To be completely safe, I recommended the presence of an impartial witness and notary, and audio / video recording of the encounter.

(Today, I would update that proviso to itube uploading of the date - with the appropriate confidentiality waivers, of course.)

In order to prevent later claim of coercion, the contract would suggest that the datee seek independent legal advice before signing.

If the datee wished modification of any clause, each party’s lawyers would meet with them and hammer out their differences.

A 24 hour legal aid hotline would have to be funded for emergency legal advice if issues should arise during dates.

I am also working on post date contracts.

The party trying to contact the other by phone or in person risks claims of “stalking.”

To alleviate this, my proposed "Morning After Contract” would cover all such contingencies.


  1. You know, some day in the ever-more-horrible future, we're are going to fondly hearken back to these "Morning After Contracts" and reminisce about these good old days, when life was simple....

    I was a bit surprised that you did not suggest that, with all these potential legal pitfalls of contemporary sex, one should not always have one's lawyer step in for the really challenging bits.

  2. Jem, I can imagine being wakened by a heavy breathing client desperately seeking advice for the next move - bad enough over the phone but I sure wouldn't want to be in the same bed (or car or other uncomfortable arena of love) while the 'combatants' negotiate their romantic dispute.