copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
Marital rape wasn't recognized as a crime in the U.S. until 1978, when Nebraska enacted the first marital rape law in the U.S. By 1993, all 50 states had enacted laws making marital rape illegal.
At about the same time, in the mid-70s, the American Psychological Association voted to take BDSM off the list of official mental illnesses. Up until then, its presence on the list meant that you could be dragged off kicking and screaming (or you could go quietly, but where's the fun in that?) to a mental hospital and held there indefinitely against your will, just for being into BDSM.
Immoral? Yes! Downright evil? Hell, yes! But legal? You betcha! Your wife could probably divorce you for that kind of behavior, but she couldn't get you jailed for raping her, because marital rape was not recognized as a crime.
Now, if you were to consensually tie up your wife, with her totally in agreement with what you were doing, if by some mischance a third party found out about it and reported it to the authorities, you could be locked up -- and so could your wife, if she admitted to being a consenting partner. (In fact, her best bet would have been to claim not to consent, since you couldn't be jailed for taking her against her will and this would prevent her from being locked up with you.)
In fact, as some of you may already have noted, there was a period of from 5 to 20 years, depending on where you lived, where you could chain your wife up like an animal and gag her and then rape her -- very much against her will -- and the most she could do about it was divorce you, because BDSM had been declared sane and marital rape laws weren't yet on the books.
(Insane? Of course ... it's the law! Someday, people will look on our laws putting people in jail for years for smoking a joint with the same sense of disbelief and superiority that we reserve for the wretches who conducted the Salem witch trials.)
Nowadays you can't legally rape or be raped anyone at all under any circumstances. Which is the way things should be. And you can have consensual BDSM sex with others in the privacy of your own home to your heart's content, which is also the way it should be.
(Understand, I'm talking about the legal situation, not reality. In reality, not a lot of people got locked up for being into BDSM in the U.S., ever. In reality, abusers have been and are able to commit marital rape with impunity if they can find the sort of woman whom they can control so that she doesn't even think to file marital rape charges, which can be hard to prove anyway.)
But the interesting thing about all this is the parallel the legal situation presents to what can be shown in XXX films nowadays.
Basically, in modern XXX movies, you can sex the hell out of a woman onscreen. You can repeatedly shove your cock down her throat until it makes her retch. You can slap her and pinch her and kick her while you do it, while she cries and acts distressed. I've seen movies portraying all this and more, so I know it can be done.
You just can't do any of this while she is bound and/or gagged by anything other than, say, your cock or your hand. The most you can do with a bound and gagged woman, is mild foreplay -- kissing and fondling and such, and using vibrators on their genitals -- but without penetration.
When it gets down to the nitty-gritty, when it comes to putting Tab A in Slot B, bondage remains forbidden.
What does this mean? The effect of the current censorship regime has been to render XXX films into a weird parallel to the real-life situation regarding bondage in the U.S. up until the mid-70s. You can do the sex, but you can't do the bondage. So, that's what they're doing.
The key point of consensuality is taking a long time to get recognized by the law, when it comes to BDSM. It's like the law can't understand that for a woman to allow a man between her legs requires trust on the same order of magnitude as allowing him to tie her up. Both situations render the woman extremely vulnerable.
The reason that the law has so much trouble wrapping itself around the notion of consensuality is that the people who write the laws don't believe in consensuality. In point of fact, they can't conceive of women being active players in the game of sexuality. They see women as being naive, hapless, willing creatures who are lured and/or coerced into sex by evil men who want sex, unlike the women.
In short, they conceive of all adult women, even long-married women, as being 13-year-old virgins, able to make responsible decisions only under the guidance of the courts. They don't allow explicit sexual bondage imagery because they don't want evil men getting ideas about what they can do to those hapless, helpless women out there.
That's pretty much consistent with the position the moral conservatives have always held, but it constitutes a considerable amount of backsliding for the pro-censorship feminists, who are supposed to believe in empowering women.
You don't exactly empower women when you represent them as unable to make adult decisions regarding their own sexuality, a point not lost on the bulk of feminists, who have come to reject the anti-censorship feminists (though they still represent an important power bloc in old-line feminist organizations like NOW).
For years feminists have been saying that "No means no." But apparently the pro-censorship feminists don't beieve that "Yes" means yes. The proof is right there for all to see, in U.S. censorship practices.