NCSF on Twitter   Subscribe to the NCSF RSS Feed   NCSF Blog

Consent Legal Cases

Legal cases dealing with the consent counts project.

To date, there is not a single appellate court decision anywhere in this country that has accepted consent as a defense in an assault or abuse prosecution arising from BDSM conduct.  The following overview, from Consent to Harm by Vera Bergelson, is a good summary of the case law:

Since any harmful act that does not fit into the “athletic” or “medical” exception is, by definition, criminal, unless the inflicted injury is not serious, assessment of the seriousness of the victim’s injury determines the outcome of many cases involving consensual harm.  A typical penal statute classifies bodily injury as serious if it “creates a substantial risk of death or causes serious, permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.”  Pursuant to this definition, any short-term, non-life-threatening injury should not be deemed “serious.”  Yet, as the MPC acknowledges, the assessment of the seriousness of harm is often affected by judges’ “moral judgments about the iniquity of the conduct.”  Courts tend to inflate the risk and harmfulness of an activity they want to denounce.  For example, any injury caused during a sadomasochistic encounter has been consistently classified as serious.

28 Pace Law Review 683, 691

 


Case index, click to view the individual case summary and a PDF of the case. 

California v Samuels , 4/28/1967

 Massachusetts v Appleby , 4/1/1980

 Iowa v Collier, 5/25/1985

 Helton v Indiana , 12/1/1993

 New York v Jovanovic , 12/21/1999

 Lawrence v Texas, 6/26/2003

 Nebraska v Van , 11/12/2004

 California v Febrissy, 7/1/2006

 Govan v Indiana, 9/9/2009

 Rhode Island v Gasper, 10/30/2009

United States, Appellee v Miles  3/24/2014


Law Review Articles, click to open the individual PDF of this article.

Sex Is Not A Sport: Consent And Violence In Criminal Law , 2001-2002

Beyond The Pleasure Principle: The Criminalization Of Consensual Sadomasochistic Sex , 2001-2002

Morality-Based Legislation Is Alive And Well: Why The Law Permits Consent To Body Modification But Not Sadomasochistic Sex , 2006-2007

The Right to Be Hurt: Testing the Boundaries of Consent , Febuary 2007 

Pain, Pleasure, And Consenting Women: Exploring Feminist Responses To S/M and Its Legal Regulation in Canada Through Jelinek's The Piano Teacher , 2007 

Consent to Harm , 2007-2008

Autonomy, Dignity, and Consent to Harm , 1/29/2008

The Moral Limits Of Consent As A Defense In The Criminal Law , 2009 


 
Consent Counts

Consent Counts

Learn More about Consent Counts
In the News

In the News

  • NCSF’s Coalition Partners Join Together for Consent Summit

    NCSF’s Coalition Partners Join Together for Consent Summit   The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom held its annual Coalition Partner meeting in Phoenix, Arizona from February 8-10, 2013. The Consent Summit took place Friday evening, and Coalition Partners were able to participate via streaming video to give their input on the new Consent Statement. Go to www.ncsfreedom.org to see the Consent Statement and comment on it.   “The Consent Statement…






    Tags: Consent_Counts
  • NCSF Survey on Consent

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE National Coalition for Sexual Freedom NCSF Survey on Consent The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) wants to hear from you! Please take our Consent Counts survey and tell us what you think about consent: www.ncsfreedom.org/survey.html As part of decriminalizing BDSM in the legal codes, we need to be able to articulate a clear definition of consent that the BDSM communities believe in. The results of this…






    Tags: Survey Consent Counts consent fetlife
  • NCSF Launches the Next Chapter for Consent Counts

    NCSF Launches the Next Chapter for Consent Counts February 27, 2012 The National Coalition for Sexual Freedom (NCSF) announces two new publications as part of its nationwide campaign, Consent Counts. The Consent Counts Project was launched by the BDSM-leather-fetish communities in 2006 to decriminalize consensual BDSM in U.S. law by ensuring that consent will be recognized as a defense to criminal charges brought under assault laws and other statutes. "For…






    Tags: Consent_Counts Press Release consent
  • Action Alert - Take Action Californians!

    Our BDSM communities could be adversely impacted by a well-intentioned, but overly broad, piece of proposed criminal legislation that has been introduced by Senator Christine Kehoe in the California Senate.  NCSF is asking all of you to sign and send to NCSF letters (a draft is attached below) that we can introduce if necessary at a hearing likely to be held in April, 2011. The purpose of the bill, SB…






    Tags: Consent Counts action alerts california SB 430
  • NCSF Press Release - Missouri Indictment

    In an indictment rendered by a Grand Jury in the Western District of Missouri on September 9, 2010, five Missouri men allegedly participated in torturing a mentally disabled woman online or in person over a multi-year period when the victim was between the ages of 16 and 24. Among the charges are: Sex Trafficking by Force, Fraud or Coercion, Forced Labor Trafficking, Transportation for Sexual Activity, and Conspiracy. The allegations…






    Tags: Consent_Counts SSC Press Release Indictments
Resources
Share the Message! Download CONSENT COUNTS! stickers
Print on Avery stickers #8462 or equivalent
   
Download the Consent Counts Discussion Guide
Share the message - Consent Counts!

Consent Counts: We're Making a Difference

  • Completed Federal and State Legal Research
  • Developed Educational Programs and Outreach Materials
  • Built Alliances With Sexual Freedom Advocacy Groups

About Consent Counts

NCSF is leading a major national campaign—Consent Counts—to change the laws and police practices that our communities now endure, and to establish that consent is available as a defense in criminal BDSM prosecutions.

  • BDSM is prosecuted as assault in the U.S., even when it is consensual.
  • No state or appellate court has allowed consent as a defense to assault in BDSM cases.
  • Consent Counts is a nationwide project to decriminalize consensual BDSM.
 
Program Goals:
Consent Counts
is a nationwide project to decriminalize consensual BDSM through education, advocacy, legal actions and lobbying.

 

Contact:
Judy Guerin
Director, Consent Counts 
 
Help us reach more communities