Decriminalization of Consensual Sex "Crimes"

Speech 10: Fundamentals of Communication
Prof. B. Luotto
Copyright © 1995, 2000 B. Collie Collier

This piece reads rather choppily, and may seem to be oddly written and laid out. Also, it is strongly based on an emotional (rather than logical) appeal to its audience. This is due to the assignment being defined as a persuasion piece that could take no more than 3 minutes in presentation, and its having to be easily readable while I was speaking. I must confess, as a paper I dislike this piece... but as a spoken piece it was quite powerful. It nicely showed me the difference between the calm, rational, fact-filled style I use in my writing, and the more emotionally based (and often lamentably less truthful), 'sound-bite' format that is necessary for public speaking.

Yes, all the instances of illegality I mention are indeed laws, each in different places somewhere within the U.S. -- which still makes me nervous. Unfortunately I didn't write down each example as I took them from source books, and so now I cannot back up each one with concrete proof. However, despite this fallacy the speech contains some extremely valid points to my way of thinking, so I've included it here.


In my last speech to you, I laid out the logical reasons why consensual sex laws should be repealed. They can be summed up as follows: 'we are a free society, and that freedom is guaranteed to us by our Constitution.' For us to have laws that contradict those freedoms and deny consensual activities undermines the basic tenets of the Constitution. Consensual sex laws are dangerous -- for our safety they should be repealed. And yet -- we still have them on the books. Why? I believe it's because most of us assume none of these laws apply to us.

But they do. Consensual sex laws affect all of us. Do you know anyone who is homosexual? Do you know of anyone, male or female, that cross-dresses -- ever? Even just for a play? Do you know any couple that has had sex before marriage -- or any unmarried couples living together? If you do, have you notified the police? Those activities are illegal -- and to not report them is a crime in itself. The fact that these laws are rarely enforced doesn't remove their teeth. These laws are waiting to be misused.


Let's talk about homosexuals.

Set aside your prejudices for a moment, if you have any. Ask yourself -- who is hurt by a homosexual act? No one... yet they still have to live in fear. The actor Rock Hudson kept the secret of his homosexuality to his death. He lived a lie his whole life -- for what? What did living that lie accomplish? Nothing... but the law and public opinion required he had to.

We need to change public opinion. We need to change these laws. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tells us why: " has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. ... Any law that degrades human personality is unjust." The laws against homosexuality are horrifically unjust.

Let's talk about heterosexuals.

Over 2 million people (including at least 4 in this class!) are cohabiting. They are breaking the law. About 85% of married couples have engaged in oral sex. They are breaking the law. About 70% of the populace has had sex before marriage. They too are breaking the law! None of these people are harming anyone. And yet, rigorous enforcement of existing laws would put all of them in prison. What consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes is their own business. Laws that interfere with those rights are unjust and should be repealed.

Let's talk about prostitution.

Our economy is supposed to be based on supply and demand. Prostitution is a business transaction between two consenting adults. And yet the media always shows prostitutes as diseased drug-addicts rather than business people. Let's assume they're right. What's the best way to reduce drug use and stop the spread of disease amongst prostitutes and their customers? Require health testing and licensing! The most effective way to do that is to legalize prostitution and set up a board of standards and licensing. It could be paid for by taxing the trade. It'll become a self-correcting situation. Would you go to a restaurant that lost its A rating from the Board of Health? Laws against prostitution encourage crime and disease, and are humiliating and degrading.

Let's talk about polygamy.

The Puritan colonists left Great Britain to escape religious persecution. It is a shameful irony that in their new home, those same Puritan colonists persecuted anyone that didn't follow their beliefs. Puritanical religious oppression is institutionalized in our laws even today. Polygamy was a legitimate part of the Mormon religion. And yet there are federal laws on the books that forbid polygamy specifically in order to persecute the Mormons of the time.

If you still don't think this applies to you, try turning it around. How would you feel if your family was legally broken apart and your parents sent to prison -- because they refused to marry 2 or more other people? In this country, laws based on religion are persecution.


If you dispassionately examine the laws that criminalize consensual sex, the inevitable conclusion is that they are bad laws. It would only take one fanatic bent on enforcing existing laws to put hundreds of thousands of people who don't even know they're breaking the law in prison. These laws are the sword of Damocles over your head and mine. These laws must be abolished for our own protection.

I'd like to close with a quote that I think is still relevant today. It was said by Reverend Martin Niemoller, in Germany. It goes like this:

When Hitler attacked the Jews, I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned.

And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore I was not concerned.

And when Hitler attacked the unions and the industrialists I was not a member of a union, and therefore I was not concerned.

Then Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church -- and there was nobody left to be concerned.


Last Updated: Tue, March 28, 2000