Sex with corpses is a topic most people would rather not think about, but if the law might cover this action, then citizens need to be able to discuss it. A great Vice article summaries the situation in America. The post starts with:
On September 2, 2006, 20-year-old twin brothers Alex and Nicholas Grunke and their friend Dustin Radke were apprehended by sheriff’s deputies in Grant County, Wisconsin, as they were trying to dig up the body of Laura Tennessen, who had died a week prior from a car accident at the age of 20. Later, their intentions were summarized in a 2008 study in the journal Mortality as follows: “Upon questioning by police, Alexander Grunke explained that the three men wanted to exhume the body so that Nicholas Grunke ‘could have sexual intercourse with her.'” Before they arrived at St. Charles cemetery that night, “the men stopped at a nearby Walmart store and purchased condoms ‘because Nick wanted to use them when he had sex with the corpse.'”
While the men were charged for damaging cemetery property, a dedicated Wisconsin statute forbidding necrophilia—or attempted necrophilia—did not exist…
It’s worth reading the entire post. The author concludes:
On the one hand, there is a need for laws governing mistreatment of dead bodies—and in some cases these are lacking. On the other hand, society’s views on what is and isn’t “dignified” burial leads to rules being made that are overly broad can lead to unfortunate outcomes. Together, these forces create the murky and often contradictory legal landscape that exists today. American views on treatment of the dead have come from a traditionally Protestant point of view, in stark contrast to the rich and varied traditions seen all over the world.
As more and more people from different cultures and different backgrounds move to the US—and as more Americans explore additional options themselves—there will likely be more and more cases of people wishing to forego the traditional burial or cremation choice that have been presented to them. How our society and our laws evolve to accommodate is hard to predict—but it will be interesting to observe.
A law journal article from the 1990’s entitled Defiling the Dead: Necrophilia and the Law discusses the diversity of statues regarding sex with corpses in the USA.
Fourteen states have adopted general abuse of corpse statutes that
are similar to or are closely modeled after the Model Penal
Code. Legislative commentary in Arkansas, Kentucky, and
Ohio expressly indicates that sexual abuse of a corpse is prohibited. New Mexico punishes indecent treatment of a corpse as a common-law
crime. Six other states, including California, have statutes that prohibit
“mutilation” of a corpse; however, the Commentary to the
Model Penal Code strongly suggests that necrophilia does not fall
within the ordinary definition of “mutilation”, and as noted above,
the majority of cases that have defined the term are in accord. Thirteen
states have statutes that expressly prohibit acts of necrophilia,
while seventeen states and the District of Columbia do not have
any statute that could reasonably be construed to prohibit sexual contact
with dead bodies.
Clearly, different communities within the USA had different approaches to handling this activity.
In New Jersey, a former technician was convicted of having sex with a corpse at Holy Name Hospital. This begs the question: Who is supposed to protect the dead in New Jersey? Well, as the Vice article implied, laws regarding the treatment of corpses traditionally fell under religious jurisdiction. The Surrogate Court of each New Jersey county inherited guardianship over dead people from the Governor’s office in New Jersey which in turn received that authority from the Archbishop of London during colonial times. The integrity of morgues and graveyards in a New Jersey county is a testament to the quality of the local surrogate court.