Why it’s legal in Minnesota to grab a woman’s butt

Most headlines in the morning paper do not surprise us. This isn’t one of them:

Legislation would make butt-grabbing illegal

Who knew grabbing someone’s tush isn’t against the law in Minnesota?

The Pioneer Press’ Dave Orrick writes that there’s currently an exception in the state’s sexual conduct statute, which sent us scurrying for the legislation.

He’s right. Lawmakers provided a get-out-jail-free card to the fifth-degree sexual assault definition.

For purposes of this section, “sexual contact” has the meaning given in section 609.341, subdivision 11, paragraph (a), clauses (i), (iv), and (v), but does not include the intentional touching of the clothing covering the immediate area of the buttocks.

Sexual contact also includes the intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing covering the complainant’s intimate parts or undergarments, and the nonconsensual touching by the complainant of the actor’s intimate parts, effected by the actor, if the action is performed with sexual or aggressive intent.

A state Senate committee approved getting rid of the exception on Wednesday. Might be we suggest they reconsider removing the exception to removing intimate undergarments and touching intimate parts too.

It’s disconcerting to the nth degree that women had to explain why it should be illegal for men to grab their rear ends.

It happened to five women in a Fridley health club in November, according to one of the women, who was taking her children to swim lessons and was holding a 1-year-old in her arms at the time. The man “fully groped my buttocks” and continued walking, turning around only to smirk at her.

The woman, who lives in Columbia Heights, went to the police station and provided police a taped statement before learning it was irrelevant because that specific grope wasn’t against the law. The man was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct — but only because he also entered the women’s locker room.

“Unfortunately, this experience at (the health club) was not my first experience with sexual assault and I can tell you that being groped on the buttocks is just as demeaning, violating and traumatizing as the other forms of assault I have endured,” the woman said in written testimony to the Senate judiciary and public safety committee. The committee is chaired by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, one of three lead sponsors of the bill.

There’s only really one question that anyone should have about this: What on earth was an early Legislature thinking?

Nobody seems to know.

Sens. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, and Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, who sponsored the 1988 sexual conduct law, think it might have had something to do with not wanting football coaches to get into trouble for patting a player on the butt.

So lawmakers made it OK to grab a woman’s butt against her will to protect the coaches.

Which makes perfect sense.

  • Veronica

    Given what we’ve learned the last two months about #metoo With Terry Cruz and Brendan Fraser, Nassar, Paterno, and Sandusky, it’s really gross to think about coaches lobbying for the right to assault players and getting the bonus of making it legalized assault for everyone.

    But I’m not surprised, either.

  • Jim in RF

    So there’s the Dimmler Amendment and the Schwarzenegger Exception.

  • Al

    It really isn’t surprising that women’s safety is less a priority than, well, anything, it seems.

  • AL287

    I wonder how men would feel if the shoe were on the proverbial other foot?

    An invitation to sex? An overt flirtation? She’s asking for it?

    If a man ever did that me I would S-I-N-G as demonstrated in “Miss Congeniality”, assault charges be damned.

    The man would definitely reconsider before trying it again on an unsuspecting woman.

    We tell school children every school day to keep their hands to themselves.

    This guy must have dropped out of school in kindergarten.

  • jon

    Who wants to stand outside the capital and grab the buttox of any representative/senator who votes against this?

    • Jerry

      No thanks

      • jon

        Would it help if I started a crowd funded effort to ensure latex gloves (or whatever the hypoallergenic equivalent is now) were provided?

        (We could sit in on the sessions, and just snap the gloves anytime some one spoke out against removing the exception for but grabbing…)

        • Jerry

          Still going to take a hard pass

  • Mike Worcester

    //think it might have had something to do with not wanting football coaches to get into trouble for patting a player on the butt.

    If that really is the reason, it’s not really a good reason. At least not to me.

    • MikeB

      I was originally going to offer it was a CYA response by the bill’s authors. But it was just poor legislative practice that led to this. A bad answer can be worse that no answer at all. Just say “We missed it”

      • Mike Worcester

        //Just say “We missed it”

        I’d much rather hear that some some b.s. garble.

      • RBHolb

        //a CYA response by the bill’s authors.

        I see what you did there.

  • Frank

    I see jail time in the near future for a lot of sportsball players.

    • Ben Chorn

      Ah yes, because their intent is clearly sexual.

      When has a man grabbing a woman’s butt ever NOT been sexual?

    • Jerry

      Why is the distinction between wanted and unwanted physical contact so hard to figure out?

      • Frank

        Who says they want it? Aren’t you stereotyping? Isn’t that bad?

  • Jerry

    There are probably better ways of saying “Good job!” than patting someone on the backside. Maybe just by telling them “Good job!”.

    • Kassie

      High fives and fist bumps work too.

    • Kat S.

      If patting forms a necessary part of your team’s celebratory rites, you could just move it upward about a foot, too.

  • DavidG

    Marty and Laine are sponsoring the corrective legislation, not the original legislation. (Well, Marty could have sponsored the original legislation, but Laine did not join the legislature until 2007)

    • joetron2030

      Thanks for the clarification. I read that and thought they were involved in the original legislation, too.

  • Bob Sinclair

    Any record of male athletes suing their male coaches for the “butt slap”?

    • BJ

      No but protecting sexual predators, when they are sports people, has a strong national history….. (cough)Jerry Sandusky(cough) Larry Nassar (cough)

  • LifebloodMN

    How is ANY unwanted touching legal? That’s assault brother

    • RBHolb

      As a matter of common law, you are nearly correct. It was actually called battery, and battery was defined as unconsented touching.

      It’s not the same under contemporary criminal law. Minnesota criminal law defines “assault” as committing an act with intent to cause fear in another of immediate bodily harm or death, or intentionally inflicting or attempting to inflict bodily harm upon another. The butt-patter can avoid an assault conviction by saying that he didn’t intend to inflict any bodily harm (“Heck, I meant it as a compliment!”).

      Calling butt grabbing “assault” would hide the sexual nature of the offense. An assault conviction on a person’s record can always be passed off as a shoving match that got out of hand.