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Women as property in regards to rape.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Women as Property in Regards to Rape Rape in early modern England was considered a capital crime, however, it constituted about one percent of indicted felonies1. The majority of rape trials were held in silence due to the social restraints placed on women. Consequently, the silence of rape victims has resulted in a lack of historical records. Today, one identifies the crime of rape, as a violation of a woman, forcing her to submit against her will to sexual intercourse. This definition regards the violation in terms of the female victim, but this was not necessarily the case of rape law in early modern England. Instead, what was witnessed was a legal system that denied women the right to their own sexual autonomy. In medieval England the majority of felonies were those in accordance with property. Rape crime became much like property crime, a felony that was done to male's property. Much of the law in England pertaining to rape regarded the act as a violation of a father's property, and a women's assertion was viewed to be irrelevant. Legislations passed in eighteenth century English law reflected a female's lack of importance and rights, due to the fact that its purpose was for the protection of a father's property interest in his daughter. Baine's article states that rape was primarily a crime against property since it concerned the loss of virginity in rape. For instance the punishment of the rapist was dependent on the "quality of damaged property"2. The historical movement of rape law in England reflected a shift from the idea of protecting women as a particular form of male property, to preserving women's integrity and her right to be free from sexual assault. Although this represented a release from a male dominated legal framework thus posing as improvement for the view of women in society, what may be argued is that the legal system still acted as a vehicle portraying male supremacy. ...read more.

Middle

This solution allowed for a family to keep their honor after such "illicit defloration"26. This concept would not necessarily work in every situation not only because women would find it degrading, but also rape victims were often young girls. Persecutions during the medieval period almost always pertained to cases involving the virginity of young girls27. Primarily because rape was a crime against property and thus the law was concerned with the loss of virginity in rape. Bracton, the most prestigious authority of the Middle Ages explains how he felt "that payment in life and member (true felony) was only applicable in conviction for rape of a virgin, whereas a man convicted of raping a married women or widow would suffer corporal punishment only"28. Dependent on the women's virginity, rape would be essentially either considered a felony or a trespass. It is clear that the loss of virginity, which was viewed as property value, influenced legal discourse. From the earliest statute of Westminster I, girls under the age of twelve years old were assumed incapable of giving her consent29. The reason being that girls that young were incapable of becoming pregnant, and pregnancy corresponded directly to consent. If a woman conceived as a result of rape then it was unquestionable she consented to it, because it was further assumed that women became pregnant only if they had an orgasm. These ludicrous assumptions about female sexuality resulted in defendants becoming acquitted if a child was conceived. The male assumptions about female sexuality played a role in the interpretation of law and consequently disadvantaged mature, married women30. The laws and statutes during the medieval period were no great deterrent to rape because women were silenced regardless of the law, either because she was "so little offended with the injury, or so ashamed to confess the outrage"31. Nevertheless, women were punished by being disinherited and were considered a loss of family property, and this notion carried on into the early modern period. ...read more.

Conclusion

9 Ibid, 761 10 Ibid, 760 11 Hanawalt Barbara, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 124. 12 Burks, "I'll want my will else: The Changeling and Women's complicity with their Rapists", 761 13 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 83 14 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 84. 15 Ibid, 84. 16 Ibid, 84. 17 Shoemaker, Gender in English Society 1650-1850, 273 18 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 69. 19 Burks, "I'll want my will else: The Changeling and Women's complicity with their Rapists", 763. 20 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 84.. 21 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 126. 22 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 71. 23 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 126. 24 Ibid, 126. 25 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 127. 26 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 70. 27 Ibid, 70. 28 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 127. 29 Burks, "I'll want my will else: The Changeling and Women's complicity with their Rapists", 763. 30 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 127. 31 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 73. 32 Ibid, 71. 33 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 71. 34 Ibid, 71. 35 Ibid, 71. 36 Ibid, 71. 37 Ibid, 71. 38 Beattie, Crime and the Courts in England (1660-1800), 126. 39 Ibid, 126. 40 Ibid, 129. 41 Ibid, 129. 42 Ibid, 130. 43 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 70. 44 Hanawalt, 'Of good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England, 127. 45 Ibid, 132. 46 Ibid, 132. 47 Ibid, 133. 48 Baines, "Effacing Rape in Early Modern Representation", 69. 1 ...read more.

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