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So it seems Madonna pulled down the top of a 17 year old fan, partially exposing her to the audience at a concert in Austrailia.

The teen is ok with it, saying “Only I get to decide if I’m humiliated or not — why would people assume I am humiliated by my own breast, nipple, or body?” she said. “I didn’t realize my boob was such a big deal — it was nothing to me.” (source).

Ah, but is that the case? Of course, if this was, say, any male pop star ever, it would be decried as sexual assault, which is a valid claim. No prior consent was asked or provided, which is absolutely the threshold here in the US. While she may not sue, Madonna could still be on the hook for the crime of sexual assault, even without the victim testifying. The reality is that criminal law is intended to be absolute, and not require the pressing of charges in order to function. And in the case of non-misdemeanor crimes, cases may indeed proceed, even over the objection of the victim – after all, the crime either did or did not occur.

Let’s look at the other aspect – consent. None was given. Regardless of your opinion on the ‘affirmative consent’ issue, the basic threshold for assault has always begun with ‘was there consent before the act’. Always. And that was not the case here. In a way, by defending Madonna, one is defending the right of one person to invalidate the personal right to consent of another – if they are rich enough.

I would expect nothing will come of it. But it should – it very much should. Again, imagine exact same event sequence involving any male pop star. In order for a legal system to function, it needs to be impartial – and so if a man would be prosecuted for this, Madonna should be as well.

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