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History of Marital or Spousal Rape Essay

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Updated: Mar 21st, 2022


In sociology, marriage is the union between a man and a woman and plays an imperative role in trying to define families. Nevertheless, the definition of marriage varies from one culture to another and sometimes, historically. Putting these variations aside, marriage remains a paramount concept, that is, a socially certified connection in a sexual relationship involving a man and a woman. Normally, in any relationship, every partner tries to please the other one. However, we cannot exactly define how far this will continue. Sometimes, problems can occur in a relationship and cause separation. Among the very many problems that occur in marriage is undesired sexual intercourse.

When a man and a woman enter into a relationship, they make various commitments aimed at protecting their relationship with the exclusion of undesired sexual intercourse-marital rape. In general, marital rape comprises of any uncalled-for sexual contact or forceful penetration (anal, vaginal, or oral), intimidation, or when a partner is not in a position to consent. In most cases, marital rape affects women.

Once committed, it leaves a lasting physical and psychological effect on the woman. Research indicates that 10 percent and 14 percent of married women undergo spousal rape in their marriages. Worse still, women fear reporting these cases as would implicate their partners, and many people hold the view that it is the role of a woman to please a man and not vice versa. The paper will explore the development of spousal rape, its impact on women, and ways of eradicating it (Raquel, 1999, pp. 1-4).

It is hard to determine the exact place and period when marital rape began. This is because many of the marital rape cases go unreported as women fear criminalizing their partners. History reveals that men force their wives into having sex without their consent. In fact, most societies do not even recognize marital rape. In the United States for example, until recently, many had the view that rape is forcing a strange person into sexual intercourse.

Clearly, this exonerated men who committee marital rape. This exemption became the basis of the development of marital rape. To add weight to these exemptions and develop marital rape further, the Chief Justice in 17th century England wrote that the husband is never guilty of spousal rape since he is lawfully married to his wife through reciprocated matrimonial consent and indenture. Thus, to him, the concept of marital rape never existed.

This verdict created a notion that women had no right to deny their husbands sex once they get married. For a long time, this justification went unchallenged until the 1970s when the women’s movement demanded the removal of spousal exemption as it discriminated against married women. Nevertheless, it took a long time for many states to realize the gravity of the matter before ratifying it. Eventually, in 1993, the United States together with other 50 nations criminalized marital rape as a sexual offense subject to punishment. Nevertheless, 33 countries including India have not yet removed the spousal exemptions.

This means that the subsistence of these marital exemptions in 33 states signifies that many people hold the view that rape in marriage is not a crime and is lesser as compared to raping a stranger. In addition, these exemptions perpetuate the real meaning of marriage and create the notion that wives are objects of sex. Moreover, the continuation of these exemptions brings a new definition of marriage as an entitlement to sex (Drucker, 1979, pp. 2-3).

Social Distinctiveness in Spousal Rape

Irrespective of one’s social class or age, spousal rape is something that affects all marriages. According to Russell (1990), women falling in the upper-middle class experience more rape from their husbands than any other class. Additionally, Russell asserts that spousal rape is dominant among the African-Americans as compared to women from other races such as white, Latinos, and Asians. Regarding the decision to leave their rapist-partners, the probability of Latino women doing that is too low.

In fact, many of them believe that sex is a marital responsibility. On the other hand, white women are more likely to leave their husbands following marital rape as compared to African-Americans. Nevertheless, the decision to leave a husband depends on the economic stability of a partner. In most cases, financially independent women are more likely to leave and establish their own homes (pp. 8-41).

In an act aimed at curbing this vice, women should report the matter to the police for further interrogation and criminalization. On the other hand, religious leaders should advise couples on ways of avoiding marital rape as many women who fear reporting it to the police find it easier when they report it to the clergy.

Effects of Marital Rape

Marital rape causes both psychological and physical effects on women. For example, through marital rape, women can suffer from torn muscles, injuries around private parts, lacerations, bloody noses, broken bones, knife wounds among others. Gynecological research shows that some of these physical effects can result in infertility, vaginal stretching, and miscarriages. On the other hand, spousal rape can result in long-lasting psychological effects characterized by sexual dysfunction, flashbacks, and emotional twinge (Campbell & Alford, 1989, pp, 946-949).


Although not all nations have criminalized marital rape, it is quite clear that marital rape is violence against women that causes both physical and psychological effects. In addition, marital rape is traumatic and if it occurs, it leads to loss of trust among partners. Thus, the problem needs quick attention from leaders and society in order to avoid further emotional imbalance among women. Additionally, sociology researchers should examine the reasons that make men rape their wives and perhaps propose strategies of controlling and eradicating this menace.


Campbell, J. & Alford, P. (1989). The dark consequences of marital rape. American Journal of Nursing, 89, 946-949.

Drucker, D. (1979). The common law does not support a marital exemption for forcible rape. Women’s Rights Law Reporter, 5, 2-3.

Raquel, K. (1999). Marital Rape. Web.

Russell, D. (1990). Rape in marriage. New York: Macmillan Press.

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