Sex and Sexism Back in the Day

–From Jody R. Nathan, University of Oklahoma College of Law, Date of event: 1982.

I started law school at the University of Oklahoma in 1982. One of the crusty old law professors was George Frazier; nicknamed “the Tiger.” He taught civil procedure (and was instrumental in getting Oklahoma’s new pleading code drafted along the lines of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure) and Remedies. He was a great guy with a deep gravelly voice. In Remedies one day, the subject of loss of consortium came up. One of my classmates asked him “How do you figure loss of consortium damages? Is it the cost of comparable services?” He laughed and said, “Well, (pause) yes, (pause) I guess that’s one way you could figure it.” (McClurg note: Traditionally, a primary component of loss of consortium damages was loss of a spouse’s sexual “services.”)

In the first week of Civil Procedure, demurrers were being discussed. I asked a question and mispronounced demurrer as demure. He responded, “Well, (pause) Ms. Nathan (pause) demure is, (pause) well, what young ladies OUGHT to be.” Needless to say, I never mispronounced the word again.

My Torts professor, Peter Kutner, also had a sly sense of humor. One day, he was explaining the idea that the law does not provide remedies for slights — and gave us a Latin phrase de minimus non curat lex. To help us remember it, he also provided a limerick:

There once was a man named Rex

Who had a very small sex

He kept his composure

During indecent exposure

De minimus non curat lex.

I have remembered both the term and the limerick ever since.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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