Advice Columnist Downplays Sexual Assault As 'Sleep Sex'

If a husband penetrates his wife while she's sleeping, is that rape or simply "sleep sex?" That's the question raised by a recent advice-column letter-writer, and the columnist's questionable response.

"Curious," whose handle is something of an understatement, writes to the Toronto Star's Ellie,

My husband said that while I was fast asleep one night he had intercourse with me. He thinks it's acceptable since I'm his wife. I feel it's almost the same as rape. It's my right to go to sleep and know nothing will happen to me. I should be able to feel safe.

To do that without a person's consent while they are unaware surely can't be right. What do you think?

Ellie's answer: "If having 'sleep sex' with your husband feels so unsafe, you have bigger marital problems going on. This is what you should be dealing with, more than this one incident." However, according to the Criminal Code of Canada, "this one incident" was in fact a sexual assault. The code specifies that sex with someone when "the complainant is incapable of consenting to the activity" is a crime — being asleep certainly seems to fall into this category. The code also specifically states that being married to the victim is not a defense against a charge of sexual assault. Curious clearly feels violated, and there's no reason why being married means she should feel safe having her husband penetrate her when she's sleeping. In fact, for her feeling safe might well mean knowing her husband won't try to have sex with her while she's unconscious. Ellie's right that the incident may point to larger problems in Curious's marriage — but those stem from her husband's actions, not her feelings.

Ellie's Advice: Marriage Changes Our Views Of Many Things - Including Porn [Toronto Star]

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