chapter  7
18 Pages

‘Not Averse to the Arrangement’? Allegations of Collusion and Consent

Modern commentators have suggested that a high proportion of cases of raptus and abduction of women involved consensual sex or elopements. Abduction has even been described as ‘an alternative form of courtship’.2 They have been highly suspicious of the abduction of wives cases in particular, and have generally chosen to class them as ‘abduction’ in inverted commas.3 Two caveats should be entered with regard to such judgments. First, although consent can be suspected in some cases, and although there is evidence that it was feared by some lawyers and legislators, the evidence is not such as to prove that consensual cases predominated, either in court or in fact. Secondly, since the accepted view of what constitutes consent (and particularly the consent of women in a sexual context) has changed so much from the medieval period to the present, there is a problem in assuming that what seemed to medieval lawyers or legislators to be ‘a consent case’ involved consensual sex or elopement in modern terms.