What is Marital Rape?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 January 2020
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Marital rape refers to forced sexual contact between spouses. This controversial crime is still often misunderstood, and was not recognized as a criminal act in many regions until the late 20th century. The criminalization of marital rape has required an overhaul of centuries or even millennia of common and existing law, and plays an important part in the debate on the rights and responsibilities incurred through marriage.

Centuries of law assert that marital rape cannot exist; since women have been historically treated as property rather than rights-bearing individuals in marriage, it made little sense to lawmakers to stop a man from sexually using his rightful property. According to most common law systems throughout history, once a woman married, her body belonged to her husband and she had no right of refusal.

This belief came sharply into contrast with women's rights movements of the 20th century. Having obtained the rights to vote and own property among other things, activists argued that marriage could not materially diminish individual rights, thus forced sexual contact was still rape regardless of marital status. The tide turned on the long-held system of marital rape exemptions beginning in 1965 in Sweden. Most of Europe, Asia, and North and South America followed suit throughout the final decades of the 20th century. Criminalization of marital rape is far from global, however, and some experts suggest that it remains a highly underreported crime even in regions with laws against it.

There are many different circumstances in which marital rape can occur. Just as with other forms of rape, any situation where one person is forced to have sexual contact, or is too incapacitated to be able to refuse sexual activity, can be considered marital rape. Any type of sexual behavior, including oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse, can be considered rape if coerced without consent.

Some experts suggest that there are a plethora of reasons why marital rape is not reported or prosecuted. Some partners are afraid of their spouse, or unwilling to leave a marriage due to financial instability, the presence of children, or religious doctrine. Others hold the belief that marital rape cannot exist, and it is the right of a married person to use force if sex is refused. Another reason may be a lack of evidence that may occur with a marital sex crime, or that conflicting stories about the incident may render prosecution useless.

Marital rape is considered a serious and widespread crime, despite legislation and attempts to educate the public. According to statistics released in 2009 by the US Department of Justice, 41% of female rapes and 5% of male rapes in the United States were perpetrated by an intimate partner such as a spouse. Considering that some experts suggest that only one out of three marital sex crimes is reported, numbers may in fact be much higher.

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Post 11

My husband raped me last year, then told me to go ahead and call the police. He turned it into hell for me, his father, his friends, and when everything was said and done, the DA who dealt with marital rape said yes, I would get a conviction but she hoped I understood I would serve much more time than my husband if the jury saw any reason to give him any time at all after reading my journals.

My husband was locked into staying in the marriage in 1985 because I am bipolar. They issued a guardianship. This means he can get a divorce if he can come up with the capital for my care. He could never possibly

come up with the amount they wanted.

Due to problems in his career, we thought we would get him to be more controlled after his return from the military. For instance, he wanted off second shift, and he had the seniority to get off it but I promised if he would compromise his rights in seniority after just a little while. After he proved himself, I would allow our marriage to normalize. But with new additions to the workforce, there were always problems with someone needing a holiday, a vacation, or a weekend so they could be better fathers or mothers and then there were always those who used the church to get out of Sunday work. If they missed a day in the week then they had to work on Sunday to make up for that day unless someone else could work in their place.

In 31 years, my husband had 6 days off total, not because he wanted to work all the time; it was because his father and others felt that he was the best choice to work. I know many weekends he was just told to come to work because he was being farmed out to other departments because they could not get others to come in. But I maintained the sexless marriage as the control.

Last year he caught me in one of my affairs. First he destroyed the man – fractured his scull, broke his jaw, several ribs, dislocated his knees. All because the man thought he was going to prove my husband was worthless as a man. He swept his cane and put my husband face first on the floor. My husband lost the feeling in his legs four years ago in a spinal cord crush caused by MRSA and my husband showed him who was pathetic. I was slapped into a corner when I tried to stop him from doing more damage.

My husband was taken to a stress center for anger management. My boyfriend was taken to the emergency room. I have seen him one more time since. All it took to reduce the man to a crying pile of fear was the sight of my husband. I was supposed to go to a political function with a friend of his fathers' two weeks later. When the center sent him home, my husband decided he was done with a sexless marriage after 31 years. He said he paid for my roof, my clothes, my food, cleaned and repaired the house and fixed most his meals himself, while I went and enjoyed the life he provided.

I had been staying away to keep from having sex with him after he started taking his rights, because his father said the first time he had what he wanted all bets were off, and we would never get his cooperation again and it had become hard enough. Well, he told me that night I owed 31 years of marital life and the note was due. I could see by the look on his face he was not going to be put off again. I tried to promise things like I will meet anywhere he wanted after the event, even invite his mother and father and talk things through. He said my promise meant nothing. I tried to run out the door, but he ripped my dress off saying he paid for it and the dress stays, I knew there was no escape at this point. I begged him please not like this and he took me to the living room floor, ripped my underwear off and forced me. His father's friend was hammering on the door and heard me crying when my husband answered the door. He said he did not care what my husband wanted – he was coming in and getting me. He ended up being thrown face first into the cement drive off the porch after trying to force his way past, The center had called his father about his release.

My husband's mother and father arrived just in time to see his father's friend hit my husband and my husband's reaction. His father took his friend to the hospital, and his mother came in and thought at first it was a problem with my husband.

She asked what set him off, and I told her every promise I made to her husband. I told her the number of years her son had been left without a married life. I told her what was required and the reasons why her son had never been home for a holiday, and the next thing I knew was I had a huge red handprint on my face. We heard my husband and his father yelling at each other on the porch and went out to see my husband advancing on his father with his cane in one hand and a very angry look on his face, telling his father to either get off his porch or end up like his friend.

His mother went out and asked my husband to back up a second and when she turned to my husband's father, put an even harder hand print on his face. I knew it stung. His father asked why then looked at me and knew what his wife had been told. He said, “You can see why we had to control him. He would have told everyone to go to hell years ago, then taken what he thinks are his rights. His rights are what we are willing to give.”

His mother said, “Well, your rights just became nothing. For supper we are going home and you have the right to shut up and never interfere again. We are leaving and your daughter in law better think of what her next move is, and you'd better too.”

We tried to take what happened to the courts. I would have gone to prison much longer than my husband after my journals were given into evidence. I learned that the law does not allow for the manipulation of a man's life by use of sex at a future time, They call it maintenance of an indentured servant by use of blackmail or coercion, by use of threat, and conspiracy to deny civil rights by use of threat, as well as marital extortion. It was proved my husband provided more than 99 percent of the marital funds. He did more than 70 percent of household chores and virtually 100 percent of the home repairs. The woman's rights advocate said that if anyone was abused, it was my husband. Other women feel my husband should turn me over his knee, and like John Wayne in McLintock used a coal shovel on my rear Just like Maureen O'Hara.

My husband has not been part of society for years and really does not have any compunctions about it, He wants the society where we were destroyed. even and especially if it takes his father to his knees as well as what he calls his friend and their brats.

As for myself, I stay to frightened not to do as my husband wants. He has gone from a person under control to what his father now calls a terrorist because he won't cooperate.

So a woman and a husband's family can be the ones thought to be abusive when the husband decides he will no longer negotiate for sex. My husband used it to bring his own abuse into sharp focus. There have been 12 men hurt now when he decided he did not have to take the jokes, jibes and attempts at control, as well as their insults he endured as well as what he was nicknamed at work. I knew many people knew I denied him sex to get him to do what we wanted. I had affairs with several of them. But his nickname was the embarrassing name of “monk,” indicating he went through life sexless. Like a bunch of kids they kidded him about it but kept it from him that I was not.

Now it's time for me to pay the piper. His father was one of the twelve men hurt my husband backhanded him across the kitchen on Memorial Day. When he was working all those holidays I knew he resented it intensely. He was there for 16 hours on those days.

I remember the last New Years before his retirement when we took his sandwiches to him and one of his co workers who was with us yelled, “We will see that we dance a dance for you with her tonight and make sure she is well kissed at midnight.” He went in to work the next work day and he was telling my husband how good I was in his bed that night. It never happened but my husband was up on a shelf 50 feet in the air with him and he pushed the man off the shelf. I found out with his father about this this year.

His father says I can't believe someone can be that resentful of a joke, It was not the joke but the fact he was forced to work that night with a shotgun at his back. Then some jerk that knew it that should have worked instead makes the jibe. That's why he ended up with his hip and both legs broken, and never came back. My husband kept something called logs and his own words show how angry he is. If someone tries to interfere again, I don't think that my husband will allow their survival the next time even if it means my husband's own survival is not in consideration.

Post 10

Shouldn't the husband know you don't want to be penetrated when you start wearing pants to bed and much less when your young son sleeps in the bed with you?

I have been married now for almost 22 years and my son will be 21 in a couple of months. I have stayed for my son but I am miserable. I didn't even tell him No when he asked until a few years ago but he still thought it was OK to do me whenever he wants to. I thought I deserved it. I know that's not true now, but it seems too late. I am not worth anything to anyone. When it happens now, I just wish I would die. I hurt inside and feel nasty all over!

Post 9

I am now divorced and had three children with the man who used the date rape drug on me four days after we met. I didn't even know or want to admit something had happened. I woke up with him on top of me and I had specifically said I do not want to have sex. We were using drugs so I took the blame, as I am learning most victims do. I left that night never to see him again. But he had my phone number and kept calling me every day. Long story short, drugs were involved during the entire relationship and then I married him. I finally sobered up -- literally -- and slowly found the courage to leave

the marriage. However, during our 10 year marriage he was always insisting on getting high and having sex, no matter how I tried to stop him.

All I can say to those who do not agree with this being a crime is, you haven't lived with the shame, being used as if you are a piece of nothing. Every single time, he just did what he wanted and I would go numb as if it all just didn't matter. It was all I could do at the time. They emotionally beat you down, stripping all your thoughts away from you. You don't matter; you don't have a voice. I was lucky I got the courage to crawl myself out of the black hole I was in. I send strength to any woman in this isolating place.

Post 8

@anon148722: You said that "It's not fair if you have to ask to have sex while kissing and pawing each other." Well, if she is kissing and pawing in return, then obviously she is a willing participant, but if she is too drugged or drunk to answer, or has, in fact, answered no and still gets forced into a sex act, then that's entirely different. Do you not get that?

Post 7

My ex husband raped me while we were separated but trying to work things out. He laid me on my stomach and him being a lot bigger than I am, began to enter me. I told him no many times since my grandparents were outside our bedroom door in the living room. I told him no a lot of times. Now I am wondering how I can go about charging him for what he did to me. I never returned to the house after that and never was in the same room alone with him after this happened.

Post 6

I told my husband no, but he kept poking his penis at my back. Finally, he just rolled me over, did it, then went to sleep as I cried. It was painful, he knew this, and yet, there you have it. Once? No, many times! I thought he had a right to it as we were married! That is actually one of the reasons we divorced. He hurt me, tore me and made me bleed, again and again. And he got away with it.

Post 5

Equality means this: If a man wants to have sex with his wife, can anyone consider it a rape case, or marital rape? What great feminism! If the husband has been criminalized under this concept, is not it more rape for him? Why are husbands the only ones who want sex? Why do wives run away from sex? Why does equality not work here?

Post 4

This is crap. It's just another attempt at defrauding the husband. Next it will be against the law to have sex on your honeymoon. No sex without a permit. If you're not in my bedroom in my house and can see what's going on in there, how can you prove this? The funny thing is if she is so scared why is she asking for half? Just some more crap to mess over the man.

Post 3

I am a victim of marital rape and I am shocked. I do not know what to do.

Post 2

I can't believe that anyone would say that marital rape is not rape. A woman is a person, not a piece of property. She shouldn't have to put out when he wants or face rape she can't report. That's just disgusting and advocating the abuse of a person and her rights to her own body. If a marriage falls apart and the couple doesn't get divorced it doesn't mean that he has 'booty rights' any time he wants.

I was raped by my ex-husband while we were married and it took me years to realize that it was what had happened. We'd been at a party, gotten drunk, and I'd said no and protested several times, but he kept

going. Finally, I gave in because, in my drunken state, it was easier to deal with the sex than to fight back.

I said no. Just because I didn't kick and claw and press charges doesn't mean that what happened to me wasn't wrong. It was and I have to deal with the fact that someone I loved and cared about felt like taking advantage of me while he could. He didn't have that right. No one should ever have that right.

Post 1

I trust my wife and I don't think she would do this to me. But I can just imagine how marital rape laws could tempt a wife in a painful marriage on the brink of divorce to accuse her husband of rape. I don't know all the marital rape laws, but if they have them, I sure hope the standard of proof is extremely high, and that the penalties are much lower than normal rape.

Can you imagine a man getting 20 years for having sex when she is drunk? What about 20 years for waking one's wife up with sexual activity? Something not fair about the whole situation is that crimes the other direction would be ignored.

Let's say

a man's wife has sex with him and he is drunk, and he accuses her of rape. He would get laughed off. If my wife woke me up by having sex with me, I would say thank you. But if a guy foolishly does that to a wife who does not want it, thinking it is okay, several years down the road, they get a divorce, and he gets a rape charge.

The idea that a spouse has to give specific consent for sex to be legal is one that is dangerous, too. In marriage there should be 'implied consent'. How romantic is it to ask to have sex while you are kissing and pawing each other?

Marital rape involves sex with your own partner who you basically are committing to have sex with as a part of the package when you marry, should carry the same penalty as someone attacking a stranger or someone on a date and stealing sex from him/her. I don't think the penalties should be the same as for conventional rape. And if a guy does this, he is going to have to suffer the penalties in how his relationship works out.

I wish they would keep the whole category under the 'assault' laws, have an extremely high burden of proof, and only pursue the most severe cases.

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