Contract before contact?

November 04, 1992|By Chicago Tribune

"Would you like to come back to my place for a drink? I'd love to show you my etchings and introduce you to my attorney."

If Mel Feit had his way, such would be the come-on line of the '90s. The National Center for Men, a New York-based men's rights organization of which Mr. Feit is executive director, is distributing a "Consensual Sex Contract" for couples to sign before becoming intimate.

The contract outlines the parties' specific intentions in the relationship: "We want to have a relationship that may lead to sexual intercourse." Or, "We want to have sex but without intercourse."

It also states that if an unwanted pregnancy occurs, "neither one of us will try to force the other into parenthood."

And it states that neither party can claim to be the victim of sexual harassment, assault or rape "as a result of the acts which are the subject of this agreement."

The contract is intended to protect men from false accusations of rape and from the financial responsibility of supporting a child who might be born of a sexual encounter, according to Mr. Feit.

"We believe there is an epidemic of false rape accusations," said Mr. Feit, whose organization has 1,900 members.

False accusations are devastating for men, he said, even if police conclude there is not enough evidence to prosecute.

"Your reputation can be destroyed for life," Mr. Feit said.

And false accusations create an atmosphere in which legitimate rape victims must fight to be believed, he said.

About 2,000 men have written to the organization asking for copies of the contract and saying they intend to use it.

He knows of no instance in which signing of the contract was successfully incorporated into foreplay. One of the organization's members showed the contract one evening to his girlfriend. She was so infuriated that the point became moot.

"She refused to have sex with him," Mr. Feit said.

According to statistics gathered by the FBI from 16,000 law enforcement agencies around the country, 7.9 percent of rape complaints filed with police in 1991 were determined to be unfounded.

That figure is significantly higher than such rates for other crimes.

Among a group of crimes examined by the FBI, including murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft and arson, an average of 1.9 percent of complaints were ruled unfounded.

But Elizabeth Rivera, deputy chief of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Division of the Cook County (Ill.) state's attorney's office, said the disparity might be a result of police officers' attitudes toward sexual assault.

"Does 'unfounded' mean there was no evidence to corroborate, which is true of many crimes?" she asked. She said police were more likely to dismiss as unfounded a rape without corroborating evidence than a robbery without such evidence.

Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women and herself a lawyer, said she regarded the Consensual Sex Contract with "extreme ambivalence."

"The motivation does not sound particularly appealing, but the idea of men and women talking and being up-front about their intentions and their assurance that the sex is indeed consensual, and having responsible discussions about contraception and unplanned pregnancy, is not an unhealthy thing," she said.

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