Kissing might seem like an innocent act, especially if done between friends or family members.
However, it can also be seen as a passionate form of intimacy between two people and can be the precursor to a sexual encounter or sexual relationship.
Whatever the context is, kissing someone without their consent is never ok.
In some states, kissing someone can be deemed sexual assault and can land you in jail.
This goes for both adults and children. The only way to ensure your kiss won’t land you in jail is to get consent beforehand.
Is a kiss considered sexual?
It’s important to understand where a kiss stands with the law when it comes to sexual encounters.
For many cultures and in many different countries, kissing can be a sign of greeting someone, and it is readily done to show affection or to introduce oneself.
For instance, this practice is known as “la bise” in France and has been around since the ancient Romans introduced the practice.
However, kisses to greet each other are usually done as a small peck on the cheeks, or a small peck on the lips that isn’t long enough to register as offensive or be viewed as romantic (10 seconds is the gold standard here).
If a kiss is done as a greeting and is customary in a foreign country you are visiting, chances are no one will bat an eye.
More than likely, local authorities will not arrest an individual for kissing you without your consent if it is customary in their country.
Keep this in mind if you’re visiting countries such as:
- Certain areas of the Middle East
and many other countries in between! When in doubt, simply ask, and if you feel uncomfortable with the custom, let it be known ahead of time.
When kissing goes too far
If you visit another country, a kiss might not mean much.
However, if you’re the victim of a sexual assault or sexual battery, an unwanted kiss can cause an immense amount of pain, discomfort, and distress to you.
Kissing is considered inappropriate when it is:
- Done between an adult and a minor in an attempt to be romantic/sexual
- When it is done without your consent
- When it is accompanied by threats
- When it is accompanied by other forms of sexual assault
- If the person who kisses you holds you against your will
- If a person initially agrees before the kiss, but later revokes the consent and is kissed anyways
Kissing a minor
Kissing a minor is common practice between a parent and their child, or even between other family members.
Kissing a minor will not land you in jail if it is not done in an attempt to be sexual or romantic.
However, if someone kisses a minor in an attempt to molest them, this is considered illegal in many states, although the ages will vary.
In California, this law is known as penal code 647.6, and the definition for it is as follows:
Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, engages in conduct with an adult whom he or she believes to be a child under 18 years of age, which conduct is directed toward a child under 18 years of age, would be a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
In order to go to jail and be charged according to this penal code, the victim must feel disturbed, irritated, offended, or injured by the conduct.
These feelings can, of course, be caused by a kiss given without consent.
You should also keep in mind that different states will vary laws according to their age of consent.
Although this California law applies to children under the age of 18, in North Carolina, the age of consent is 16.
This means minors 16 or older can consent to sexual conduct with another adult (including kisses).
Kissing adults without consent
Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights over their body autonomy.
Sadly, a recent case in Canada found a man not guilty of kissing and grabbing a woman without her consent. Why is this?
Shouldn’t a kiss be automatically considered sexual assault for adults? Shouldn’t anyone kissing another person without their consent be sent to jail for the act?
In a perfect world, the answer is yes. However, state laws are limited due to the fact that kisses might be seen as romantic and sexual, or they might be seen as customary traditions.
Kisses live in a gray area, where stealing a kiss might not be seen as sexual assault.
In fact, California, which has strict laws against molesting and kissing minors, also only defines sexual assault as involving the touching of “intimate parts,” such as the vaginal or groin area.
In counties such as Davie County in North Carolina, however, sexual assault does include groping and kissing without consent.
Getting legal help
If you find yourself at the receiving end of an unwanted kiss, you should seek legal help as soon as possible.
If your state does constitute unwanted kissing as sexual assault, they might have a statute of limitations.
This means you have a certain number of years after an incident occurs to report it to your authorities.
An unwanted kiss might leave you feeling confused, frazzled, betrayed, and violated. These are all normal feelings that you should seek help for immediately.
Sexual assault advocates are here to help you 24 hours a day.
You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or dial 911 in case of an emergency.
If someone has stolen a kiss from you and you feel you’d rather talk to them about the situation, make sure you seek help on how to approach them.
If a person is violent and has made threats toward you in the past, for instance, it’s best to confront them with the help of local authorities.
If a friend kissed you and you are now confused, you can still get legal help or help from local authorities before you speak with them.
At the end of the day, if you were kissed without consent, you have every right to pursue whatever legal action you can.
This can make sure your abuser faces the proper punishment, including fines and jail time.
Avoiding jail time
It’s important for people to understand when it’s wrong to steal a kiss and also avoid being seen as the aggressor in a situation.
There are several things to keep in mind if you’re planning on kissing someone. These include:
Asking for consent. Consent is key when it comes to kissing someone or otherwise interacting with them physically.
If you ask someone for consent for a kiss, make sure they do not revoke consent and it is truly a special moment between you two.
Don’t kiss while drunk, high, or blacked out. If someone is unable to give you verbal consent or is not in their right state of mind, it’s best to avoid kissing or physically touching them altogether.
For instance, if you attend a party and a woman or man is inebriated, don’t try to take advantage of the situation by making a move on them.
This is still considered kissing them without consent and can lead to potential legal actions!
Although not perfect, there are laws in place that can protect both adults and minors in case they are kissed without their consent.
These laws vary by state and vary according to what is considered sexual assault and whether kissing without consent falls under their statutes.
If you’re the victim of a sexual assault, even if it’s someone stealing a kiss from you, get legal help as soon as possible and speak to an advocate.