Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was charged with a crime against nature when he performed cunnilingus on the victim without her consent.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under Tennessee law, cunnilingus is considered a punishable crime against nature.
It has never been the usual practice to describe the particular manner or the details of the commission of the act and where the offense is statutory a statement of it in the language of the statute, or so plainly that its nature may be easily understood, is all that is required.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is cunnilingus included within Tennessee’s “crime against nature” statute?
Held. Yes, conviction affirmed.
Fellatio is a crime within the statute as held in Fisher v. State and it would be a paradox of legal construction to say that fellatio, which is oral sex with the male genitalia, is proscribed as a crime against nature, but cunnilingus is not.
The Court expresses no opinion as to constitutionality of the statute because the application of this statute to private acts of married couples or consenting adults is not within the facts of this case.
Dissent. To hold that cunnilingus, an act approved by almost 90% of adults between 18 and 34, is a crime would seem to be judicial legislation of the plainest kind.
When a statute is based on the common law, courts must look to the common law to determine the elements of the offense.
The Court stated in Stephens v. State that since “crimes against nature” means the common law offense of sodomy and that such crime is well defined and described at common law that there is no danger that some kind of sexual perversion apart from this unnatural carnal copulation and unnatural sexual intercourse, could be embraced in the definition. However, here there is no sexual intercourse or copulation and the Court still affirmed the conviction.
What is or is not illegal sexual activity should be set out in clear and precise terms so as to remove the present confusion and uncertainty.
The attitude of the majority seems to be that since everyone knows what a crime against nature is, why spell it out. Since there have been so many disagreements as to what constitutes the offense however, such reasoning fails. Furthermore, if there is no need to define this offense, why should it be necessary to define every other offense in the statutes exacting penal sanctions.
Discussion. The Majority bases its decision on the fact that the Supreme Court of Tennessee had previously found that fellatio was included within “crimes against nature.” The Majority uses a broader definition than just sodomy, and includes all acts of unnatural copulation.