On Consent and Mutuality

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Genarlow Wilson was convicted under Georgia state law of “aggravated child molestation”  for receiving oral sex from a 15-year old girl who “willingly” performed it, according to facts undisputed at trial.   News reports including this one from the New York Times  describe the Wilson case as involving “consensual oral sex.”   Such accounts appear to be  accurate, insofar as the court record reflects that the girl’s participation was voluntary.   But one fact in the case that is never mentioned is that however consensual the particular sex act was, but it was not reciprocated.

Had Mr. Wilson performed but not received oral sex, would he have been prosecuted?   Probably.   The prosecution had racial overtones.   And because of the  girl’s age,  the law doubts (or ignores) the voluntariness of her participation, whether  as performer or as recipient.   But why is the same not true of his participation?   Why is a male minor’s ability to consent not doubted or disregarded?   Why was the boy prosecuted but the girl was not?  [Update:   I’ve checked the Georgia statute O.C.G.A. Sec. 16-6-4 and it appears that “aggravated child molestation” applies only where the victim is 13-15 years old.   Therefore, because Mr. Wilson was 17 years old at the time of the incident, he would not be within the statutory age range for “victims.”]

By posing this question, I do not suggest that the girl should have been prosecuted.   I thought that Wilson’s conviction and sentence to eleven years in prison was outrageous.   I agreed with the decision of the Georgia Supreme Court to release him from jail.   I do not think either of them should have been prosecuted.   But note that the Wilson case takes a particular view of both black male sexuality and black female sexuality.   The male is the predator and the female is the prey,  with no possibility for  role reversal or mutuality of desire.    

-Bridget Crawford

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0 Responses to On Consent and Mutuality

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    I agree with you, but I also think another reason Wilson was targeted was because law enforcement officials wanted to justify their actions in charging him with raping another female, a crime that he was acquitted of by a jury. See e.g.

    Having read only media coverage of this case, I can’t help thinking a “win at all costs” mentality was at play, and “winning” meant sending Wilson to jail, one way or another. I don’t know if Wilson raped the 17 year old girl who accused him of it, but once the jury acquitted him, it seems like he was kept in the cross-hairs because he had embarrassed law enforcement officials by prevailing in the rape trial.

  2. Ralph M. Stein says:

    Too much can be read into one incidence of prosecution. Ann has it right – once this teenager was acquitted of rape he was a target for police should he become involved in another incident.

    While there is a reality that males are more often prosecuted than females in the Georgia-type scenario, prosecutions of women for having sex with younger guys, often not that much younger, are on the uptick.

    Any inference of racial motivation is purely speculative – there simply are no facts to support that and historic racism shouldn’t be an automatic basis for implying its presence in what was clearly a statutory violation.

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    I don’t know much about sentencing law but I’d bet race was involved in Wilson’s receipt of such a long sentence.

  4. Ralph M. Stein says:


    If you read the now amended law, the judge had no choice. Race can always be an issue with the decision to prosecute and with regard to whether a plea will be offered or allowed but the legislature in Georgia simply created a sanction it didn’t contemplate would be imposed under Wilson’s circumstances.