A Disturbing Legal Analysis of the Third Act of Sixteen Candles.
It was my birthday recently (hooray for me) and I was lucky enough to receive a John Hughes collection full of greats like The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off…then I stumbled across Sixteen Candles, Hughes’ directorial debut.
It tells the woes of a young girl, Sam, who seems to fade into the background. So much so, that her family forget her sixteenth birthday and the popular boy she likes in school doesn’t even know she exists…or so she thinks.
And so we get to the third act. The popular boy (Jake) has grown tired of his girlfriend Caroline, who lies on his bed in a drunken stupor, and longs to be with our heroine Sam. He tells a comic-relief character, known only as The Geek, that he can ‘have’ his girlfriend, and so follows a series of events that comically appear to present a prima facie case of rape pursuant to the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Ha ha ha ha ha. Oh wait.
First, let’s breakdown the offence: To commit the offence of rape (Section 1 – Sexual Offences Act 2003) both the mental element (mens rea) and act element (actus reus) need to be present.
So, the actus reus:
Section 1 a) (b) requires penetration by a winky.
We can assume this happened from the discussions between The Geek and Caroline after the fact.
THE GEEK Did we, uh... CAROLINE Yeah. I'm pretty sure. THE GEEK Um, excuse me, but do you... Do you know if... Um, did I enjoy it?
And the final element of the actus reus is:
Section 1 b) Requires that the complainant does not consent (we’ll return to this point later).
Now, the mental element, the mens rea:
Section 1 c) The defendant does not reasonably believe that the complainant consents. (Again, we’ll return to this shortly)
S1 a) The penetration by the winky must be intentional ( I think it’s fair to assume this point).
Now, let’s look further into the consent issue:
There are two key issues to consider relating to consent. The first is whether anything within the facts may have fallen within Section 75 which details Evidential Presumptions about Consent.
The obvious one to select from here would be S75 (2) (d) ‘The complainant was asleep or otherwise unconscious at the time of the relevant act.’
So, as per S75, if, whilst Caroline was unconscious, The Geek intentionally penetrated her with his winky, then Caroline will be deemed to have not consented (S 1(b)) and The Geek will also be deemed not to have had reasonable belief that Caroline consented (S1 (c)) unless sufficient evidence to the contrary can be adduced.
(As a side note, as per S75 (1) (c) The defendant must also know that the above circumstance in S75 (2) (d) exist.)
But…the real zinger is what happened before the sex:
Who are you?
She’s totally gone.
This comical situation will likely fall under Section 76, Conclusive Presumptions about Consent.
Section 76 (2) considers circumstances where ‘the defendant intentionally induced the complainant to consent to the relevant act by impersonating a person known personally to the complainant.’ (As a side note, this provision requires a causal link between the impersonation and the inducing of the consent to be proved by the prosecution, hence the ‘induced…by impersonating’).
So, if it is proved that The Geek did the relevant act, (intentional penetration with his winky) and the circumstances in S76(2) above, existed, then it is conclusively presumed that Caroline did not consent (s1 (b)) and that The Geek did not reasonably believe that Caroline consented (S1 (c)), regardless of any evidence to the contrary.
In short, we now have a complete offence of rape, according to modern English law, in a heart-warming 1980s coming of age movie.
Oh god that’s depressing. Quick, someone put Uncle Buck on.
Ah, that’s better.