This Day in History: April 22, 1886
Ohio passes a statute that makes seduction unlawful. Covering all men over the age of 18 who worked as teachers or instructors of women, this law even prohibited men from having consensual sex with women (of any age) whom they were instructing. The penalty for disobeying this law ranged from two to 10 years in prison.
Of course, this happenstance in Ohio was not the first of its kind. It is just the one that happened on this day in history.
- In Virginia, a bizarre rule of attraction prohibited a man from "illicit connexion (variant spelling of connection)" with an unmarried woman of chaste character if pre-empted by a promise of marriage.
- New York established a similar law in 1848 making it illegal to “under promise of marriage seduce any unmarried female of previous chaste character."
- The seduction statute made it into Georgia with its southern version making it unlawful for men to “seduce a virtuous unmarried female and induce her to yield to his lustful embraces, and allow him to have carnal knowledge of her.”
While such laws were sporadically enforced, there were a few men who suffered the consequences.
In Michigan, a man was convicted of three counts of seduction, but the appeals court did everything in its power to overturn the decision. It threw out two charges because the defense reasoned that the woman was no longer virtuous after the couple’s first encounter. The other charge was overturned after the defense claimed that the woman’s testimony–that they had had sex in a buggy–was medically impossible.
On some occasions, women used these laws in order to coerce men into marriage. A New York man in the middle of an 1867 trial that was headed toward conviction proposed to the alleged victim. The local minister was summoned, and the trial instantly became a marriage ceremony.