Pre-Sexual Agreement Trumps Passion

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Final Edition Section: Commentary Zone C; Pg.17
January 13, 2004 Tuesday

Pre-sexual agreement trumps passion; Oooo, babybabybaby, I want you, I need you; but first, just sign this little legal document
by Leonard Pitts, Knight Ridder/Tribune.
Leonard Pitts is a syndicated columnist based in Washington.

You knew this was coming.

It followed as naturally as broken promises follow elections, the inevitable byproduct of Kobe Bryant’s arrest last summer on charges of raping a 19-year-old hotel worker. She says he forced himself on her, he says the sex was consensual. A jury will decide. But a Los Angeles-based sex therapist says there’s a way to avoid the next case of he-said, she-said altogether.

You’ve heard of prenuptial agreements? Well, consider this a pre-sexual agreement.

Ava Cadell, the sex therapist, and Nelson Banes, a Colorado condom-maker (you couldn’t make this stuff up!), are said to have each independently come up with the idea: a contract you hand out to people you’re planning to have sex with. It asks them to stipulate precisely which sexual activities they are consenting to perform with (or upon) the party of the first part, i.e., you. Additionally, the form requires the prospective sex partner to confirm that the intimacies are consensual, that he or she is not under the influence of drugs or alcohol (yeah, right!) and that there will be no change of heart once festivities commence.

Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall when some guy in the throes of passion whips out his document?

“Ooh, baby, I go crazy when you touch me there. You’ve got me so hot I’m going to explode. I want you. I want you now.”

“But first, you need to sign this contract. Read it over and initial here and here. Oh, and you’ll need to have it notarized. I’ll be waiting on satin sheets with a rose in my teeth. Hurry.”

There are, in other words, serious questions about the practicality of all this. And for that matter, the legality. Court TV anchor Lisa Bloom told “ABC News” she doubts the contracts would provide much protection in a court of law. Bloom was particularly skeptical about the clause requiring the prospective partner to promise not to change his or her mind. As a legal matter, one retains the right to say no even during the act. And anything that comes after “no” is rape.

So a pre-sexual agreement is, to put it kindly, a dubious idea.

Which is not to say it won’t catch on. I expect it to be a major hit among the sexually industrious. Indeed, Sports Illustrated polled a few athletes and the consensus among the jock-ocracy was that this is the best idea since the three-point line. Stephen Jackson of the Atlanta Hawks saw it as a matter of, well … playing defense. “You have to,” he said. “People look at us as targets and try to get what they can out of us.”

He has a point, I suppose. Certainly, I can appreciate a man’s need to protect himself from false accusations of rape. If it is a nightmare to be sexually assaulted, it’s also no picnic to be charged with that crime, particularly if you didn’t commit it. He said, she said.

Still, the moralist in me can’t resist observing that the danger of being wrongly arrested would be diminished if only the sexually industrious were a little less so.

No, I won’t hold my breath.

“I contend that sex is sex and love is love,” wrote Marvin Gaye in the liner notes of “Let’s Get It On,” his landmark 1973 album. This was during the sexual revolution, back when repression was being cast off like a musty old robe and people were gleefully learning that “it” didn’t make hair grow on your palms or adversely affect your eyesight. As a child of that era, I believed the sexual revolution was a necessary liberation of the human body and spirit. I still do.

But it’s not entirely contradictory, I think, to be chagrined at some of the places to which liberation has delivered us. One of which is apparently a bedroom where two naked people sit squinting at the fine print of a legal prophylactic device.

Seems less than sexy to me. We live in cynical, litigious and libidinous times, though, so maybe Stephen Jackson is right, maybe this is a necessary evil. Which makes me feel way out of touch with modern sexual mores.

And glad of it.