a bird and a bottle

Rape Revisited
November 27, 2006, 10:53 pm
Filed under: feminism/s & gender, law, news

Updated: I want to be clear about what I am addressing in this post. It’s not so much the facts of this case have gotten under my skin (as I note below and as the Post notes in its Editorial, the facts are ambiguous at best about whether or not a rape occurred). What I do think is absurd is the fact that the Maryland court held that once a woman gives consent, she cannot withdraw it. The man can continue to climax no matter how long it takes, with impunity. This case reinforces backwards ideas of women and sexuality, sanctioning a view of women who withdraw consent as fickle instead of considering the myriad valid reasons that cause women to consent to sex and to withdraw their consent.


On Halloween, a Maryland Appellate Court held in Baby v. Maryland that once a woman consents to sex, she cannot withdraw that consent. Disingenuously claiming judicial deference to the legislature, the court said its hands were tied and that only the state supreme court or the legislature could change the outcome. As the Happy Feminist reported when the ruling first came down, a woman is not raped under Maryland law whether even if intercourse continues for a few seconds or a few many minutes after she withdraws her consent. Though in Baby, the man may have withdrawn within five seconds, this ruling would apply similarly in a case in which a man continued to have sex with a woman for ten minutes after she told him to stop. Ick.

The Washington Post commented on the case today in a really spot-on Editorial. As the Post notes, there are several reasons why the case may have come out as at did, including a fairly weak case for the prosecution. But as the Editorial also notes, what’s really disturbing about this case is how backwards a view it takes of women. It wasn’t long ago (and it continues) that women who claimed they had been raped were called liars or were embarrassed on the witness stand. And things haven’t gotten all that much better — between 1992 and 2000, the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults were not reported to police. And though there are several factors that lead to this lopsided statistic, I would venture that the hostility rape victims face is a huge contributing factor.

Yet according to the Maryland mid-level appellate court, women are sexual objects who are bound by their first impulses. Relying on what the Post rightly labels as “archaic stereotypes,” the Maryland court envisions women both disempowered and sexually devious.

I can’t imagine that Maryland’s high court won’t overturn this crazy (and I would argue unconstitutional) decision. That court has made some good decisions recently. Let’s hope that streak continues.

(photo source)

2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

It makes me disgusted to read how courts take away so many of our rights as women, especially when wording legislation on rape and sexual assault. Absolutely absurd! It flat out makes me angered!!!

Comment by Melissa

I don’t know the full circumstances of this case so I can only respond to the update. It is scary to think the government, state or federal, continue to regulate the female body and not willing to regulate more the male body and their behavior.
To indicate women are being fickle by stopping in the middle of sex is one dimensional thinking. There are many reasons why a woman stop; for instance, a woman would stop because it is PAINFUL!!

Comment by Carol

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