Affirmative Consent

Autistic Student Who Kissed Wrong Person Expelled for Sexual Assault



An autistic 20-year-old who attends special-needs classes at Navarro College in Waxahachie, Texas, was recently kicked out for sexually assaulting another student. What did he do, specifically? He hugged a female student and kissed her on the top of the head, having mistaken her for someone else.

Brian Ferguson is moderately impaired by his autism but can speak well enough and enjoys attending classes. He was walking down a hallway when he encountered a woman he wrongly thought he knew. According to

The woman, who has not been identified and could not be reached for comment, turned out to be a stranger.

"He gave her a hug and kissed her on the top of her head," [said Staci Martin, Ferguson's mother]. "He's 6'5″, so when he gives hugs, he'll give you a big hug and kiss you right here on the top of your scalp."

The school called it an assault, she said.

"And then they labeled it 'sexual assault' because of the kissing," Martin said. "They said a kiss is considered an assault."

District administrators ultimately decided to let Ferguson return to classes—but at a high school, not his college.

No doubt the kiss was inappropriate, although one would expect administrators to exercise some discretion, considering both his condition and the ultimate harmlessness of the gesture. As College Insurrection noted, Ferguson's actions aren't really any worse than the vice president's creepy kissing of a little girl last week.

Which is not to say that there was nothing wrong with what he did. He is a big fellow; the female student might have been legitimately frightened by him. If it happened repeatedly—if Ferguson was regularly giving hugs to random strangers—I might think that administrators would be justified taking some action.

Actual instances of sexual assault should be dealt with firmly, of course. But there is a danger in conflating Ferguson's actions with real violence. Unfortunately, with the affirmative consent movement on the rise, more and more students will soon be grappling with a definition of sexual assault that no longer squares with real life.

Hat tip: Hans Bader

NEXT: Should Muhammad-Depicting Cartoonists Be Executed or Merely Imprisoned?

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  1. At least her friends didn’t convince her to walk off the broken glass in her back. #rapeculture

  2. This doesn’t happen without a complaint.

    So, who complained? Names, please.

    1. That hallway’s designated Rape-Culture Monitor?

  3. Bush backrubbed Merkel, and it sure looked unwanted to me.

    Maybe, like Chavez, she could smell the sulfur and it freaked her out.

  4. Would I be completely out of line to say I hope that either the girl or the administrators who blew this out of proportion burn in hell? What kind of asshole punishes a retarded kid for doing what retarded kids do?

    1. He’s a big adult who’s autistic. He’s not a ‘kid’.

      1. He’s under 26 so he is a kid!

      2. Close enough, really. Mentally and emotionally he will probably never be more than a kid.

    2. And Autism =/= ‘retarded’

      1. It’s frequently code for “retarded’ these days.

  5. “They all want cake.”

    He’s a huge guy who might just randomly grab and kiss someone. Whether they like it or not.

    Maybe what he needs is supervision. Maybe you can’t ‘mainstream’ everyone.

    1. Maybe a ban on tall, heavy autistic men in colleges is well overdue.

      1. Or maybe just expand it to all men, since I’m sure nobody wets their pants when a retarded chick kisses some random dude.

        1. “since I’m sure nobody wets their pants when a retarded chick kisses some random dude.”

          as long as the strip club they’re at is located in the proper zoning district.

      2. And shut down every engineering school in the country?!

        1. BURN!

        2. Or math departments. Most of the engineers I know are reasonably socially functional. Math departments really are freak shows (I say as someone who majored in math).

          1. Physics departments.

    2. He’s a huge guy who might just randomly grab and kiss someone.

      It wasn’t random. It was mistaken.

      There’s a difference.

      1. Yep. As an Aspie with poor facial recognition abilities, I once almost kiss-raped a girl thinking it was my girlfriend.

        Of course, how many 5’7″ 110 lb Chinese ~20 year old girls get off a single plane from Amsterdam to Aruba?

    3. You can’t mainstream everyone, no. But this guy seems like someone who you can and should. If he makes a habit of hugging random strangers, that might be a problem. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

    4. fuck you with a pointy stick.

      1. This is the correct answer.

    5. Clearly none of you work with or have contact with people like this.

      He’s probably not scary to people who know him, but to people who don’t–as in the situation described–he was a huge guy that grabbed her.

      Did he let go when she started to struggle? Or did he tighten his grip and kiss his ‘friend’ on the head? Did he ever let go voluntarily? Or did he have to be removed, confused and afraid of the fuss.

      Some of you take umbrage at what I said, but it is true. You can’t mainstream everone. Not just for girls who are being called ‘bitch’ because you think she should just let a ‘retarded kid do what retarded kids do’. Sometimes ‘what retarded kids do’ is wrong or bad or dangerous. And they don’t understand it. And, in their feelings of frustration, they can make things worse.

      So yes, maybe he needs supervision.

  6. I’m a bit confused on autism as a special need that precludes him being held to the standards of non-autistic adults. That aside, if a person without autism came up behind a woman, gave her a hug and a kiss on the top of the head and said “oh shit! I thought you were someone else!” What would the punishment be? The autism becomes relevant if it stopped the young man from explaining himself. But absent a pattern, this is an innocent mistake that can be solved with a heartfelt apology.

    1. The autism becomes relevant if it stopped the young man from explaining himself. But absent a pattern, this is an innocent mistake that can be solved with a heartfelt apology.

      Well, if he can’t explain himself the apology might not be an option either.

      1. I’ll bet he absolutely totally apologized profusely immediately after he realized his mistake and explained his mistake.

        I bet it’s just some bitch that decided it would be OK to get him kicked out just because she can even though there was NoHarmNoFoul

    2. But that would require administration to evaluate whether there is a pattern, whether the mistake was innocent, and whether the apology was heartfelt.

      Easier to just go all “zero-tolerance”.

      1. nuance is hard

      2. Easier to just go all “zero-tolerance”.

        I’m using this.

        Zero-tolerance or not at all.

    3. How to treat disabled adults like that is a tricky one. If they really can’t function on their own and need a legal guardian, are they really adults who should be treated like normal adults? It seems like the same reasons why children have different rights and responsibilities from adults also apply to mentally disabled adults.

      It is pretty obvious what should happen for more severely disabled people. You aren’t going to throw someone who can’t even communicate in prison if he attacks someone. But since there is no bright line between disabled and normal (or whatever you call it) cases like this one that are kind of on the edge are tricky.

      1. You aren’t going to throw someone who can’t even communicate in prison if he attacks someone.

        Why not, if that’s the best way to restrain him? We do it with other dangerous animals, why not dangerous humans?

        1. I’m talking actual prison where felons go. You might have to lock that person up somewhere. I can’t deny that there are some people who just can’t function with other people and need to be restrained and supervised. But you don’t try them for assault and throw them in with all of the criminals (well, maybe you do, but I wouldn’t). That makes about as much sense as sending a 2 year old to prison for kicking its mother while having a tantrum.
          And we kill dangerous animals, for the most part. Why we don’t do that to dangerous people is a legitimate question, but a rather tricky and sensitive on when it comes to severely disabled people and children.

    4. But absent a pattern, this is an innocent mistake that can be solved with a heartfelt apology.

      Diminished capacity is a very useful concept; if a 2 year old kid grabs a candy bar and runs out of the store, people don’t call the cops, because people recognize that the kid lacks the capacity to understand why what he is doing is wrong. You merely take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

      As you pointed out, in this guy’s case it’s really irrelevant. He mistook some stranger for someone he knew, who presumably would appreciate his hug and his kiss, and the stranger should recognize that this wasn’t intended as an assault, the judges should have taken his mens rea into account and dismissed the proceedings against him etc.

      Instead it appears that nobody wanted to stick their neck out and stop the prosecutory train.

      1. No prosecution, just college rules, or non-rules.

        1. It’s still a prosecution, albeit a private one.

          Of course, I am using the word in its loosest sense.

    5. I thought autistic people were withdrawn. His will to hug & kiss someone he knew (even if that person wasn’t really there) looks like great progress to me vs. his autism.

      1. Not necessarily. It’s more that they have a hard time understanding social cues.

        1. The concept has outgrown the name?

          1. Yes. Autism can be a highly complicated condition and does not imply retardation. My son, who is extremely intelligent, is autistic (formerly called Asperger’s). He can memorize dialogue instantaneously but his memory recall of events that actually occurred to him is pathetic. He could solve geometric series in first grade, but couldn’t understand why his infant sister didn’t have to do homework.

            1. The Spectrum is bizarre. My son hears everything (like he’s a bat or something) and has incredible memory. Literally couldn’t tie his shoes until 4 months ago, as a 10 year old and doesn’t understand why you can’t tell the same joke everyday and get the same reaction (Funny the first day, why not the 2nd, 3rd, 114th)

              1. The hearing thing is fairly common I think. My son is the same. He has perfect pitch and can’t filter a damn thing out (unless he’s having a meltdown, in which case he hears nothing).

                I just told my son to stop telling jokes for the time being, they are usually inappropriate for the situation but he never understands why.

                1. Yep. Hears everything, I should probably have him around if I ever watch a Robert Altman film again. Joke prohibition is a good idea.

            2. //He can memorize dialogue instantaneously but his memory recall of events that actually occurred to him is pathetic

              Huh, I used to be/kind of am aspberger-ish, and I’m the same way. I can remember endless facts forever (as long as they’re STEM subjects or cooking/food, which means they’re interesting to me). Yet I suck at event memory.

    6. “But absent a pattern, this is an innocent mistake that can be solved with a heartfelt apology.”

      Penises are never innocent!

      Unless they’re gay.

    7. But absent a pattern, this is an innocent mistake that can be solved with a heartfelt apology.

      Pshaw, social interactions shouldn’t work that way!

    8. Exactly what I was going to say.

  7. Thin skinned idiots

  8. My wife once walked up to a guy who looked like me from behind and grabbed a big ole handful of his ass. A simple apology sufficed. The subsequent years of teasing about it has been punishment enough.

    1. Little did you know that guy killed himself a couple of years later because of the mental anguish.

      1. “Oh man, I could have been with her?”

    2. I’ll do better. My wife was, for some inexplicable reason, a fan of the Austin Powers flicks. We were in a San Diego outdoor mall when she looked in some knick-knack store and saw an action figure she thought was cool.

      Cue the “LOOK! IT’S FAT BASTARD!” with pointing finger right at the same moment a 350lb plus guy walks out from behind the display.

      The look on his face said “I’m going to go home and eat myself to death.”

      1. I laughed but immediately felt bad.

      2. Poor bastard, poor fat bastard.

      3. I’m guessing mission valley mall? The fashion valley mall has all the hot 18 y/o girls wearing miniskirts and Uggs

    3. I was at some crowded club thing with some friends.

      As we were working our way across the room, one guy’s wife reaches behind herself and without looking back yet with uncanny accuracy, gave Li’l Dean a very friendly squeeze and tug. Entirely by accident.

      Charges were not filed. Exploitation was not experienced. Micros were not aggressed.

      1. Dear Penthouse Forum…

        1. Did you miss the part where no exploitation occurred.

          Fortunately, we were both too drunk to be embarrassed.

  9. Even if this were an assault, which I suppose it technically could be, how the fuck is a kiss on the top of the head in any way sexual? If that is sex, then kissing your grandma is sex. It’s not as if he tried to stick his tongue in her mouth.

    1. If he had, from the top of her head, it would have been murder, not assault.

      1. Took me a minute to figure out what you were getting at.

        That would be some tongue.

    2. If that is sex, then kissing your grandma is sex

      All this depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is

      But, really, sexual and sex aren’t necessarily referring to exactly the same act. We know this because Marvin Gaye taught us all about sexual healing without actual sex.

      1. Fair enough distinction. Kissing your grandma isn’t sexual either (I would hope). Generally speaking, kissing (particularly if not mouth to mouth) is not sexual any more than shaking hands is. In large parts of the world it is a standard way of greeting casual acquaintances.

        1. “Kissing your grandma isn’t sexual either (I would hope).”

          1. Old ladies need love too.

  10. It sounds like a technical assault and battery. But if it was an honest mistake, just give him a stern warning and send him on his way.

    If it was *not* an honest mistake, I’d be for stronger discipline.

    I’m for accommodating disabled people in some situations, but not when it comes to disciplinary matters for this sort of offense. The only way the disability would be relevant would be to see if his “mistake” explanation was true or not. And then I’d see if he’s capable of being more careful.

    1. Technically, OK. But is it reasonable to press charges on someone who comes up and pats you on the back thinking you are someone else? A hug isn’t so different from that.

      1. Like I said, a stern warning – it’s a bit worse than a back pat if you’re a big guy hugging someone.

    2. “It sounds like a technical assault and battery.”

      I would assume (hope) that the lack of mens rea would suffice to put that down.

      1. Fair enough.

      2. What lack of mens rea? He didn’t intend to kiss her? He just tripped and fell into her?

        1. He didn’t actually do any harm, nor did he intend to.

          1. That’s mistake of fact. Mens rea is not what you think it is.

        2. No, he didn’t intend to kiss her. He intended to kiss the person he mistook this girl for.

          1. That’s mistake of fact.

  11. Hugs & kisses are good. Joe Biden can kiss me any time. If everybody hugged & kissed, the world would be so much nicer. You can’t feel mean about somebody hugging & kissing you.

    1. That’s my general feeling on the subject too. But I suppose people also have the right not to be hugged by strangers in public. You are kind of a dick if you press charges on someone for innocently doing so, though.

  12. “District administrators ultimately decided to let Ferguson return to classes?but at a high school, not his college.”

    Because it’s much, much better to send the “sexual predators” to minors.

  13. I just got paid USD 6784 working off my laptop this month. And if you think that’s cool, my divorced friend has twin toddlers and made over USD 9k her first month. It feels so good making so much money when other people have to work for so much less. This is what I do

  14. Forget the autism, a regular man hugging someone from behind he thought was someone he knew would not be assault. There is no intention to harm. Fuck everyone involved at the college. Assholes.

  15. The world has lost its mind. Even the lawyers fuck this up. I remember “transferred intent” from first year torts (you aim to shoot one guy but hit an innocent victim, you’re on the hook for that) but it boggles the mind what the derps are doing to the law regarding consent.
    Consent is what differentiates an assault from a boxing match. Or rape from sex. Why lawyers continue to fuck this up is bey- actually, no, it’s not. It’s “agenda law.”
    God, stories like this are so infuriating.
    I get it. He’s a big autistic young man – but if he weren’t autistic and just made a mistake, it wouldn’t be actionable because “mistake of fact” is an affirmative defense. i.e. He reasonably thought he had consent because he knew the person. No jury would convict, no judge with any sense would even let it go to them, and no sane prosecutor would ever bring that case. BECAUSE THERE’S NOTHING ILLEGAL HERE.
    I weep for humanity. I really do.

  16. “He hugged a female student and kissed her on the top of the head, having mistaken her for someone else.”

    This is sexual assault?

    What is this: He bashes her head with a baseball bat, then savagely rapes her.

    Pure, unadulterated sexism against men. It won’t change until enough men say they’ve had enough.

    “The Sexual Harassment Quagmire: How To Dig Out” http://malemattersusa.wordpres…..-quagmire/

  17. And this is why we need to teach men not to rape. Jesus, people – smarten up!

  18. Only by following zero tolerance can we achieve the new “Four Freedoms”:
    Freedom from Thought
    Freedom from Compassion
    Freedom from Understanding
    Freedom from Responsibility.

  19. Lets roll with it dude.

  20. TEXAS? The supposed state where people are freedom lovers….LMAO….someone needs to tell the citizens they also are one of the states that utilizes “renemwable” energy the most. Kind of like Sarah Palin whining about “distribution of wealth” when Alaska gets more of it than Massachusetts…. LMFAO Americans really should get free college educations….they really do need an education on their own states and country !!!

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