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Tennessee Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws

Most of us are well aware that nonconsensual sexual activities like rape and sexual assault are illegal. But could you get in trouble for consensual sexual activity? Does “mooning” your friends constitute indecent exposure? And what about anti-sodomy laws? Here is a brief summary of prohibited consensual sexual activity laws in Tennessee.

Sexual Activities Laws

Just as other jurisdictions have state consensual sexual activity laws, the Volunteer state has laws that regulate even voluntary sexual activities. These regulations generally reflect the social norms of that particular state, and may change with the times. Tennessee’s prohibited consensual sexual activity laws are similar to found in most other states, with prohibitions on prostitution and indecent exposure. And while the state still has an anti-sodomy law on the books, the Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the statute unconstitutional in 1996.

Consensual Sexual Activity Laws in Tennessee

The main provisions of Tennessee’s prohibited consensual sexual activity laws are highlighted in the following chart.

Sodomy Laws Applicable to

Same sex

Penalty for Sodomy

(Former statute ruled unconstitutional in 1996)

HIV Exposure and Compelled Testing for Offenders

68-10-107 Exposure of others by infected person: Class C misdemeanor (sexually transmitted disease); 39-13-521 When a person is initially arrested for allegedly violating §§39-13-502, 39-13-503, 39-13-506, 39-13-522, that person shall undergo HIV testing immediately; 39-13-516 Aggravated prostitution. Committing prostitution with knowledge that such person is infected with HIV/AIDS, class C felony

Other Crimes Relating to Consensual Sex Acts

39-13-511 Indecent exposure: Class B misdemeanor; 39-13-512, 39-13-514, Prostitution and promoting prostitution, class B misdemeanor; 39-13-515 Promoting prostitution, class E felony

While courts have generally found that the state cannot regulate what happens in a private bedroom, Tennessee law prohibits public and non-public indecency, which outlaws everything from flashing to public sex and even non-public nudity if it is intended to be seen by other people. (The statute does have exceptions in for breastfeeding mothers.) Tennessee also has extensive statutes covering HIV testing for alleged prostitutes and harsh penalties for knowingly exposing others to the virus.

Tennessee Prohibited Consensual Sexual Activity Laws: Related Resources

As noted above, state laws often reflect our social attitudes regarding sex, and thus are subject to change. For more additional information and resources on this topic, you can visit FindLaw's Sex Crimes section. You can also contact an Tennessee criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a sex crime or if would like legal assistance with a sex crime matter.

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