Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access



Second Department



Kelly Sorensen

Second Adviser

Jonathan Clark

Committee Member

Abigail Kluchin

Department Chair

Roger Florka

Department Chair

Jonathan Clark

Project Description

Every 98 seconds someone in the United States is raped, according to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. But the criminal justice system is failing to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous, and largely gendered crime. I propose that this failure is largely due to the current way in which the law defines rape, with the use of a consent based standard. A consent standard does not acknowledge the unique position women hold in society and the resulting gender-specific pressures placed on women. The legal system’s use of such a standard operates with a misunderstanding of what consent actually is, failing to address that consent cannot happen between a man and a woman given the gender hierarchy in our society. I instead propose that this consent framework is abolished and a coercion standard is put in place. This will solve many of the issues that have risen from the current standard and would count more problematic sexual situations as rape that currently would not be given that title. This coercion standard will focus more on the victim’s perception of risk, allowing victims to be more justified in coming forward with cases of rape, and subsequently holding more perpetrators accountable for their actions.