“Men wish to be saved from the mischiefs of their vices, but not from their vices.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whoever shall commit the abominable crime of buggery, whether with mankind or with beast, shall, on conviction, be guilty of felony and shall be imprisoned in the Penitentiary for five years or shall pay a fine of not less than five hundred dollars, or both, at the discretion of the court.—South Carolina Code of Laws, Title 16, Chapter 15: Offenses against Morality and Decency, Section 120: Buggery
Buggery, so close a cousin to sodomy that their definitions blur one into the other. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, though purists will balk. Buggery, they will tell you as they point their noses skyward and sip their Chardonnay, refers only to penile-anal sodomy, be it male-male, male-female, or betwixt man and beast (for the sake of this essay, let’s agree to limit our discussion to inter-species loving, thanks). The acts of the sodomite may include cunnilingus and fellatio in addition to an occasional dip into buggery. What is agreed upon is that buggers and sodomites share a penchant for noncoital acts of intimacy. Coital, of course, refers to penile-vaginal sex (which is, by definition, exclusively male-female). Baby-making. Coitus is what the good people do. Being fruitful and multiplying.
Them damned Sodomites, not to mention their neighbors in Gomorrah, got their rocks off in ways that left bountiful semen deposited in places where no cervix was to be found. And you see where that got them.
The laws of many lands have had much to say through the years about these unfruitful acts, even in these United States of America where, theoretically, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.
Oh, relax. South Carolina abolished the death penalty for sodomy in 1869.
Between 1895 and 1970, however, South Carolina did prohibit those convicted of sodomy from voting.
When it all came to a head (no pun intended), nationally, was June 26, 2003, with Lawrence & Garner v. State of Texas. Here’s the short version: in 1998, responding to an alleged “weapons disturbance,” police entered the home of John G. Lawrence. They found no weapons, but they did find Mr. Lawrence in bed with another man, Tyron Garner. Allegedly, a bit of sodomy was underway. Rather than go back to the station empty-handed, the officers arrested the men for violating the sodomy law (the neighbor who called the police was later charged with filing a false report, raising the question of why he really sent the police in there in the first place).
It took five years, but it eventually landed in the laps of the United States Supreme Court, who ruled 6-3 that Texas’ sodomy law was unconstitutional.
Kennedy, Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg, and Stephens based their support of the majority opinion on privacy rights, and O’Connor concurred on the grounds of equal protection for homosexual and heterosexual alike.
Harris County District Attorney Charles Rosenthal, arguing on behalf of the state of Texas, had this to say: “…part of the rationale for the law is to discourage similar conduct, that is, to discourage people who may be in jail together or want to experiment from doing the same kind of thing and I think — and I think that the State can do that.”
Which sounds like: make examples of a few folks and no one will want to do it anymore. Which explains why no one has smoked marijuana in this country since at least 1968, right?
So, after Lawrence v. Texas, what is to be done with the abominable crime of buggery? (Even the wording evokes an archaic image of terrified peasants clutching the seats of their pants, fleeing as The Abominable Bugger shambles through the snowstorm after them, growing ever nearer, moment by horrible moment).
So is sodomy a matter of jurisprudence or personal taste? Do we distinguish between same or opposite sex acts of sodomy? Once spied upon the side of a stall in a men’s room at the College of Charleston, in the old library, were these words: “Why would a guy fuck another guy up the ass when he could do the same thing to a girl?” Below, another who had sat upon the same pot (though presumably at a separate time) added the following: “Maybe we should have a formal debate on the topic.”
Or perhaps some things are better left behind drawn curtains.
Jason Zwiker thrust himself inside this assignment, probing the oral arguments for and against until the text came from him in a pulsating rush.