Consent and Body Policing

A New Mexico man was subjected to multiple invasive procedures after police viewed his clenched buttocks as probable cause to believe he was smuggling drugs.  After detaining Mr. Eckert for an incomplete stop in a Wal-Mart parking lot, he was taken to a hospital where doctors performed three digital examinations, one x-ray, three enemas (with stool searches), and a colonoscopy (for which he was sedated).  His attorney lays bare the heart of Mr. Eckert’s pending lawsuit:

“If the officers in Hidalgo County and the City of Deming are seeking warrants for anal cavity searches based on how they’re standing and the warrant allows doctors at the Gila Hospital of Horrors to go in and do enemas and colonoscopies without consent, then anyone can be seized and that’s why the public needs to know about this.”

Without his consent, Mr. Eckert was detained, forcibly medicated and worked upon, and eventually made to vacate his bowels in front of medical and police staff.  All this because of clenched buttocks.  This body policing, watching and criminalizing certain behaviors of body parts, takes away from private citizenship and bodily autonomy.  The invasive nature of Mr. Eckert’s experiences gives rise to claims of sexual assault, as he was penetrated without his explicit consent.  And as consent is one of the bedrocks of U.S. law, how safe are citizens to feel in their homes, cars, or even their bodies when their say-so may be overridden so easily?

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