Criminalizing Sex: A Unified Liberal Theory (Book Introduction)
Forthcoming, Oxford University Press (February 2020)
18 Pages Posted: 29 Jan 2020
Date Written: 2020
Starting in the latter part of the 20th century, the law of sexual offenses, especially in the West, began to reflect a striking divergence. On the one hand, the law became significantly more punitive in its approach to sexual conduct that is nonconsensual, as evidenced by a major expansion in the definition of rape and sexual assault, and the creation of new offenses like sex trafficking, child grooming, and revenge porn. On the other hand, it became markedly more permissive in how it dealt with conduct that is consensual, a trend that can be seen, for example, in the legalization or decriminalization of sodomy, adultery, and adult pornography. This book explores the conceptual and normative implications of this divergence.
At the heart of the book is a consideration of a deeply contested question: How should a liberal system of criminal law adequately protect individuals in their right not to be subjected to sexual contact against their will, while also safeguarding their right to engage in (private consensual) sexual conduct in which they do wish to participate? The book develops a framework for harmonizing these goals in the context of a wide range of nonconsensual, consensual, and aconsensual sexual offenses (hence, the “unified” nature of the theory) - including rape and sexual assault in a variety of forms, sexual harassment, voyeurism, indecent exposure, incest, sadomasochistic assault, prostitution, bestiality, and necrophilia.Taking on a diverse collection of moral and legal puzzles, arising out of real-world cases of alleged sexual misconduct, the book situates the theory of sexual offenses in the current cultural context - including the #MeToo movement and the ongoing revision of the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code.
Keywords: consent, autonomy, criminalization, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, voyeurism, indecent exposure, incest, sadomasochism, prostitution, bestiality, necrophilia
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