Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Rape: Definition and #NounSwap Test

“As a woman, I demanded to be responsible & accountable for my choices and actions, equally to men.” – Blaise Wilson, Twitter, 27th March 2016 [8]

Update 28/09/2016: new petition has been launched - let's get this one debated in parliament!

Articles in this series:
Gendered Equality of Opportunity:
Definition of UK rape law: This article
Campaign Info:
Impact on Reports:
Denial of Women’s Impact and Agency:

Author: Blaise Wilson

In this series we will look at feminist’s favourite topic: Rape.

Campaign - sign the petition [9]:
[old petition:]

Based on our definition of Gendered Equality of Opportunity [1] we will start with a #NounSwap test of the UK legal definition and then look at the impacts of the current definition.

What is the UK Law?

The UK law is separated into several parts. We will concentrate on the main definition of rape, but the whole Sexual Offences Act 2003 should be reviewed using the #NounSwap Test.

The UK Rape law, part of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 [2], currently states:

(1)A person (A) commits an offence if—
(a)he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis,
(b)B does not consent to the penetration, and
(c)A does not reasonably believe that B consents.
(2)Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents.
(3)Sections 75 and 76 apply to an offence under this section.
(4)A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable, on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for life.” [Emphasis ours]

It becomes immediately apparent this indubitably fails the #NounSwap test as it makes it impossible for a women to rape a man. It excludes a women enveloping by concentrating on penetration, with emphasis on the penis (penetration with other objects is covered in a related law).

In layman’s terms rape is ‘forced to have sex against their will’. However if a women forces a man to have sex with her, under UK law this is not considered rape, but a form of sexual assault which not only carries a lesser sentence but has very different social implications. The very legal definition excludes female perpetrators.

What is very curious is the rape law breaks the Equality Act 2010 [3], which include indirect discrimination by

“Indirect discrimination

(1)A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B's.

(2)For the purposes of subsection (1), a provision, criterion or practice is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B's if—

(a)A applies, or would apply, it to persons with whom B does not share the characteristic,

(b)it puts, or would put, persons with whom B shares the characteristic at a particular disadvantage when compared with persons with whom B does not share it,

(c)it puts, or would put, B at that disadvantage, and

(d)A cannot show it to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

(3)The relevant protected characteristics are—

gender reassignment;
marriage and civil partnership;
religion or belief;
sexual orientation”

The Citizen’s advice bureau summaries this:

“Indirect discrimination is when there’s a practice, policy or rule which applies to everyone in the same way, but it has a worse effect on some people than others. The Equality Act says it puts you at a particular disadvantage.”

This means the Sexual Offences Act 2003 breaks the Equality Act 2010 by discriminating against both men and women.

It discriminates against men because when a women commits the same crime of forcing a man to have sex with them, the male victim cannot get equal justice.

It also discriminates against women because it does not recognise a women impact and agency equal to men. It denies them the right to be treated as equal adults and to take personal responsibility for the consequences of their actions. This in turn promotes the idea that women are less capable than men, that their actions have less meaning and, thus, promotes discrimination against women.

Rape Culture

Wikipedia [5] references Attenborough (2014)[6] and defines Rape culture as:

“Behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, trivializing rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by some forms of sexual violence, or some combination of these”

When looking at the current attitudes of male victims of female rape a clear rape culture emerges. There are many myths surrounding male rape victims [7], including concepts that men wanted it, that they should have fought back, and trivializing it by its lack of legal recognition. Worst of all the rape culture denies that women are capable of rape – denying women’s right to action.

It perpetuates the concept that women are acted upon, and cannot act - that women are only objects when it comes to sexual deviancy. The very legal definition of rape turns women into victims, and men into perpetrators.

But, you’re a Feminist?

EgaFem is a Feminist body. We believe women should be treated equally to men. This includes not only the benefits, but also the responsibilities. We believe that women should be treated as adults, that women’s impact and agency should be equally recognised to men’s. We believe women should be equally responsibility for the consequences of their actions – be they the rewards of hard work, or the punishments of criminal acts.

Women must be equal at all levels, not just when it benefits or is convenient to them.

Anything less belittles women, increases discrimination against them and treats women as if they are children. And we believe this is misogyny.

Equal rights, equal responsibility. For better or worse.

Up Next

Coming up, we will investigate if women have equal impact and agency to men when it comes to rape. We will investigate if women can, and do, force men into sex, and look at impact on their victims.

Previous article: Gendered Equality of Opportunity:

Next article:
Campaign Info:


[1] Gendered Equality of Opportunity:
[2] UK rape law:
[3] Indirect Discrimination:
[4] UK Citizen Advice, Indirect Discrimination:
[5] Wiki Rape Culture:
[6] Attenborough, Frederick (2014). "Rape is rape (except when it's not): the media, recontextualisation and violence against women". Journal of Language Aggression and Conflict 2 (2): 183–203. doi:10.1075/jlac.2.2.01att.
[7] Male Rape Victims:
[8] Blaise Wilson Tweet:
[9] Sign the Petition to change the UK Rape Law: