When Is It Rape?

In February of 2007, Time magazine published an article entitled "A Time Limit on Rape." The article reported on a Maryland case in which a boy, age 16, and a young woman, age 18, had sex in a car. The boy was accused of rape because, after the beginning of consensual sex, he didn't immediately withdraw when his female partner told him to stop. According to Time, "The accuser and the defendant agree that after he began to penetrate her and she wanted him to stop, he did so within a matter of seconds and did not climax."

When asked at trial how long the young man remained inside of her after she told him to stop, she answered, "About five or so seconds." He said he stopped immediately. Astonishingly, a jury convicted him of first-degree rape.

NCM executive director, Mel Feit, was quoted in the Time article: "At a certain point during arousal, we don't have complete control over our ability to stop. To equate that with brutal, violent rape weakens the whole concept of rape." Many people, men and women, responded to Mel's quote by sending us angry e-mails but, of course, a five second delay can't possibly be the same as a violent sexual assault. The angry e-mail and the jury's verdict revealed how a virulent victim-feminist ideology can overwhelm reason and common sense.

Our presence in Time led to dozens of other media opportunities for us, mostly on talk radio and in newspapers. In particular, Tony Nazzaro was quoted in the Baltimore Sun and Mel was a guest on the "Howard Stern Show". As a result of this media exposure a few hundred men and their families who needed help found NCM's counseling program and benefited from the guidance they probably would not have received anywhere else.

A Maryland Appeals court subsequently reversed the boy's conviction on the grounds that a rape could not occur once sexual intercourse had begun. But in April of 2008 the Maryland Supreme Court reversed the Appeals Court and reinstated the boy's conviction.

The Baltimore Sun re-interviewed NCM and reported on our position as follows:

"Mel Feit, director of the National Center for Men, based in Long Island, N.Y., said the facts of [this] case have been lost in the larger argument about a woman's right to say no.

"'The courts got it wrong then, and they are getting it wrong now,' said Feit, who has followed the Maryland case. 'There is no way that anyone is ever going to convince me that a five-second delay is first-degree rape.'

"He said that he, too, believes that a woman should be able to withdraw consent during sex. But he said the evidence showed that [the boy] did comply with the victim's demand to stop and that the jury in the case 'threw common sense out the window' when they convicted him.

"'This is a dangerous ruling,' he said. 'What the court is saying is that every act of sexual intercourse in Maryland is potentially a rape, and if a man doesn't stop on a dime, he's going to jail.'"

For NCM, this case raises several interesting questions for further discussion:

1.) How can the legal system fail to distinguish between a delay of about five seconds and a violent sexual assault? Have the courts been overrun by the forces of political correctness?

2.) Why do so many people want to see the young man in this case remain in prison? (He was sentenced to fifteen years, five of which must be served.) What kind of social pathology is driven by such an apparent hostility for men and male sexuality?

3.) The Sun quoted the legal director of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault: "[This ruling] says that, yes, women do have the right to make decisions about something as intimate as sexual intercourse." When will public discussions about sexuality recognize that, in this culture, women already make most of the decisions about sexual intercourse?

4.) Sexually intimacy involves making another person's needs more important than your own. Are there times, during sexual intercourse, when consent cannot be withdrawn?
What are the responsibilities that intimate partners have to one another?

Since the article appeared in The Baltimore Sun, NCM representatives have discussed the issues raised by this case on talk radio shows in Baltimore and Cincinnati and on a nationally syndicated show hosted by Bill Cunningham.

In the early 1990's, NCM introduced our Consensual Sex Contract in order to provoke public discussion about false accusation of rape. Sadly, it seems that the issues we raised nearly twenty years ago are still relevant.