The 'Normal' Successes and Failures of Feminism and the Criminal Law

29 Pages Posted: 8 May 2013

See all articles by Victoria Nourse

Victoria Nourse

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2000


To write of feminist reform in the criminal law is to write of simultaneous success and failure. We have seen marked changes in the doctrines and the practice of rape law, domestic violence law, and the law of self-defense. There is not a criminal law casebook in America today, nor a state statute book, that does not tell this story. Yet for all of this success, we also live in a world in which reform seems to suffer routine failures. Many believe, for example, that feminist reforms have rid rape law of the resistance requirement; however, recent scholarship makes it clear that the resistance requirement has not disappeared. Similarly, many believe that feminism has rid us of the marital rape exemption; in fact, there is evidence that marital rape immunities remain on the statute books. Finally, many believe that reform has brought widespread judicial acceptance of battered women's self-defense claims; but the battle over this defense in the law reviews and popular media testifies to the continuing lack of settlement of the underlying issues.

Keywords: feminism, domestic violence, self-defense, rape reform, marital rape reform, battered women

JEL Classification: K00, K30, K39

Suggested Citation

Nourse, Victoria, The 'Normal' Successes and Failures of Feminism and the Criminal Law (2000). Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 75, pp. 951-978, 2000, Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 13-037, Available at SSRN:

Victoria Nourse (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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