Utah Republican wonders if it's OK to rape an unconscious woman as long as that unconscious woman is your wife

A Utah Republican isn't "trying to justify sexual activity with an unconscious person," he's just asking questions!

Published February 4, 2015 5:50PM (EST)

Brian Greene
Brian Greene

Utah is currently considering a measure that would clarify the definition of consent to tighten legal protections for people who are assaulted while unconscious or otherwise incapacitated. "This is something that's been a long time coming," state Rep. Angela Romero, a Democrat from Salt Lake City who is also the sponsor of the bill, told the Salt Lake Tribune. "At the end of the day, if someone's unconscious or they're a vulnerable adult, then the logical answer is: Don't try to have a sexual relationship with them."

But state Rep. Brian Greene, a Republican from Pleasant Grove, isn't so sure it's that simple. During a debate on the measure, Greene offered the following hypothetical:

It looks to me now like sex with an unconscious person is, by definition, rape. I hope this wouldn't happen, but this opens the door to it: an individual has sex with their wife while she is unconscious — or he, the only other way around, if that's possible, I don't know. But a prosecutor could then charge that spouse with rape.

An alarming scenario, indeed. Imagine living in a state where a man who rapes his unconscious wife is charged with rape?

"I'm not at all trying to justify sexual activity with an unconscious person. It's abhorrent to me," he would later explain. But then he went on to question whether or not raping an unconscious person is "rape in every instance — dependent only upon the actor's knowledge that the individual is unconscious. That's the question. That's what I struggle with."

Updates to follow if and when Greene decides if it should be illegal to rape your unconscious wife.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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