Once a woman agrees to having sex, her partner can legally ignore her if she says she’d like to stop.
At least, that’s the case in North Carolina, where the state Supreme Court ruled that women cannot revoke consent after sexual intercourse begins.
According to the 1979 case State v. Way, “if the actual penetration is accomplished with the woman’s consent, the accused is not guilty of rape”.
Lynn Schafran, senior vice president of Legal Momentum, said she had never seen anything like this ruling before.
“It is certainly out of touch with the way these case are being considered today,” she told The Independent.
But at least two women have come forward in the last two months alleging that the ruling let their rapists get away with the crime.
Amy Guy told local news station WRAL that her estranged husband showed up at her house one night last year, demanding sex. She consented at first, but begged him to stop when he became violent.
Ms Guy’s husband, Jonathan Wayne Guy, was initially charged with second-degree rape. Pursuant to State v Way, however, his charges were dropped to misdemeanour assault on a female. He plead guilty and is currently serving out a 10 month prison sentence.
Another North Carolina woman, Aaliyah Palmer, recounted a similar story to the Fay Observer. Ms Palmer says she consented to having sex at a party, but asked her partner to stop when the sex became violent. She says he did not.
Despite the fact that he encounter was caught on video, police said they did not have enough evidence for a rape charge. The man who allegedly recorded the video is charged with two counts of being a peeping Tom and illegal possession of peeping Tom images.
Senator Jeff Jackson, who learned of the loophole while working as criminal prosecutor, wants a different outcome for women in the future. The Senator recently introduced a bill that would allow consent for vaginal intercourse to be withdrawn at any time during the act.
“Right now, if a woman tells a man to stop having sex he is under no legal obligation to do so, as long as she initially consented,” he said in a statement. “…North Carolina is the only state in the country where no doesn’t really mean no.”
In fact, at least nine US states explicitly recognise the right to withdraw consent during sex, either via state statutes or court rulings.
In states where the law does not specify either way, says AEquitas CEO Jennifer Long, most courts read the law to mean that consent can be withdrawn.
“Realistically, it’s because it’s sort of something that should be common sense: that you consent until you don’t consent,” she said.
Despite this consensus, Mr Jackson has had little luck getting his legislation passed in North Carolina. He has introduced the bill every year since 2015, only to see it get stuck in committee. There is only one week left in the current legislative session, and his bill has yet to move to a vote.
Still, Mr Jefferson remains optimistic.
“This really shouldn’t be a controversial matter,” he said. “I believe this bill will inevitably pass, and when it does, my bet is it passes unanimously. No one can seriously defend this loophole in our rape law.”