Rape Definitions Through the Ages

The following definitions of rape are presented unedited from: Erika Eichelberger, “Mansplaining Rape,” Mother Jones, November/December 2012.

* c. 1780 B.C.: The Code of Hammurabi defines the rape of a virgin as property damage against her father. Married women who were raped were considered adulteresses. Punishment? Getting thrown in the river.

* 7th century B.C.: The book of Deuteronomy says if you rape a virgin, you have to give her father 50 shekels and take her to the alter. If you rape an engaged woman, it’s the death penalty.

* c. 250 A.D.: Raptus, the Latin root of “rape” (literally “seizure”), refers to the abduction of a woman against the will of her husband, father, or master. If the woman was raped, her “owner” could choose between receiving payment or seeking criminal penalties.

* 13th century: Under Saxon law, the severity of punishment varies according to the victim’s social status. If she is a virgin, the rapist is castrated; if she is married, a widow, nun, or prostitute, it’s up to the discretion of the courts.

* 1290: One of the earliest British legal texts presages Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO.): “Without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

* 1670: English judge and lawyer Sir Matthew Hale writes marital rape doesn’t exist since “the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract.”

* 1814: English physician Samuel Farr asserts that a woman can’t conceive without “the enjoyment of pleasure in the venereal act”; therefore, “if an absolute rape were to be perpetrated, it is not likely she would become pregnant.”

* 1889: Echoing Farr, Dr. Lawson Tait, an eminent English gynecologist, says he’s “pefectly satisfied that no man can effect a felonious purpose on a woman in possession of her sense without her consent.”

* 1929: The FBI defines rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.”

* 1993: North Carolina is the last state to update its law so that rape includes violating your spouse.

* 1998: Mississippi becomse the last state to ditch a provision holding that statutory rape isn’t really rape if the girl is not of “chaste character.”

* 2011: House Republicans push to limit taxpayer funding of abortions after rape by specifying that only “forcible” rape is covered. (Yhey fail.)

* 2012: The FBI expands its 83-year-old definition of rape to include date-rape, partner rape, and instances where the “victim is incapable of giving consent because of temporary or permanent mental or physical incapacity, including due to the influence of drugs or alcohol or because of age.”

* 2012: Akin declares, “if it’s a legitimate rtape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

The one addition to the above is the statement by Richard Murdoch, Republican candidate for U.S. Senator from Indiana, that rape is part of God’s plan.

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