Did you know grabbing someone’s butt without their permission is not a violation under Minnesota’s sexual conduct codes?
That’s thanks to an exemption that dates back to 1987, when Minnesota Senator Allan Spear, a Minneapolis Democrat who proposed the amendment, thought it would be important to leave a little wiggle room with regard to “fanny patting.”
He told the Star Tribune that he didn’t want anyone to think it was necessarily okay to grab someone’s butt without consent—but that maybe it was important to keep it more on the side of “improper” and “unsocial” than criminal.
Why? No one really knows for sure. Senators John Marty and Carolyn Laine, both Democrats, were sponsors of the 1988 sexual conduct law making groping illegal, and things were … different … back then.
“At that time, a lot of people were like, ‘Boys will be boys, and what’s wrong with it?’” Marty says. He says some people seemed to be for the butt grabbing loophole because they worried that football coaches wouldn’t be able to give players an encouraging pat on the rump without getting in trouble. Or that, “Gay men do this all the time.”
“It’s embarrassing, 30 years later, to have this on the books,” he says. As far as he knows, we’re the only state to quibble about what parts of a person are illegal to grab, and what parts are all in good fun. Until recently, Laine says, they didn’t even know the exemption was in there.
Then #MeToo happened, and it changed, at the very least, how we talk about this sort of thing. A year or two ago, Minnesota legislators began efforts to close the butt-pat loophole and make it an offense of fifth-degree sexual conduct to grab “the buttocks” in “an aggressive or sexual manner.” That’s on par with, say, masturbating in front of a child younger than 16, or groping at someone’s crotch.
This year, Senator Warren Limmer, a Maple Grove Republican, is sponsoring the latest bipartisan attempt, and the Senate Judiciary Committee just proposed it on Tuesday. This should be a no-brainer to enact, Marty says—as long as it doesn’t get lumped into an omnibus bill with other, more controversial measures. He can’t picture anyone picking butt-grabbing as their political hill to die on.
“If there’s anyone still opposed to this because ‘boys will be boys,’ they wouldn’t dare say it now,” he says.