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.
It turns out that France does not have a minimum age for consensual sex, a fact that might explain why so few of their sons use Ritalin. As the nation prepares to set an age of consent for sex, French compatriots argue over the age passionately. One judge faced protests for suggesting that that age of consent should be 13. The feminist protesters want the age of consent to be 15. I guess it all depends on how literally we should take the standard, “Today, I am a man” bar mitzvah speech. These days, the mere suggestion that teens might have urges freaks people out, but there was a time when such desires were the topic of cheerful music videos like the one below:
Now that we’ve got the pearl clutching out of the way, let’s talk statistics. The USA’s Center for Disease Control keeps track of the sexual behavior of high school students. Their 2015 statistics on 9th graders, who tend to be 14 years old, show that 27.3% of the boys and 20.7% of the girls were not virgins. If French teens behave similarly, then setting the age of consent to 15 without including a Romeo and Juliet clause would mean that one in four French teens would be statutory rape victims by the time they enter college.
I can see how biological differences and the power imbalance between a minor and an adult can justify age of consent laws, but they must be written carefully to avoid sending kids to jail in the name protecting kids. About half of Americans loose their virginity before becoming 18, which makes sex a normal teenage activity. It doesn’t matter if the age of consent is 13 or 15 in France. Including a Romeo and Juliet clause is the most import thing so the nation does not criminalize a natural part of teenage life. And for heaven’s sake, don’t let them on Facebook before they are 16.