Can mentally ill people consent to sadomasochistic sex? Can anyone consent to abusive and degrading sexual acts?
Connecticut’s highest court has decided to take up those questions in the case of a Greenwich woman suing a man she alleges had an abusive sexual relationship with her daughter, who had multiple mental and physical ailments. Arguments before the state Supreme Court are scheduled for Wednesday.
While sadomasochism was glamorized in the popular 2011 book trilogy “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the practice has long been on questionable legal ground.
Some lawyers believe people can’t consent to being assaulted or abused under common law, while others say established legal principles provide sexual rights to most people, including elderly people in nursing homes and the mentally ill. There are few court rulings, however, dealing directly with BDSM, short for bondage, discipline, dominance/submission and sadomasochism.
In the Connecticut case, Mary Kortner sued fellow Greenwich resident Craig Martise in 2006, saying her daughter could not have consented to sadomasochistic and abusive sex acts with him because of her mental state. A state jury, however, found in favor of Martise in 2009, concluding there was a sadomasochistic relationship but no proof that Kortner’s daughter couldn’t consent.
“This was a shocker to everybody who was watching it,” Kortner said. “All the allegations were true. He was guilty.”
Caroline Kendall Kortner, who died in 2010 at age 39 from an undisclosed illness, had been diagnosed with clinical depression, borderline personality disorder, bulimia and anorexia, and she tried to commit suicide twice, according to court documents. She also had a stroke in 2001 that left her partially paralyzed from the waist down and incontinent, court records say. …