Accusing a husband as a criminal responsible for the rape of his wife is one of the difficult feminist battles in the world. When the word rape is mentioned, people tend to think of the offender as a stranger or malicious person. Often none tend to view rape in the marriage context. Essentially, even the women themselves find it impossible for a husband to rape his wife. The legal definition of rape is sex done without consent. However, with the natural and legal expectation of compulsory sex in marriage, it has been difficult to accept that indeed marital rape is possible (Gavey, 2013). Actually, in the eighteenth and seventeenth centuries, some jurisdictions viewed marital rape as an impossible scenario (Horvath & Brown, 2013). This was based on the argument that if during the contract of matrimonial the wife consented, then when it comes to sex she should not withdraw the consent given that sex is a hidden term of the marital contract (Horvath & Brown, 2013). Studies show that many of the marital rape victims are reluctant in reporting the crime to the police; perhaps because they do not understand whether it is a crime, other victims think people will not understand or believe them while others fear that their marriage will fall apart (Malinowski, 2015). In this regard, the paper seeks at explaining the sociological aspect of the marital rape by looking into how the social institutions such as courts, police, and families act in promotion of the vice.
Marital rape is referred to as any sexual act by a spouse committed against or without the consent of the other partner, obtained through the use of force, intimidation, threat or in a condition that the other partner is unable to consent(Gavey, 2013). These acts involve any sexual acts that are humiliating, demeaning, redundant and painful. Marital rape is also referred to as wife rape or conjugal rape (Gavey, 2013). Marital rape affects millions of people all over the world thus resulting in social problems that are considerable. Studies show that in the United States of America at least one person is assaulted sexually in every two minutes, with statistics showing that women are the most affected victims of rape (Horvath & Brown, 2013).
Unfortunately, the numbers of marital rape cases are often incorrect given the fact that it is one of the least reported crimes in the United States. Apparently, it is estimated that in every 6 minutes a female is raped in the United States (Horvath & Brown, 2013). About 85% of the rape cases reported was committed by an intimate partner (Malinowski, 2015). Statistics show that out of eight adult women that are a victim of rape in the United States, only 15% report the rape case to the police and only 3% of the women who are victims of the individuals they are familiar with reported the case to the police (Malinowski, 2015). About 30% of the sexual assaults reported by the adult women are committed by their husbands, boyfriends or ex-husbands (Malinowski, 2015).
Families’ norms and beliefs are the main reason as to why the marital rape cases still exist in the society. The families continue to believe that once a woman gets married, she becomes a property of her husband. In consequence, the males are regarded to be superior over females and hence have all the rights over the females’ life (Lindsey, 2015). For the society to overcome marital rape situation, they must first condemn this mindset that takes away the women dignity in the society (Lindsey, 2015). Around the year 1970, the women’s movement succeeded in changing the rape myths through the creation of programs pertaining rape awareness (Malinowski, 2015). Additionally, the women managed to frame rape as a violent. Conversely, rape myths still persist even in the recent years. For example, in the years 2002, Basile argued that the majority of the United States citizens have embraced the rape myth (Horvath & Brown, 2013). Marital rape is therefore still viewed as a lesser crime with less physical and emotional damage than other crimes.
The strong believe in families that a woman must remain married and if not so she becomes a disgrace to the family is another contributor to marital rape (Malinowski, 2015). Some of the families go to the extent of encouraging their daughter to remain married even if she faces both physical and sexual violence so as not to put the family to shame. In this case, the well-being of the daughter is not a priority. Others marry their daughters to rich men regardless of their behaviors, in return the daughters end up in marriages full of both sexual and physical violence and assaults. Other women depend on their husbands for financial support and hence, they opt to endure the sexual assaults from their husbands rather than losing the financial support (Malinowski, 2015).
In the society, a woman is viewed as a homemaker and therefore she is expected to do all it takes to build her marriage. In consequence, many of the families do not recognize marital rape as a crime; actually, they view marital rape condemnation as a weapon to enhance marriage destruction (Bellack et al., 2013). A woman is thus required to endure the violence from her husband so as not to break the marriage. If in any case, a woman reports that she has been raped by her husband, the society will first point figures on her. Other people will blame the wife for failing to be a good wife while others will blame her for being the source of the rape by denying the husband his conjugal rights (Lindsey, 2015). Even before a woman gets married, she is exposed to an environment that humiliates the wife and uses a wife as a sex object. Thus, after marriage, the wife is already aware that she has no power over marital rape. In many instances, the wife finds it difficult to explain how the marital rape happened. After marriage, it is indicated that a woman has no authority over her own body and becomes a subject to her husband (Lindsey, 2015). How then will one accuse a husband of rape if he was demanding for his conjugal right?
Although different people have different attitudes toward rape in relation to the situation surrounding the rape, the majority of the people’s attitudes are related to the gender patriarchal and stereotypes which are anchored in controlling the body of the females in every aspect (Malinowski, 2015). The threat that comes with sexual violence is used in terrorizing the women as well as reinforcing the patriarchal description of the place of women in the society (Bellack et al., 2013). Moreover, the theory of sex-role socialization explains the interaction of spouse in marriage regarding sexual life. According to this theory, women are supposed to be composed, passive and submissive in their marriage while the men are supposed to be antagonistic and dominant. Thus, the marital rape is taken as an expression of the traditional perception of sex roles. Apparently, marital rape is one of the circumstances in which the male dominance on female remains unsettled (Malinowski, 2015).
The judicial system also has been accused of contributing to the silence of the marital rape victims. This is because the marital rape cases have been indicated to be having the lowest rate of conviction as related to other violent crimes (Horvath & Brown, 2013). Besides, the relationship between the offender and the victim also contribute mainly on whether the victim will report the rape or not. Even though much of attention is focused on the acquaintance rape in the arenas of research and clinical, the marital rape issues have been overlooked more often. Studies reveal that at least 10% women who are married in the United States get raped by their own husbands (Horvath & Brown, 2013). However, the existence of husband exemptions on marital rape indicates that marital rape is still viewed as a lesser crime than all another form of sexual assaults.
Marital rape became a crime in the year 1993 in all 50 states of America (Horvath & Brown, 2013). The law enhanced some changes in the rape laws that existed there before and recognized the marital rape as a criminal act. In 2006, the Violence Against Women Act 2005 was passed into law (Horvath & Brown, 2013). However, 30 states still give some exemptions to the husbands accused of marital rape (Horvath & Brown, 2013). The act of using the relationship status in determining whether or not a crime has occurred shows how the attitudes of the people toward rape differ relative to the relationship between the victim and offender. Studies show that the society uses marital rape exceptions to strengthen the male dominance in the society (Horvath & Brown, 2013).
In addition, the Social Construction Theory indicates that the political arenas, as well as the lawmaking bodies, are dominated by males. Hence, the majority of the national laws reflect the men’s interests since the olden days. In this case, the marital rape law is believed to be a means in which the male attempt to affirm themselves over the women (Malinowski, 2015).The notion of marital exemption is a social view that argues that a husband cannot be accused of committed rape to her wife. The ancient common law jurisdiction understood marriage as an institution where a husband controls all aspect of his wife’s life including her body. This jurisdiction also named adultery as an invasion of another man’s property. With this, a woman is taken as a property of man and therefore both marital rape and adultery were treated as a crime against husband’s rights (Horvath & Brown, 2013).
There exist three types of marital rape which are much known to the larger society. The first one is the battering rape where the women are exposed to both sexual and physical violence. Some women are beaten-up all through the sexual, violent act while others may get raped after an incidence of physical brutal where the husband tries to make up by having sex with the wife. Majority of the marital rape cases fall under the battering rape category (Gavey, 2013). The second type of marital rape is the obsessive rape where the men use sex to assault women (Gavey, 2013). This kind of marital sex is becoming more popular as the days pass mainly through the pornography videos (Bellack et al., 2013). The third form of marital rape is force only rape. In this category, husband uses the amount of force only needed to coerce the wife. The husband may not use battering at the start, but if the wife refuses the sexual intercourse, then the husbands use assault (Gavey, 2013).
Researchers have indicated that today’s pornography has become far more extreme and awful than some decades ago. Researchers pointed out that about 90% of the pornographic scenes involve physical violence toward the women, for instance, hair pulling, spanking, bondage, slapping and choking (Bellack et al., 2013). Also, there is the case in which men forcefully put their penis down the throat of the women to the extent of choking and vomiting. Besides, in other cases, the men put their penis in the anus of the women and after placing it in the women’s mouth to experience their own excrement. These aggressions have become more fashionable to the young men of age between 18-25 years in the society, thus changing their attitude toward sex in marriage (Bellack et al., 2013). Research shows that with the increase in pornographic viewing there is a relative increase in rape cases, marital rapes, rape myths acceptance as well as in the reduction of empathy and sympathy toward the sexual violence victim. Furthermore, research pointed out that the men who associate themselves with watching pornographic materials are more prone to committing sexual violence than the ones who don’t (Bellack et al., 2013).
All forms of marital rape have negative effects, both mental and physical, on the well-being of the women. For instance, the women may get injuries, torn muscles, laceration, bruising and soreness in their private organs. Other victims may suffer from black eyes, broken bones, bladder infections, stillbirths, infertility, and miscarriage or even get infected with sexually transmitted diseases like HIV (Gavey, 2013). In addition, victims of marital rape are more likely to suffer some extreme psychological illness such as depression, anxiety, intense fear, post-traumatic stress, low self-esteem, distrust in relationships, shock as well as suicidal ideation (Horvath & Brown, 2013).In fact, marital rape is more traumatizing than any other rape since a husband commits it and the wife is expected to live with her attacker even with the fear of other attacks. This is different from other rapes where the offender is a stranger (Gavey, 2013).
It is high time that the society acknowledges the concept of rape as rape despite the relationship between the offender and victim (Horvath & Brown, 2013). All the societal institution should come together and put up measures that would help in treating marital rape as any other rape crime. Visibly, marriage is a continuous journey, and it is expected for people to have sex after marriage. But if a husband finds out that his wife is using sex as a tool in marriage he should involve a counselor. If the situation gets too serious and uncontrollable, then divorce might be a more suitable response to the situation rather than rape (Horvath & Brown, 2013).
Although marital rape is one of the most common sexual assault in the society today, it is normally overlooked and hidden in the marriage curtains. Many of the social practices as well as legal aspects have encouraged male dominance and denied the women their bodily integrity thus violating the female’s human right. The society has encouraged the marital rape by supporting men in blaming the wives of denying their husbands conjugal rights. For marital rape to be eliminated the legal together with the family system must treat it as a crime. Furthermore, the women must come out of the societal beliefs and fight for their justice.