When this article first came across my newsfeed, I actually had to do some research to assure myself that I wasn’t being duped by the Onion (and I think a lot of me really hoped that I was). Sadly, this is the real deal. In basic summation: a man in Texas was acquitted of murdering an escort that he ADMITS TO SHOOTING while he was allegedly trying to recover the money ($150) he had given her because she refused to have sex with him. Go ahead and re-read that sentence and let it sink it for a minute. The defense built their case around a Texas law that allows the use of deadly force to recovery property during a night-time robbery, and a jury found him not guilty.
I’m not even sure how to begin to form a response to his. My first instinct is just to jump up and down and shout “WHAT THE EFF IS WRONG WITH TEXAS?” until I go hoarse. But while that might temporarily make me feel better, it certainly doesn’t help anyone, and it definitely doesn’t make for interesting blogging. So I suppose I’ll jump on the most obvious problem here- this case essentially functions as a state endorsement of vigilantism, and it turns non-violent theft into a capital offense. The general doctrine in the US is that lethal force may only be used when a human life is in immediate danger. Recently this notion has started to have some erosion as more states pass “stand your ground” types of laws that allow deadly force against an intruder in one’s home. While I have strong reservations about that legislation as well, this simply goes too far. This law allows individuals to exact their own brand of violent “justice” against someone who has stolen their property. While I’m sure much of Texas still harbors delusions that they’re in the “Old West”, we have a criminal justice system for a reason. Furthermore, capital punishment has long been reserved for only the most heinous of crimes, and the Supreme Court has relatively recently upheld the notion that the death penalty is only appropriate in cases of murder. But with this law in place, a relatively minor property crime now becomes a de-facto capital offense, as the victim is allowed to end your life to recover their property, without any kind of due-process whatsoever. It’s the ultimate express death penalty. And from my research, this is a law that pushed for by gun lobbyists (after all, if “deadly force” is going to be used, it’s unlikely to be with almost anything else). So what we have here is a horrifying dismantling of one of the most crucial right we have as Americans- due process- in order to slake the bloodlust of the gun activists.
Sadly, the destruction of due-process isn’t even the MOST disturbing implication of this case. To me, even more frightening is the complete devaluation of human life. From all angles, this woman was a victim. Whether this is a case of a plan to steal this man’s money, or a misunderstood assumption about what was being paid for is immaterial…given that this woman was under the control of pimp, she fairly certainly had no choice in what was going on. If she had refused, the relatively standard response from her pimp would have been a beating or worse. Furthermore, solicitation of a prostitute is a crime (and one widely codified as more severe than prostitution itself.) So if this man were expecting sex for his money, he was actively committing a crime himself, and at least to some extent, victimizing this woman. But despite the fact that this woman seems to bear the least responsibility in the situation, she ended up dead. Why? Because this man wanted his $150 back and he felt justified in shooting her for it, because that’s how little her life was worth to him. And in acquitting him of murder charges, the jury simply affirmed his belief…that this poor soul’s life was worth less than the cost of an Xbox. As sickening as that is, I’m STILL not to what I find the most disturbing about what’s going here.
One of the most upsetting things about this case for me is the realization that this woman died because of a man’s belief in his entitlement to sex. The problem with men’s entitlement belief when it comes to sex is a widespread one, and it presents itself in situations as relatively subtle as the constant complaints of “friendzoning” by men to as brutal as sexual violence. And in this case, it cost this woman her very life. This man believed that giving this woman $150 dollars entitled him to have sex with her, and when he did not receive the sexual encounter he believed he was entitled to, he shot her in the neck. Now, all of the testimony in place indicated that the matter of sex was never even discussed…this was simply an assumption that he had made based on the idea that he was paying her for her time. To him the exchange of money for time and companionship intrinsically implied the right to have sex with her. In my mind, there’s almost nothing to really here to establish that his man had been robbed of anything at all. But the results of this case essentially mean that simply because a man BELIEVES he is entitled to sex for a payment (even if there’s no direct justification for it), then the entitlement stands and he’s not legally culpable for taking her life to recover his money if she refuses to screw him.
There’s a darker implication here that I think is easily missed though. If he is entitled to sex with her by virtue of giving her $150 in cash, would he have been legally justified in raping her? Is her simple act of refusing consent an act of theft (which by Texas law opens her to lethal force)? It appears to me that logically, if her refusal to give consent constitutes theft, then by law he “owns” the right to have sex with her, and raping her would be legally permissible as she’s not legally entitled to NOT consent. So in one quick turn, you have essentially eliminated a sex worker’s rights over her body. She is now nothing more than an object, and her sexual function can legally (well, aside from the illegality of prostitution itself) be bought and sold without her consent. Imagine this…a young woman is sold into prostitution from Eastern Europe or West Africa to a pimp in Texas. Under the threat of violence (and possibly death) from her pimp, she is sent to service a john who pays her the agreed sum of money for some fairly violent and unsavory sex that is essentially rape. This woman now has two choices: endure the rape from this man, or risk being shot to death when she flees and he decides to recovery his money in the manner made legal by this law (and reinforced by this case). And where does this stop? What happens if a man takes a woman on a date and gives her a gift and expects sex? If she doesn’t give him the sexual encounter that he feels he is entitled to, can he shoot her to recover that gift? The distance between those two stories is frighteningly short. It’s all just one more disturbing example of how men are finding ways to increase and exert their dominance over women and their bodies.
There are even more ways to tear this apart and find implication, but I’m honestly emotionally drained and I believe my point is made. What we have here, at its core, is an absolute travesty of justice based on an extremely poorly considered piece of legislation, and the continued problems of an entitled male hierarchy bent on the control women’s bodies and sexualities. A victimized young woman receives no justice for her life being violently and senselessly cut short by a bullet, and we all lose a little bit more of our legal rights to consent (or not consent) to the sexual whims of men.