Sexual Agency and the Unfinished Work of Rape Law Reform

Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence (Cynthia Grant Bowman & Robin West, eds.) (Edward Elgar Publishing) (2018 Forthcoming)

33 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2018

Date Written: June 11, 2018

Abstract

For half a century, feminist legal scholars and activists have worked to reconstruct the retrograde foundations of rape law. In place of chastity protection, I argue that sexual agency underpins the modern law of rape. I begin by describing the construct of sexual agency, emphasizing how feminist insights have enriched a more familiar ideal of autonomy in ways that bear directly on sexual violence. I then apply the theory of sexual agency to three areas of relatively successful law reform efforts—substantive, evidentiary and procedural. I also consider the limits of rape law’s progress, again by reference to sexual agency. The agency frame recasts how a set of necessary reforms has fallen short of its intended target. I consider one final challenge to women’s agency that has become increasingly salient in the current #MeToo moment—acquiesced-to (unwanted consensual) sex. I conclude that, while the promise of female sexual agency remains unfulfilled, it should endure as the desideratum of reform.

Suggested Citation

Tuerkheimer, Deborah, Sexual Agency and the Unfinished Work of Rape Law Reform (June 11, 2018). Research Handbook on Feminist Jurisprudence (Cynthia Grant Bowman & Robin West, eds.) (Edward Elgar Publishing) (2018 Forthcoming). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3194173

Deborah Tuerkheimer (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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