The legal heritage of the crime of rape
Joan McGregor is a professor of philosophy and adjunct professor of law at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Her interest in rape grew out of her earlier work on coercion and exploitation where she argued that given the unequal bargaining positions of individuals, those with more bargaining power (power can come in various forms) can use that power to exploit or coerce the vulnerability of the weaker party. That framework for coercion was not premised on the notion of explicit threats of violence. Most rapes, particularly acquaintance rapes, don’t involve explicit threats of violence. In acquaintance rape cases, the nonconsensual sexual interactions are a result of the unequal bargaining positions of men and women. The power that is used is not necessarily physical power but may be economic, social, political, or even exploiting the coercive environment where many women find themselves. McGregor subsequently wrote a book entitled, Is it Rape?: On Acquaintance Rape and Taking Women’s Consent Seriously, morally criticising the criminal laws of rape, arguing that the criminal justice system is supposed to protect individuals from harm from others but that it is not adequately protecting women’s sexual autonomy from harm.