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Should the UK law on rape be changed?

(136 Posts)
prashad Thu 13-Nov-14 21:32:51

I anticipate some flack for this post, but please hear me out and hopefully we can have an interesting discussion about this.

UK law current states that rape is necessarily committed by a man; that the perpetrator has to insert their penis into the victim. Of course, this means men can rape women, and men can rape men, but women cannot rape anyone.

However, many people would define rape as 'forcing someone to have intercourse against their will'. In the dictionary, rape is defined as;

the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person."

It is my view that according to this dictionary definition, a woman can rape a man. Typical objections include the issue of erection when not aroused, but we all know that men can have involuntary erections when not aroused.

In light of the feminist aim of equality, should be campaign to change the law so that men who have been raped by women can have justice?

I know men who have woken up with a woman on top of them, or who have drunkenly had sex with a sober woman that they otherwise would not have slept with. Perhaps it occurs more frequently than we may think but men don't report it?

I am well aware that the above mentioned hypothetical assaults are against the law in the UK, but called sexual assault, and that the maximum sentences are the same, but why not brand such women 'rapists'?

Conversely, how would you feel if the rape of women by men was just called 'sexual assault' instead and the term 'rape' abolished from our lexicon?

Some men that I have spoken to about this are frustrated and unsupportive of feminism because of the perception that it seeks to increase the rights of women, rather than seeking to promote gender equality... and they site the lack of campaigning by feminists on issues where men are disadvantaged. Do you think that campaign for equality in rape law would be good for feminism because it would show a concern for equality in an issue where men are disadvantaged?

I'd also note that other countries (such as the United States) have updated their rape laws so that women can be convicted of raping men.

Thanks for reading.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 13-Nov-14 21:39:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Shlep Thu 13-Nov-14 21:40:02

I would gladly support a change like that.

prashad Thu 13-Nov-14 21:46:26


I've not been thinking about it very long, just today in fact after a conversation in work. I posted this because I'd like to hear other people's views, which I find interesting.

I'm not really the sort of person who would campaign, I'm too lazy. I don't even campaign for feminist issues. However, I do vote, sign petitions and speak out when people are sexist... and if this issue came to a vote, I'd support a change.

I'm aware though, that rape is a particularly sensitive issue to those who've been raped, and also to feminists because of a long and ongoing history of male violence against women in it's many forms. Even with this issue, no doubt, the probable under-reporting by men would still leave rape statistics heavily skewed against women such that it can be fairly considered a 'womens issue'... and so it would be natural for feminists to want to claim (for lack of a better phrase) the word 'rape' as something that is done-by-men.

TheLyingOldBitchAndHerWardrobe Thu 13-Nov-14 21:52:44

Why do men want feminists to campaign on their behalf? That's a particularly odd idea. I feel like I'm missing something.

Are disability activists called upon to represent the rights of able bodied people? Do members of racial equality movements often get asked to lend their strength to white power campaigns?

Why are women being held up to scrutiny for this?

Kewcumber Thu 13-Nov-14 21:57:29

and they site the lack of campaigning by feminists on issues where men are disadvantaged confused hmm

What OldBitch said.

AnyFucker Thu 13-Nov-14 21:59:43

I get it

You want women to sort it out for you

Hang on, I just need to make my husband a sandwich and then I'm right on it

KateeGee Thu 13-Nov-14 22:02:56

Yes it's like saying I am unsupportive of Age Concern or Save the Children because I am neither elderly nor a child. Or saying I don't support the cats protection league because I have a dog and the cats protection league isn't fighting against cruelty to dogs.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 13-Nov-14 22:04:39

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

scallopsrgreat Thu 13-Nov-14 22:08:54

"...a long and ongoing history of male violence against women..."

I think that answers your questions.

PuffinsAreFicticious Thu 13-Nov-14 22:09:58

No Katee, it's like saying that Age Concern should be campaigning for the Cats Protection League.

Men hold power, they make the laws in the UK, so, if they wanted to, they could change the present law.

Interestingly, there is already law which states that women need to seek consent for sex. It's within the sexual offences act. I would strongly urge the OP to fact find first.

I'm not saying it's a bad thing, or shouldn't be pursued, but you see, feminism is kinda busy fighting to free women from the oppression of Patriarchy, as soon as that's done, I'll join this campaign.

rootypig Thu 13-Nov-14 22:14:53

Feminists - or should I say women - are at fault confused

Men run the government
Men wrote the law
Men perpetuate the macho version of masculinity that is such an obstacle to discussing or acknowledging sexual crime against men

prashad Thu 13-Nov-14 22:20:40


As you can see from my original post, I am aware that there is a law which states that women need to seek consent for sex. But if they don't, it's not called rape, and the thread is about whether this is wrong or not.

To everyone...

For the record, I am a woman.

I think feminists should campaign for gender equality, and I think that issues are often not just 'mens issues' or 'womens issues', and that a more inclusive approach is needed to many things.

For example, I think many of the disadvantages women face in the workplace would benefit from increasing parental leave rights for men, or equalising the lop-sidedness of custody courts. This would help to remove the old-fashioned view that men are workers and women are mothers.

I can appreciate the you all prioritising issues that particularly affect women, since you are women, but if it came down to a vote or signing a petition (which is not a lot of effort). Would you be in favour of a change?

I was criticising feminists for not campaigning for this. It would be hypocritical of me since I'm too lazy to campaign for anything.

prashad Thu 13-Nov-14 22:22:14

Also, whilst it is true that there are more men in government than women.

We vote, and we have political influence. I don't think it's enough to suggest that men bring any legislative discrimination on themselves because a very tiny minority of the countries men are MPs.

ChunkyPickle Thu 13-Nov-14 22:23:14

Rape is the insertion of a penis where it isn't wanted, the gender of the owner of that penis is irrelevant, although most people with penises identify as men. It's a word for a specific act.

I don't think that expanding that definition helps anyone, including men who have been sexually assaulted, it just means that the word becomes more ambiguous (and so new words need to be invented to re-introduce the accuracy that you previously had with just one word).

Both men and women can be raped, both men and women can be sexually assaulted, both men and women can sexually assault and both men and women can rape (albeit women with penises*). Just because it is generally men that rape doesn't mean that we need to re-define the word to make it more inclusive. Better that fewer men rape.

note that I'm not getting involved at this point with the trans stuff, just mentioning it as a point of balance to the OP's whataboutary

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 13-Nov-14 22:23:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

prashad Thu 13-Nov-14 22:24:00

That should say, "I WASN'T criticising feminists for not campaigning for this."

Why can't we edit posts?!

thedancingbear Thu 13-Nov-14 22:25:55

I don't see what this change in the law would achieve in practical terms.

On the subject of women having sex with men without the man's consent, undeniably, this is something that happens. I've had one friend complain that his current partner jumped on him before he'd had the chance to put a condom on; he was pissed off about this because he didn't want to be a dad at that point. An old university friend once woke at a house party to find a vague acquaintance on top of him trying to put him inside herself (I'm not sure where the erection came from though I presume it was morning glory). He was really quite freaked out by this experience but was able to laugh about it a week later.

Both of these situations, to the extent that you were able to reverse the sexes of the parties, would count as rape. Both of the men involved in the situation were very unhappy about what happened; neither was massively affected by it.

I am trying to get my head around the discrepancy between male and female responses to being in situations that would be comparable if the boots were on opposite feet. Whatever the reason for this is, I am wondering if this constitutes a justification for the fact that the converse situation (male on female 'rape') is not treated as seriously as it could be.

Not trying to derail - in fact I think it's at the heart of the matter and wonder if it knocks the stilts from under the OP's argument.

rootypig Thu 13-Nov-14 22:26:32

I don't think it's enough to suggest that men bring any legislative discrimination on themselves because a very tiny minority of the countries men are MPs.

Legislative discrimination. It's not as fancy as that. Most of the people in office are men. Certainly most of the people who write and interpret law are men. It is men who are in a position to make the change.

Why don't they? that is the more interesting question.

Imo, because they would prefer to adhere to the macho gender construct that excludes it.

AnyFucker Thu 13-Nov-14 22:27:51

Yes, you were criticising feminists for not campaigning for this

prashad Thu 13-Nov-14 22:28:30


I think the difference that it would make can be well demonstrated by the question, "How would you feel if the rape of women by men was just called 'sexual assault' instead and the term 'rape' abolished from our lexicon?".

Wouldn't you be against that? I would. I'm not sure I can quite explain why, but there is something about the word that indicates the severity of it, and there is something comforting about being able to brand the men with the disgusting label 'rapist'.

If I had two children, a boy and a girl; Both woke up one night to find their partner having sex with them. It seems odd to say to the girl "You were raped" but to the boy, "You weren't raped, you were sexually assaulted".

rootypig Thu 13-Nov-14 22:29:26

And damned if I think I should waste my time saving them from themselves, is the conclusion of those thoughts.

Agree with AF, how could you not have been criticising feminists. When I read your original post, it made sense to me and struck me as rather honest grin

YonicScrewdriver Thu 13-Nov-14 22:34:55

I am actually pro renaming rape to "grievous sexual bodily assault" or similar because I think lots of people do not see rape as the crime of violence it is but as "bad sexual etiquette" and phrases like "frape" minimise it.

And then Allison Pearson couldn't write an article called "Sorry but not all grievous sexual bodily assaults are the same" without sounding like even more of a twat than she does already.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Thu 13-Nov-14 22:35:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

YonicScrewdriver Thu 13-Nov-14 22:36:50

Your issue is that sexual assault covers a wide range of crimes whereas rape is something specific.

But in that situation (god forbid!) you would probably use "serious sexual assault" or similar to the male.

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