Friday, December 10, 2010

Sex by surprise?

I'll confess I haven't been following the manhunt relating to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange very closely.  I knew that he was wanted for some kind of sex crime in Sweden. And I noticed that he had been arrested in England. But my interest wasn't really piqued until I noticed the headlines and blurbs that seemed to imply that his alleged crime is "sex by surprise."

Sex by surprise‽  Supposedly, the offense had something to do with a broken condom, which somehow constitutes a sex crime in crazy Sweden.

But apparently not.  According to an op-ed by Jessica Valenti in the Washington Post, at least, this "sex by surprise" thing was made up by Assange's lawyer in an attempt to belittle the seriousness of the charges:
Let's get this out of the way: Sweden does not have a "broken condom" law. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was not arrested because his contraception failed mid-coitus. Nor is he charged with "sex by surprise."
* * *
The allegations against Assange are rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion. He's accused of pinning one woman's arms and using his body weight to hold her down during one alleged assault, and of raping a woman while she was sleeping. In both cases, according to the allegations, Assange did not use a condom. But the controversy seems to center on the fact that both encounters started off consensually. One of his accusers was quoted by the Guardian newspaper in August as saying, "What started out as voluntary sex subsequently developed into an assault." Whether consent was withdrawn because of the lack of a condom is unclear, but also beside the point. In Sweden, it's a crime to continue to have sex after your partner withdraws consent.
So, thankfully, it appears that "sex by surprise" is not necessarily a crime in Sweden or anywhere else.  Merry Christmas, everyone!   

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