Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Conceptualizing Rape as Coerced Sex

Scott Allen Anderson, Conceptualizing Rape as Coerced Sex

Philosophers, feminists, and legal theorists have long criticized the current definition of rape as it is formulated in most of the states of the U.S. because of its dual “force” and “consent” requirements. Several prominent writers have recently sought to reconceptualize rape as “non-consensual sex,” thus omitting the “force” requirement. While there are some unmistakable practical advantages to such proposals, I argue that such a conceptualization risks failing to grasp what is distinctively problematic about rape for women, and why rape has the effect it does in supporting women’s gender oppression. I suggest that one of the reasons why consent-focused reform proposals have been so popular is because the dominant accounts of coercion in recent philosophical writing have not been suited to help identify rape in terms of coercion. I offer an alternative approach to thinking about coercion which, I argue, can replace the focus on “force” in current conceptualizations of rape in order to avoid their main difficulties, especially with respect to identifying “acquaintance” rape as such. I further show how conceptualizing rape as coerced sex does help explain its distinctive badness both for the individual victims as well as for women as a group.
 
Robin West's review and response, On Rape, Coercion and Consent, JOTWELL
 
Scott Anderson’s article Conceptualizing Rape as CoercedSex, in my view, is the best philosophical or legal piece on the subject of rape that has appeared in many years. Its basic insight is powerful, and persuasively argued. Rape, Anderson argues, should be understood neither as “forced nonconsensual sex,” as it is traditionally defined, nor as non-consensual sex, as most reformers today typically urge, but rather as coerced sex. Coercion, in turn, is “best understood as a use of asymmetric power that one sort of agent may hold over another sort based in the former’s ability to inhibit broadly the ability of the latter to act, by means such as killing, injuring, disabling, imprisoning, or drugging…. [thereby placing the former] in a position to threaten another with such harms or constraints in order to induce compliance with demands he might make.”

 

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2016/05/conceptualizing-rape-as-coerced-sex.html

Theory, Violence Against Women | Permalink

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