7 Seriously Sexist American Laws

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Unfortunately, the year 2017 offered a poignant reminder that sexism in the United States and around the world is still very much alive and well. While many may know that most women experience some form of sexism on a regular basis, fewer probably realize that there are actually still many sexist American laws in place that can be readily enforced.

Sadly, Donald Trump's campaign and presidency have seemingly only contributed to perpetuating the sexism that already pervades the U.S., both informally and as a part of its legal system. Just some of the recent examples of sexist policies proposed by the administration include the defunding of Planned Parenthood, which provides crucial women's reproductive health services, as well as new proposed healthcare legislation that eliminates minimum essential requirements for health insurance coverage, including not requiring insurance companies to cover maternity costs.

Regrettably, these new policies proposed by the Trump administration only add to the myriad of sexist, though perhaps lesser-known, laws that already exist in the United States. Some of these laws were developed by legislatures and others established through judicial precedent, but all of them are unified in the fact that they are exceedingly, shockingly sexist—and should have no place in U.S. legal codes in 2017.

1. Child Marriage

Child marriage is shockingly still legal in the United States. While the minimum age of marriage in most states is 18, every state allows exceptions to these laws, either through parental consent or judicial approval. The overwhelming majority of children married in the U.S. are girls; The Denver Post found in 2017 that the total number of children wed in the United States from 2000-2010 was estimated around 248,000, and that "almost all of them were girls, some as young as 12."

2. Non-Revokable Consent

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In North Carolina, women have no legal standing to revoke consent for sexual intercourse once it has begun as a result of an antiquated 1979 legal precedent which stated that if "the actual penetration is accomplished with the woman’s consent, the accused is not guilty of rape," even if the woman withdraws consent after intercourse has commenced.

Unfortunately, this precedent has been cited in several rape cases, resulting in their dismissal.

3. Upskirt Photos

Sadly, a new legal precedent set in Georgia last year established that it is not illegal to take upskirt photos of women in public. Shockingly, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the state's invasion of privacy laws do not protect women from having "upskirt" photos taken of them, unless they are "behind closed doors" (aka in the privacy of their own home). According to, while the judge in the case that established the precedent found the act of taking upskirt photos "reprehensible," the antiquated wording of Georgia's laws does not allow for criminalization of the act.

4. Rapists' Parental Rights

In the case of parental rights of rapists, some of the problem lies in laws that are not on the books. Sadly, seven U.S. states do not have any laws that prevent rapists from claiming parental rights if a rape victim becomes pregnant; this has egregiously resulted in some women having to co-parent their child with their rapist. Furthermore, even in states where laws exist to prohibit rapists from acquiring parental rights, a rape conviction is often required to enforce this prohibition. Since the majority of rapes in the U.S. go unreported, this is evidently exceedingly problematic.

5. Oral Sex Isn't Rape If The Victim Is Unconscious

In another unfortunately recently-established legal precedent, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled in 2016 that someone cannot be found guilty of forceable sodomy if "a victim is so intoxicated as to be completely unconscious at the time of the sexual act of oral copulation." The Court made the ruling in response to a case where a teenage girl was allegedly orally sexually assaulted by a teenage boy while she was unconscious due to alcohol consumption. While some legal experts chastised the Court's ruling, saying it created a legal loophole for rape, others blamed Oklahoma's antiquated sexual assault laws, which some experts say need to be revised.

6. Toplessness Laws (Or Lack Thereof)

Only five states in the U.S. — New York, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio, and Texas — have specific laws allowing women to go topless in any situation where a man can legally do the same. On the flip side, dozens of other states have laws which consider women's breasts in the same category as genitalia and classify exposing one's breasts, except in the case of breastfeeding, as a crime. While the number of women choosing to go topless may not necessarily rise if the act were made legal in more states, the fact that it is still illegal for women to exposure their nipples in 2017 — while men can — is quite shocking.

7. Hair Regulations

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On a more lighthearted note (due to the fact that these laws are no longer enforced), many states still have laws on the books that restrict a woman's choice in styling her hair. In Michigan, a woman is technically not allowed to get her hair cut without her husband's permission. In Oklahoma, a woman technically has to possess a license to do her own hair. And, in Nebraska, an antiquated law says that a mother must obtain a special state license if she wishes to perm her daughter's hair. Thankfully, while still present in state code, these bizarre, hair-regulating laws are no longer enforced.

Unfortunately, this list delineates just some of the many sexist laws that exist in the United States. Sadly, America has a long way to go before women are equal in both law and practice, which is why so many women continue to bravely advocate against sexism every day.