Virtually Rape: Should Cyber Sexual Offensiveness Constitute Rape?

23 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2019 Last revised: 1 Feb 2020

Date Written: October 22, 2019


Rape is the most severe sexual offense, involving one of the most feared and reviled acts a person can inflict on another. But what makes something "rape"? Initially, only penial-vagina forceful penetration; then, other forceful penial penetrations were added, oral and anal; and later the forceful insertion of inanimate objects as well. The requirement of using force lost its exclusiveness and much of its normative power, paving the way for other kinds of rape: sex by non-forceful coercion, sex by sedation, sex with incompetent victims, sex by fraud, and other forms of problematic sex. The normative debate about each form is ongoing, and in a manner of speaking, rape is a limitless idea. Where will the rape offense go next?

Cyberspace, apparently. The Israeli Supreme Court has recently affirmed convictions of rape performed by distant words. The perpetrators conversed with children, teenagers and adult women online, using fraud and blackmail to manipulate them into masturbation and self-penetration. This groundbreaking judicial development is the inspiration to a normative analysis, revolving around Western notions of rape. Should such ill-intended communications constitute rape?

The article will normatively scrutinize the virtual rape thesis. It will analytically deconstruct the normative notion of rape into three facets, and examine each separately: the physics of the offensive scenario; the settings thereof, the manner in which sexual autonomy is violated; and finally, the matter of proper criminal labeling. It will conclude that while sexual autonomy is indeed under attack in cyberspace, the framework of rape is unsuitable to handle this form of offensiveness.

Keywords: Rape, Cyberspace, Sexual Autonomy, Law and Technology, Supreme Court, Fraud, Statutory, Coercive

Suggested Citation

Harduf, Asaf, Virtually Rape: Should Cyber Sexual Offensiveness Constitute Rape? (October 22, 2019). Available at SSRN:

Asaf Harduf (Contact Author)

Zefat Academic College ( email )

11 Jerusalem St.
Zefat, 1320611

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