Rape and marriage
Posted on September 13, 2011
I’ve covered the subject of marital rape a number of times on this blog, which probably goes some way to explaining why I get so many hits from people searching for information on it. These posts for instance remain some of my most popular, and they continue to attract hits:
“Your husband has a right to expect regular sex”
More on husbands and their ‘entitlement’ to sex
But even I was taken aback recently by the number of searches about marriage, coercion and rape that are landing people here, and by the actual search terms people are inputting.
By ‘I was taken aback‘, what I really mean of course is that ‘I found it completely and utterly fucking depressing‘.
Here are just a selection of search terms that have led people to this blog over the last 30 days:
‘how do i initiate sex when she is sleeping’
‘forced wife to have sex with me’
‘are spouses entitled to sex benefits’
‘is it ok to demand sex from your wife’
‘can i sue my wife for breach of wifely duties’
‘sex as a right of the husband’
‘should wife give husband sex when asked’
‘pressured to have sex with husband’
‘why does sex with my husband feel like rape’
‘how it feels to be raped by your husband’
‘if husband has sex with you after you said no is it a rape’
‘husband pressuring me to have sex’
‘sex out of duty’
‘should husband expect sex from wife’
‘can a wife withhold sex legally’
‘wives duty to sexually service her husband’
‘my husband pressured me to have sex even after i say no’
‘can he penetrate while i’m sleeping’
‘when your husband says he has rights to you sexually’
‘is it my husbands marital rights to have sex with me’
Now obviously some of those searches could be just general queries around the issue of marital rape and so on, and some could be from the same person typing in different phrases to try and find as much information as they can – I’m by no means trying to make any kind of claims around this being some sort of scientifically accurate peer reviewed study or anything. But equally I surely can’t be the only one to look at that list and think “Christ, it’s not just young people who need sex and relationship education in this country.“?
In a lot of ways I’m glad that those searches have got people here: I hope my writing has provided some of the answers they’re looking for. But just in case there’s still any doubt, let me reiterate the legal position:
The marital rape exemption was done away with in this country in 1992. So husbands do not have a “right” to have sex with their wives, and wives are not under any “obligation” or “duty” to sexually service their husbands. And yes, if your husband has sex with you even after you’ve said no, that is rape.
And from Rights of Women:
“A number of terms are used in relation to rape that appear to differentiate between different types of rape depending on who the defendant is and what relationship he has (if any) with the complainant. For example, reference may be made to marital rape, acquaintance rape, date rape or stranger rape. None of these phrases have any legal meaning as it is not relevant what relationship, if any, a defendant has or had to a complainant. Nor is it relevant if the act complained of occurred within a relationship. If the defendant intentionally penetrates with his penis the vagina, anus or mouth of the complainant without her consent where he does not reasonably believe in her consent the defendant has committed rape, regardless of the circumstances in which the incident occurred.“
As for whoever it was who typed this into a search engine and ended up here:
“can’t stop stalking her”
Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t provide me with details of who you are……
The Rape Crisis National Freephone Helpline is open from 12-2.30pm & 7-9.30pm every day of the year: you can call them on 0808 802 9999
I agree with much of what you have to say in this post, but wanted to bring up the issue of rape definition: I think it’s important to note that rape isn’t just a man penetrating a woman in one or more particular orifices without consent. Rape can happen without the involvement of a penis, or without the penetration of an orifice, or without a man, even.
I find it interesting that we don’t have all these popular terms like: stranger murder, friend murder etc.— when you try a murder it is for the act itself, not about the relationship.
And scary that 1992 was the year rape in marriage became illegal. I hope people reading this blog get a true education about all of this. Now that all this rape is occuring, and men still feel entitled to coerce sex from wives, we need a court system that can deal with this. I personally think the world would be a better place if men just stopped forcing sex on anyone.
Really shocking stuff. I hope some of the searches directing to your posts included ‘feminism’ ‘sisterhood’ women’s rights’ etc. but somehow I doubt it.
Just read the previous threads as well as this one. I think as long as PIV het sex is the only sex on offer, women are going to get bored. We need a way to allow exploration of female sexuality in safe spaces, i.e. safe relationships – possibly by banning PIV het sex for a while – and then maybe both partners in a long-term relationship would be a bit happier sexually. However, this would mean that the average male would have to put aside his need to a quick – and ultimately, i would argue, empty – orgasm and concentrate on his wife’s needs without pressuring her. I know, I know, too complicated for the average male to cope with.
I don’t ‘like’ this as in enjoy it, but I like that you’ve written it.
Reading those search terms, especially ‘‘why does sex with my husband feel like rape’’ has made me feel very sad and a little bit sick.
Steph: I agree, however finding a partner that will comply with that scenario is difficult. My ex would be kind, fun and friendly with me just before he wanted sex and after he became aloof, angry, moody and detached. It was a while before I spotted this. A hug from me was a signal to him for sex. I couldn’t even be intimate without the constant pestering for PIV. I’m not alone. Friends have confided much worse.
‘if husband has sex with you after you said no is it a rape’
Shows how colonised women become when they enter marriage; it’s hard to escape this and certainly I would never judge someone who put this into a search engine.
Abuse under colonisation is difficult sometimes to spot, especially verbal abuse. He may be playful in bed and insist on a ‘playful’ slap, eventually raising the bar; all abuse starts from seemingly innocuous actions or words.
@Lizsylvian, actually, that’s not strictly true. The act of ‘rape’, as defined by the Sexual Offences Act 2003, is an act of penetration by a penis. Other offences, whilst equally heinous, are termed differently by the law.
I think that a big part of the reason that many people believe in different ‘degrees’ of rape is because the term is not often enough used in its legally correct sense. All manner of sexual offences are very clearly labelled by the law and if we are to successfully fight against their perpetration then we need to promote an understanding of what the words ‘rape’ and ‘sexual assault’ really mean.
@SuzB Is coercive sex rape? I think it is. The signal could be as simple as ‘have sex with me or I’ll leave’ and this to a woman who has young children and no meaningful employment to fall back on. That’s rape because there is no meaningful consent here: consent is the key.
I also believe It can indeed be compared to the woman who decides not to fight back during a ‘surprise attack’* because they feel that to do so would put them in more physical harm.
*The only rape scenario ever believed, and even then the woman has to endure all sorts of procedures to document the truth, is one in which she is left severely injured, doesn’t know her attacker but nevertheless put up an attack because she has his dna under her nails.
Sorry ‘put up a counter attack’
Thanks for the comments everyone.
Emily – Yes, that was the one that got to me: it’s heartbreaking to think of someone typing that in to a search engine. But to me it also shows just how important the Internet is now, and how important it is that women’s advocacy organisations have a presence on the Internet. Women are obviously searching out this information, so organisations need to make sure they’re high profile enough on there for women to find.
That reminds me. Did you see this story last week?
@SuzB I agree that it is important to understand how rape is defined by the law, but also to remember that the legal definition of rape is being rooted in patriarchal and heterosexual ideas about what ‘sex’ is. In terms of the experience of and emotional effect on the woman, being penetrated with an object or being coerced into giving oral sex to a female partner (for example) are just as serious – we experience them as rape and we need to name them as rape even if the law doesn’t recognise that.
But I agree that the law is an important starting point and that it is good for every woman to know what the law is.
Yes Cath I did. What a brilliant response from this woman who utilised her knowlege to such excellent results. It must have been a terrifying experience for her but she kept her wits about her and knew she had to nail him.
The tactics she employed should be lauded throughout the land and used as part of a self defence for all women.
@Maggie, I absolutely agree with you, as does the law. It’s very clearly written that lack of consent is key in defining rape.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I believe that every sexual crime perpetrated against any man, woman or child, from street harassment to rape, is abhorrent and that there is no such thing as a ‘less serious’ version of any of those sexual crimes. I merely think that the term ‘rape’ is used so frequently in incorrect circumstances that the result is actually detrimental to the fight against sexual crime. You only have to look back to the Kenneth Clarke debacle of earlier this year, to see what I mean.
@Violet, with sexual crime, as with every other form of crime, the law has to make clear definitions in order to form an appropriate system of punishment. We all know that, as it stands now, it is far from an ideal system (especially in terms of how infrequently these punishments are actually brought to bear), but it’s all we’ve got at the moment, and as you say, it’s a starting point. It’s shocking, for example, how few people (men and women) know that street harassment is actually illegal. Perhaps if there was a greater awareness, we could begin to properly tackle the problem from the ground up.
For any woman who wants to know what constitutes ‘rape’ and not the narrow male-centric legal definition I highly recommend the book Real Rape Real Pain by Patricia Easteal and Louise McOrmond-Plummer. These feminist authors have first hand experience of being subjected to rape and sexual assault by their ex male partners. The most contentious issue is the continued widespread belief that men are entitled to have sexual access to their female partners whenever and wherever they wish. Women’s sexual autonomy and ownership of their bodies is still an ideal not a reality which is why much of what in reality constitutes male sexual violence against women is re-interpreted as ‘normal male sexual expression’ rather than male sexual violence against women.
The book was written to enable women to understand how and why so many men who claim to ‘love’ their female partners believe they are not committing rape but mere enacting male sexual rights to women’s bodies. In a nutshell – rape is rape whenever a male acts on his belief he has the right of sexual access to a female partner and his right supercedes her right to refuse. No male has spontaneously ‘combusted’ due to lack of sexual access to a female body but too many men claim they will ‘combust’ if they do not have regular penetrative sexual access to the female body.
Reblogged this on Addicteve's Blog and commented:
When you say no n he goes ahead…that’s rape!
Around September of 2012, my husband and I had laid in bed and eventually I had fallen asleep. Keep in mind, he was trying to “fool around” and I kept saying no then eventually fell asleep. I thought I was dreaming of him touching me down there and then we had sex (in my dream), but then I wake up from this “dream” and he was inside of me about to finish. I, in no means, remember telling him it was okay we could have sex, no did I agree to it. As soon as he had finished, he rolled off of me and just went to bed. I went to the bathroom feeling disgusted, betrayed, used. I told a friend the next day and he told me to report him, but I was too scared to because my husband said that I was awake and talking to him.
9 Months later, our baby girl arrived and I have yet to tell anyone of higher authority about it.
Is that considered marital rape? and even though it was over a year ago, can I do anything about it?
I’m really sorry to hear that this happened to you.
What you’ve described most definitely does sound like marital rape, but whether you’d get anywhere with it legally I couldn’t say. If you really want to pursue it though then go for it.
I think what’s more important than any legal recourse though is to make sure you’re getting the support you need. Have you thought about contacting a Rape Crisis Centre or other women’s support organisation? They can help you deal with the complex emotions you’re going through as a result of what happened to you, and talking to someone else might help you decide what you want to do next.
You don’t say where you’re posting from, but if you’re in the UK I’ve posted the Rape Crisis National Helpline number at the end of the piece.
This is what has happened to me. Not once not twice but over 100 times. I take medicine for my migraines. And/or sleeping pills. He then would have sex with me. I would wake up in the middle of it. It was awful. In feel used and violated. Ingot to the point where I was just plain scared and conditioned to it. This happened to me for years. I finally kicked him out of my room and am in the process of separating from him. It took my soul away. I turned into a robot. It took 3 years of counseling. I am just starting to heal from this. He hasn’t kissed me in 10 years. One night I pretended to be asleep and did not take my pills. He preyed on me. It was disgusting. It is the worst feeling ever. Please get counseling.
I am back at this site…Still toying with what has happened to me. I understand that I wrote this comment 1 year ago. I forgot I wrote it. But it still haunts me. I am almost there. I finally feel happy inside. He is almost gone….
Please get help!!!
A couple of comments from two different male perspectives. Was married for close to 20 years in a nearly sexless marriage. It was incredibly painful when the only one that I would have allowed myself to have sex with (I am not a cheater, no matter what) continually rejected me. Having lived that, I sympathize with men who are in a similar “no win” situation. During that time I was never unfaithful because for me that is wrong. I also never did and would never have forced it because that is disgusting behavior. But the way sex was used as a weapon against me was quite abusive and it took me many many years to finally see and understand the pattern of emotional abuse I was subjected to and to come to understand that I had to say no more for myself. Leaving that relationship, not for someone else, but for me, was the best thing I ever did for myself. It makes me sad to think of how many men and women both are beat down so much that they aren’t able to see their own self worth and see when they need to leave a bad relationship. As to any so called man who thinks sex is his right which shall not be denied that is just rubbish and disgusting. Guys, deal with it. If you are with someone who is not good for you sexually, then ask yourself why and ask yourself if you need to be with someone different. Be a decent human.
Now for my other perspective. Jump ahead many years and a second marriage to a woman who amazes me every day. I stop in the middle of work and thank God for this person. Before we met she was raped by a so called friend of her family and I don’t think the word “rape” was ever used by her until she described the events to me and I used it. She still feels guilt and shame for it. The rapist still interacts with her family and she can’t bring herself to do anything which may hurt his family. Men, you need to be men and respect women and human beings. Rape is rape period. Fathers, be a man and talk frankly with your sons about this. Tell them straight out that there are some sorts of behavior and actions that are not acceptable under any situation ever and rape is one. For my partner, best friend and most amazing of lovers in life, all I can do is love unconditionally and be there to listen and support.
Oh, and final thoughts…. if your wife won’t have sex with you and that is part of a whole pile of problems, then for crying out loud, get a different wife, don’t make yourself a criminal and a scumbag. Isn’t this obvious?
p.s. this is way off from what I was looking for with my search….
sorry forgot one last thing… to the women who have woken up to find a partner penetrating them, if you have not given them explicit consent then yes, it is rape. I am in the extremely lucky situation that my wife and I have both explicitly invited each other and offered our bodies to each other and made it clear (verbally) that the invitation extends to sleep time. But this is the only case (where clear consent was given while awake to having sex while asleep) where it is ok. With my first marriage I never ever would have considered it and she never would have offered it. Ewww. So not OK.
Guys, if you want to have sex with your sleeping partner, here is a crazy suggestion. Just say “honey, I have been wondering about something. I have this urge or fantasy that involves you, is this something that would be OK for us to try?” Duh. Not that hard. She may surprise you and say of course. And if not, well, you need to listen.
God bless youImve been married for less than a year and in my opinion all you husbands who are so sex starved that your houn wding your wife for it are just selfish. How a woman feels about sex is different for each woman on any given day. If she doessnt want to do it dont try and force,con,manipulate,giult, bribe or otherwise trick your wife into to having sex with you how about nout bieng so damn selfish and try and imagine what it must feel like to be her for a change, let her be and get some lotion.
As a child I was sexually abused for 10 years, the way I protected myself was to disassociate. Fast forward to adulthood and my husband, often I find during sex that I have gone elsewhere, with practice I’ve gotten better but I have to stay focused and present and constantly ground myself. However over the 14 years we have been together he has raped me in my sleep more times than I could count, it used to be such a regular occurrence that I had trouble putting a name to it. I would wake up to being penetrated, and my response felt so useless that for a long time I thought I was giving consent. I would just go back into the dissociative mode or try to pretend to be asleep, hoping it would be over quickly. Like a deer in the headlights I freeze and have zero response. The only way I combat his sexual assaults now is by sleeping on the couch, which has been my regular bed for almost 3 years now. He is angry at me because I do not reciprocate his physical needs and it is an endless feed of gaslighting. The topper is the urgency at which he grabs for my body when I am awake, like I was water to quench his thirst. He does not ask or gently approach, there is no semblance of romance, it is all grabbing prodding fingers all while asking why I no longer want him.