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Lying To Have Sex With Someone Could Soon Be Considered Sexual Assault

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

A bloke walks into a bar. Catches a woman’s eye.

She likes the look of him but has a clear rule – she doesn’t date married men.

“Not married,” he assures her. “Was once – but it didn’t last. I’ve been divorced for years.”

The romance blossoms until her suspicions build about his frequent unavailability and unwillingness to discuss moving in together.

You guessed it.

Many a woman – and perhaps a few men – have had to recover with angry, tearful sessions with their besties after being burned by such a love rat. But under a proposed change to laws in New South Wales, the liar could soon face the law: charged with sexual assault.

The New South Wales Law Reform Commission was tasked last year with reviewing the treatment of sexual consent within the criminal law.

When it published its draft proposals last month, most attention was on its first recommendation – that there is no consent if a person “does not do or say anything to communicate consent”.

In other words, merely submitting to sexual activity doesn’t mean you want it.

In line with global trends towards tighter definitions of sexual consent, these proposals would make it a sexual assault if there is not a clear signal of consent, updated every time there’s a significant shift in the sexual activity taking place.

In the words of activists pushing for these changes, “it’s not yes unless it’s HELL YES!'

But another recommendation deeper in the document has even greater potential to change the rules in the Game Of Love.

Section 6.48 says: “We propose that the law should provide that a person who is fraudulently induced to participate in sexual activity does not, in law, consent to sexual activity.”

The wording is dull but the meaning profound.

“It’s quite dramatic in its reach,” says Sydney University criminologist Andrew Dyer.

“It means you would have to be very careful in talking yourself up.”

If the proposal was to become law, telling someone you love them when you don’t, pretending to be rich and well connected when you are not, claiming educational achievements that you don’t possess, denying a complex sexual history – say, with same sex partners – could all conceivably count as fraudulently obtaining sexual consent.

The question is, if those claims led to sexual activity that would not otherwise have happened, that sex has just become sexual assault.

“If the boast that you have made induces somebody to participate in sexual activity with you,” says Andrew Dyer, “then you are liable to spend a long time in jail.”

Dyer says it might lead to fewer lies – “a lot of people would say that’s a good thing” – while also leading people to become a lot more cautious about that they say.

It could apply to stories women tell just as much as men.

But Karen Willis, head of Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, is sceptical.  She doubts Australian juries would convict when lies are equated with actual assault.

"We have a real problem with sexual assault in this country," she told 10 Daily.

"We need to focus on where the problem is. When two or more people are going to engage in sexual activity, everyone has to make sure everyone is consenting."

And before anything else, the Law Reform Commission’s proposals must become law.

NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman, who commissioned the review, is still seeking feedback.

“I urge anyone with views on the draft proposals to lodge a submission by Monday, 18 November,” he told 10 Daily.