Why Sexual Penetration Requires Justification

38 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2007

See all articles by Michelle Madden Dempsey

Michelle Madden Dempsey

Villanova University School of Law

Jonathan Herring

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law


This article defends the claim that sexual penetration is a prima facie wrong: it requires justification. We defend this claim by reference to considerations relating the use of physical force required to achieve sexual penetration, the occurrence and risk of harm posed by sexual penetration, and the negative social meaning of sexual penetration in patriarchal societies. The step we take in this article is a preliminary part of a larger project. We are not here directly concerned with questions of criminalisation; we aim simply to map the moral landscape of sexual penetration.

Keywords: criminal law, sexual offences, rape, feminist theory

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K2, K49

Suggested Citation

Dempsey, Michelle Madden and Herring, Jonathan J. W., Why Sexual Penetration Requires Justification. Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 27, No. 3, p. 467, 2007, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 23/2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1026420

Michelle Madden Dempsey (Contact Author)

Villanova University School of Law ( email )

299 N. Spring Mill Road
Villanova, PA 19085
United States

Jonathan J. W. Herring

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

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