new (?) definition of rape

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jan 7 00:52:29 UTC 2012

There is no unified definition of rape in the US so the statement
suggesting that "Britain got there way before us" really lacks
foundation. The states' definitions of rape that removed the actual
force element range from the 1960s to the 1990s, but, at this point,
most if not all states have a broad definition of rape where there is
1a) penetration of of the orifices with a penis or 1b) penetration of
vagina or anus with a foreign object 2a) with a person who does not
consent or 2b) with a person who is not capable to express consent
(statutory rape). I really don't think it is it accurate to say that
Britain got there first--if anything, they are late-comers.

Recently, there has been a major legal flareup when a judge suggested
that a rape case in his court lacked the element of force. The
definition of rape has been evolving at least since the 1920s and the
majority of rape cases tried in US courts today (or plea-bargained
before trial) would have been laughed out of court in the 1890. Changing
statutory definitions, however, has proved to be far easier than
changing prevailing attitudes. At least three of the remaining six
Republican candidates expressed their believe in the fictional status of
date rape within the last 10 days.


PS: Now, if you bring up the changes that involve "battered spouse" and
the corresponding legal remedies, those changes are far more recent.

On 1/6/2012 3:10 PM, David Barnhart wrote:
> > From the e-OED:
>   2.
> a.     Originally and chiefly: the act or crime, committed by a man, of
> forcing a woman to have sexual intercourse with him against her will, esp.
> by means of threats or violence. In later use more generally: the act of
> forced, non-consenting, or illegal sexual intercourse with another person;
> sexual violation or assault.
> The precise legal definition of rape has varied over time and between legal
> systems. Historically, rape was considered to be the act of a man forcing a
> woman other than his wife to have intercourse against her will, but recently
> the definition has broadened. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, in the
> United Kingdom the crime of rape includes the penile penetration of the
> vagina, anus, or mouth of another person of either sex, where consent to the
> act has not been given. This includes marital rape: in 1992 the House of
> Lords, in its judicial capacity, decided that the previous understanding
> (i.e. that a wife had given an irrevocable consent to intercourse) was no
> longer part of the law. Sexual penetration of a child under the age of 13
> also constitutes rape irrespective of whether consent is obtained. In the
> United States the precise criminal definition of rape varies from state to
> state.
> date, gay, male, statutory rape, etc.: see the first element.
> Looks to me like Britain got there way before us in the US.
> Maybe this will be the Legal WOTY for 2012.
> Regards,
> David
> Barnhart at

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list