The Opposite of Rape

34 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2016

See all articles by John Gardner

John Gardner

University of Oxford (deceased)

Date Written: October 13, 2015


Nicola Lacey once lamented that a theoretical focus on rape, with its 'individualised notion of consent', tends to come 'at the expense of the development of a positive conception of what kinds of sexual relationships matter to personhood.' In this essay, building on an earlier essay written with Stephen Shute, I attempt to do some more detailed work on the 'positive conception' of sex with which rape is to be contrasted. I interrogate the 'individualised notion of consent' relevant to rape to see whether it has a proper place in the contrasting 'positive conception'. I conclude that it does not, and suggest that treating it as part of the relevant 'positive conception' may have pernicious consequences. When an 'individualised notion of consent' is too closely associated with good sex, hard-won feminist policy advances (giving women more control over their sex lives) tend to reinforce an anti-feminist ideology (representing women as passive in the sex itself).

Keywords: rape, sex, teamwork, intention, consent, agreement, activity, passivity, feminism

Suggested Citation

Gardner, John, The Opposite of Rape (October 13, 2015). Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 6/2016. Available at SSRN: or

John Gardner (Contact Author)

University of Oxford (deceased)

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