Can a Woman Rape a Man and Why Does It Matter?

Criminal Law and Philosophy 13 (4):599-619 (2019)
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Abstract

Under current UK legislation, only a man can commit rape. This paper argues that this is an unjustified double standard that reinforces problematic gendered stereotypes about male and female sexuality. I first reject three potential justifications for making penile penetration a condition of rape: it is physically impossible for a woman to rape a man; it is a more serious offence to forcibly penetrate someone than to force them to penetrate you; rape is a gendered crime. I argue that, as these justifications fail, a woman having sex with a man without his consent ought to be considered rape. I then explain some further reasons that this matters. I argue that, not only is it unjust, it is also both a cause and a consequence of harmful stereotypes and prejudices about male and female sexuality: men are ‘always up for sex’; women’s sexual purity is more important than men’s; sex is something men do to women. Therefore, I suggest that, if rape law were made gender neutral, these stereotypes would be undermined and this might make some difference to the problematic ways that sexual relations are sometimes viewed between men and women more generally.

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Natasha McKeever
University of Leeds

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References found in this work

Speech acts and unspeakable acts.Rae Langton - 1993 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (4):293-330.
Rape Myths and Domestic Abuse Myths as Hermeneutical Injustices.Katharine Jenkins - 2017 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 34 (2):191-205.
The wrong of rape.David Archard - 2007 - Philosophical Quarterly 57 (228):374–393.
Unjust Sex vs. Rape.Ann J. Cahill - 2016 - Hypatia 31 (4):746-761.

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