Crime in the hood

I don't know why these things don't make it into my local newspaper, but thanks to Memeorandum's link to a post by Eugene Volokh, I learned that I am in a higher crime neighborhood than I ever imagined! In fact, based on the behavior that I witness regularly at drunken late night parties, many of my male neighbors are nothing more than unapprehended felons.

Here's the Michigan law (Michigan Penal Code ยง 750.532):

Any man who shall seduce and debauch any unmarried woman shall be guilty of a felony, punishable by imprisonment in the state prison not more than 5 years or by fine of not more than 2,500 dollars ....
Wow. That sort of thing goes on all the time around here. The average age in my hood is about 20. These young people party and drink heavily (often way into the wee hours of the morning), and trust me, there's a whole lot of seducing and debauching going on.

But until today, I had no idea such behavior was a felony.

I couldn't make this up if I tried.

AFTERTHOUGHT: In view of Lawrence v. Texas (which threw out sodomy laws), I'm wondering whether the Michigan law is constitutionally valid.

Besides, isn't it sexist on its face?

posted by Eric on 06.09.10 at 11:35 AM


Of course it's sexist. But it's the GOOD kind of sexist, doncha know.

John S.   ·  June 9, 2010 12:47 PM

What if I just debauched? That seems to be ok, since the law says I have to both seduce and debauch...

Mr. Bingley   ·  June 9, 2010 1:15 PM

And I guess it's ok to seduce and debauch a married woman.

I'll keep that in mind!

Mr. Bingley   ·  June 9, 2010 1:16 PM

Eric, you probably haven't studied the history of Anglo-American domestic law. Prior to World War II, by the laws of most states, pretty much any sex outside marriage was illegal. Sodomy, adultery, fornication -- there was an interlocking network of such laws, and "seduction" was among them. Frank Sinatra, for example, was once charged with "seduction" in New Jersey.

The push to overturn such laws came principally in response to the 1948-51 Kinsey Reports. David Rockefeller (motivated by eugenic obsessions) was a major sponsor of Kinsey's work, and helped fund efforts to revise U.S. laws regarding sex and marriage (including those laws affecting divorce, contraception and abortion). This was part of a broader liberal effort that led, in 1962, to the promulgation of what was known as the "Model Penal Code." In later decades, many states revised their criminal laws to conform with the MPC, which of course omitted the old laws derived from Anglo-Saxon legal tradition.

This is how, in the span of a few decades, marriage lost its hitherto privileged place in American law, and was replaced by the ethos of "consent." Law and custom go hand in hand. The laws against adultery, fornication, seduction, etc., reflected a broad social consensus. So if a man's wife had an affair or his daughter was seduced, the guy who perpetrated those crimes was effectively an outlaw, and the outraged husband or father might not be charged, and probably not convicted by any jury, for any violence meted out against the perpetrator.

The old-fashioned "shotgun" marriage was rooted in a legal reality, you see.

Robert Stacy McCain   ·  June 9, 2010 1:38 PM

How old is that law? It reads like a relic of the 19th century. Is it like the old blue laws? Seldom enforced but never repealed?

Lynne   ·  June 9, 2010 1:53 PM

I've seen lots of these kids. There isn't really any seducing going on and most of these unmarried women have been debauched since they were girls in high school. So could could her prior debauchedness be a defense?

JKB   ·  June 9, 2010 2:42 PM

It took untill 2007 for North Carolina to finally get rid of its cohabitation law. At least, I read that it was repealed in 2007 but it's still listed on the web site for NC laws.

RT   ·  June 10, 2010 9:52 AM

Thanks for the comments!

RSMcCain, thanks for stopping by. What concerns me about singling out Kinsey is that he was not alone in supporting sexual freedom. Many Americans have long believed in what you call "the ethos of consent," and would have done so with or without Kinsey. Even assuming the man was the villain that activists like Judith Reisman assert that he was (or that his data were often inaccurate), that changes very little. Americans like freedom, and if these things were put to a vote, sure, they might not support gay marriage, but they most definitely support the right to be left alone in matters of the bedroom.

But let me admit my bias. My dad was a doctor, and he gave me Kinsey's book to read when I was in my early teens. I never understood why fussing over sex was such a huge deal. It's a bodily function, and a matter of personal privacy.

BTW, some of the laws you mention also criminalized masturbation. And it was once illegal in many states to violate the Sabbath. How traditional are we supposed to be? Whose traditions?

Eric Scheie   ·  June 15, 2010 12:28 PM

It seems that the Right - although championing a more conservative culture through law - does not actually practice what it preaches.

Instapundit looks at what all this may or may not mean:

It is my opinion that law can't control culture. It is a futile effort. What law can do is ruin a LOT of lives in the effort.

Did I mention drug prohibition?

M. Simon   ·  June 15, 2010 1:10 PM

If you're in a society where a woman can permanently lose her social status and ability to have a husband and family by engaging in carnal activity outside wedlock, but where a man does not forfeit those things? Wouldn't you have to be a pretty darned anti-social man to go out trolling for young women, in such a case?

It's hard to think of any joint act today that could so totally mess up the position and prospects of one while having almost no repercussions for the other.

Maureen   ·  June 16, 2010 11:23 PM

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