Rape and the reasonable man

Law and Philosophy 18 (2):113-139 (1999)
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Standards of reasonability play an important role in some of the most difficult cases of rape. In recent years, the notion of the ``reasonable person'' has supplanted the historical concept of the ``reasonable man'' as the test of reasonability. Contemporary feminist critics like Catharine MacKinnon and Kim Lane Scheppele have challenged the notion of the reasonable person on the grounds that reasonability standards are ``gendered to the ground'' and so, in practice, the reasonable person is just the reasonable man in a gender neutral guise. These critics call for the explicit employment of a ``reasonable woman'' standard for application to the actions of female victims of rape. But the arguments for abandoning a gender-neutral standard are double-edged and the employment of gendered standards of reasonability is likely to have implications that are neither foreseen by, nor acceptable to, advocates of such standards. Reasonable agent standards can be dropped, in favor of appeals to the notion of a ``reasonable demand (or expectation)'' by the law. However, if reasonable agent standards are to be retained, gendered versions of such standards are not preferable to gender-neutral ones.



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Karen Haely
Ursuline College

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