Marital Rape: Fact or Fiction?

by V
Miss Maisie MacMaster, Portland, Ore. (LOC)

via Flickr

That we still have to ask this question is disturbing. This scenario belongs on the Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. Beyond Belief is a TV show that presents a series of events and asks the viewer to guess which of these events actually occurred. The show ends with the truth, and — often — the truth is unexpected.

I bring up this show because I always imagined that if it ran a segment on the claim that marital rape is not really rape, my fellow Americans would call it “fiction.”

Unfortunately, they’d be wrong. Marital rape is real, it is a fact, it has happened and still happens today in the US. There are people who are not ashamed to admit that they feel ‘marital’ rape is a feminist invention. In fact, they often say so with pride.

This is dangerous. This has serious consequences for married women. Denying the existence of marital rape effectively turns us into property when we get married. Marriage is not a contract that permits a man to have sex with his wife on demand.

Think this isn’t a problem? Today, I read an article about an eighteen-year-old woman who’d reported her husband’s abuse. The evidence was plain and very graphic: her husband smacked and starved her; he pinched her hard enough to leave bruises. She was also repeatedly raped. Her vagina was sore and raw from her husband’s abuse.

When this went to court, the judge found in favor of the husband. He supported the husband’s claim that marital rape was in accordance with his religious teachings.

I hope you’re appalled by this.

Religion does not excuse marital rape. I don’t care who you are, where you are from, or what your religion is.

I’m also sure that most people would agree with that last sentence of mine. But, not all people will. If it is appalling that a judge has come to this conclusion (thankfully, it was overruled by an appeals court), then we’ve got some serious problems. We have people like that in our judicial system. I don’t know what led this judge to think the way he does. Is he an anti-feminist? Is he anti-woman? Is he the type of man who would do this to his own wife? Has he? I don’t know. Such thoughts are all sickening. Under the law, regardless of this man’s beliefs, he raped his wife. He abused his wife. He starved his wife. If you want to know what real judicial activism is, I think this qualifies.

Why do I bring up judicial activism? Well, because the Right often likes to say that whenever they don’t get their way – usually because the law wasn’t on their side to begin with – they throw a fit and say it’s judicial activism. This is not what judicial activism means–“Judicial activism is used to describe judicial rulings suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law” (Wikipedia). You don’t get to claim judicial activism just because you don’t like the verdict. It doesn’t work that way. Not in seriousness, anyway. And it makes you sound childish.

Yet, I’m using it today, in this post, right? Does that make me childish? No, because this judge did what he wanted to without regard for the laws already in existence. Regardless of what the law said, regardless of what his seat as a judge represented, regardless of his responsibilities, regardless of what it could and would likely mean for the victim, regardless of what it could and would likely have meant for future victims needing or trying to bring their experiences to light and get justice, he made the decision he wanted to, not the one that was lawful.

But, that’s just one example of someone doing something wrong. And it’s probably pretty remote, right? There can’t be that many people who are so extreme, right?

Recently, there has been more talk about this very issue. Among the names brought up are Phyllis Schlafly who did, in 2007, say that she did not think marital rape was possible. And she defended that stance a year later. And she still holds that stance.

I can’t help but think that people Phyllis Shlafly and the judge mentioned above would just love to take us back to when women really were the property of their husbands. As women, and as human beings in general, I think we all need to keep a close eye on this. The Right has gotten crazier lately, and you just never know anymore what they might come out in support of. I don’t mean to tout conspiracy theories, or anything of the sort. But, I don’t want to have my rights yanked out from under me, I don’t want my protection under the law taken away.

I am certainly a woman, but I am not a second-class citizen and I refuse to be treated like one. Women have always had to fight for what we’ve wanted, needed, and deserved. Even now, when so many people think that, in light of what we have achieved thus far, we can just relax and stop fighting, we can’t stop. Men and women like the ones I’ve spoken about today in this article show us, prove to us, that we cannot relax and let down our guard. We have to make sure that our rights and protections are not taken away from us while we aren’t looking.

We, and the current majority, think that these sorts of views are absurd, and the majority will never allow them to come back into play now that the law has moved past them. That would be crazy, right? However, those that think marital rape does not exist because marriage itself is a contract giving consent for sex absolutely believe that what they’re saying makes sense, that it is not absurd. And they will fight for what they believe. If we don’t pay careful attention, our rights and protections certainly can be taken away.

Don’t believe me? Just look at the example of the judge. If we had more judges who share his views, I’m sure that this would happen a lot more often. Its true that this judge’s verdict was overruled during appeal, but if more people thought like he did…well, maybe that wouldn’t have happened.

Just because we’ve come this far, doesn’t mean we can’t go further. And it certainly doesn’t mean we should give up, nor that we should be back down and ignore the people who are still acting like lunatics over women fighting for, achieving, or having any of the equal rights and protections that we’ve secured for ourselves. There is still more work to do, and there is still defending to be done for what we’ve already achieved. Just because the women that came before us have managed to clear away a lot of the rubble doesn’t mean that we don’t still have an uphill battle ahead of us.

Despite all that, I am up for the challenge! Are you?

11 Comments to “Marital Rape: Fact or Fiction?”

  1. For the record, I in no way support marital rape. I would have more sympathy if you advocated for equal rights, Feminists most assureddly do not advocate for equal rights but absolute dominance. Their philosophy is that women should only have sex when they feel like it. If they really advocated for equal rights they would be for one night on for the man and the next night off for the woman. That is equal.

    What happens is that far too many women deny their husbands sex routinely. In fact studies indicated that married women with children have their men on a starvation diet of sex once a week or less. That is not equality but dominance. Misandry is just as bad as misogyny. I don’t support forcing a woman to have sex against her will but feminist support forcing a man to do WITHOUT sex against his will. I don’t see men demanding their right to deny their wives sex. All it does is breeds resentment against women in general and wives in particular.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • It is fortunate that marriages aren’t football matches, or your team would keep losing.

    • I really don’t think that this makes any since, Mr. Wilder. And because of that, I wasn’t sure I wanted to even answer you. Your logic does not seem backwards, but actually missing to me. Do you understand what rape does to a person? I’m unsure. You say that you don’t support marital rape, but by saying that you think feminists are for domination just because they want to reserve the right to say they aren’t interested in sex at times makes one think that you ARE for marital rape. If you’re wanting a woman to be obligated to have sex with her husband whether she wants to or not in the name of equality, then that is support of marital rape. And it is not equal. I completely agree that a man has full right to say he isn’t interested in sex despite how frisky his wife might be at that time. I just want the same right for myself.

      Further, women do not withhold sex to be bitches. If we’re purposely withholding sex for long periods of time, there is something ELSE going on. Perhaps it’s a medical problem, perhaps (and more likely) it’s a communication break down between the wife and husband which has nothing to do with sex itself and it needs to be addressed by both parties. If someone IS married to a woman who is withholding sex just to be a bitch (and I do agree there are probably SOME women out there who would do this, but not the majority and certainly not ALL women) then she seems like a vindictive person to me, and I don’t know why one is married to her, anyway. Especially since if that’s what she’s doing then the bedroom is not the only place she is likely being a vindictive bitch in. That’s why we’ve got divorce, and in this modern time it’s beyond easy to get a divorce. Not too long ago at all it used to be MUCH more difficult.

  2. Great article, V. Though if you ask me, ensuring women have rights is an asset to relationships. Otherwise, marriage is reduced to an unhealthy dependency that leaves women vulnerable to cycles of abuse. No loving person wants that for their partner.

    In the bad old days, women were forbidden from working most jobs and subsisted off arranged marriages with wealthy older men. The men had a disproportionate amount of power and influence in the marriage, since divorce was not possible in most cases. If a woman left the marriage, she was left with no means by which to support herself, so many women put up with beatings, infidelity, and abuse. The way the laws worked then favored abusive men, and normalized this relationship dynamic.

    But, who wants their mother, daughter, sister, or girlfriend to be stuck in such a situation without any options? Even in those dark days, those women had relatives who were cared for them, and felt the injustice of the laws… and the need for women to have more to rely on than mens’ sympathy.

    Marital rape is a sad fact, but it does happen— and women need the law to be open to trying these cases. Rape is both a mental and physical attack, and having laws in place to safeguard us against it is a basic human right. Telling women to stop fighting for our own safety and peace of mind insists that we stay victimized, and leaves all married women at risk. This is not a position any loving man— or husband— would take.

    Men who truly care for the women in their lives understand that respect and equality keeps relationships going, and that in order to achieve this, we need laws to recognize our basic human rights. Denying women the right and ability to protect themselves when the need arises is cruel and unusual.

    Again, great article!

    • Thanks, Roxy! 🙂 I agree with what you’ve said in this reply! You’re quite right. A loving partner would not treat their wife so callously, as if she is nothing more than a toilet to empty his semen into, whether she liked it or not, whether she was in the mood or not. No loving partner would even entertain the thought of doing that to his wife. No loving father would want to think his daughter is married to a fiend who would do that to her. No loving brother would want his sister to go through something so terrible.

  3. Hey V:

    Perhaps you don’t believe the statistics that I have quoted to you that 60% of married women have their husbaands on a starvation diet of sex once a week or less. 60 PERCENT! That does not even take into effect of the numerous men that I have dealth with that their wives have not given them sex in years. There is a blog on her by the unwantedhusband whose wife has not given him sex for two years. I last year counseled with a man who was the brother of a famous movie star whose wife never had to work a day in her life and she had a housekeeper and a cook. He was divorcing her because he was tired of begging his wife for sex which usually she tossed him a bone once a month.

    Women are violating their vows that she promises that she will let her husband “have and hold her” to death to they part. Unfaithfullness is not just cheating on a spouse, it is also refusing to honor the marriage vows as well. Check the dictionary for proof. I suggest dicitionary.com.

    I am not suggesting that women have to automatically put out every time, there are legitimate exceptions and men understand that. It is just men are sick to death of women routinely turning him down and feminists supporting this and his needs be damned or worse yet he is put down for his sexuality by his wife. This makes about as much sense as a man putting you down for having a period.

    I explain to women that a man’s sexual drive is different than a woman’s. It is similar to a woman’s increase desire and urgency to pee when she is pregnant because the baby is pressing on her bladder. Imagine the roles were reversed and men talked to women the way that women talk to men and you are in a car, pregnanat and having to pee. The husband snaps at you: “What are you some kind of peeing pervert? Is that all you ever think about? I don’t feel like pulling over, maybe tomorrow, I will pull over and let you pee.”

    I realize that there are women with higher libidos than their husbands and a couple even blog on here routinely about it and bitch loud and long even more than men and routinely blog about cheating on their husbands to safisfy their sexual desires.

    All I am suggesting that a little less damanding your rights to say no and a little more taking care of a husbands needs even when you don’t feel like it because you love hi, No woman wants to change a dirty diaper but she does it because the baby needs it and she loves the baby. Why sholuld the husband be any different?

    I suggest that you hop over and read my blog where I have a guest post where a young woman brags about keeping her husband happy and satisfied and anxious to get home. If more women practiced this kind of love there would be a whole lot less divorce where the children are the real loser.

    Let me close with this. If you had sex 4 times a week at a half hour per session, that amounts to 1% of your time. I say if you can’t give your husband 1% of your time to nurture him and take care of his needs, you should not be married. Where in that post can you find that I support marital rape?

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • “Perhaps you don’t believe the statistics that I have quoted to you that 60% of married women have their husbaands on a starvation diet of sex once a week or less. 60 PERCENT! That does not even take into effect of the numerous men that I have dealth with that their wives have not given them sex in years. There is a blog on her by the unwantedhusband whose wife has not given him sex for two years. I last year counseled with a man who was the brother of a famous movie star whose wife never had to work a day in her life and she had a housekeeper and a cook. He was divorcing her because he was tired of begging his wife for sex which usually she tossed him a bone once a month.”

      You’re right, Mr. Wilder. I do NOT believe that statistic. Regardless, marital rape and sexual starvation are NOT in ANY way the same thing. The examples that you have given are not the norm, they are the exception.

      “Women are violating their vows that she promises that she will let her husband “have and hold her” to death to they part. Unfaithfullness is not just cheating on a spouse, it is also refusing to honor the marriage vows as well. Check the dictionary for proof. I suggest dicitionary.com.”

      This post is not about marital unfaithfulness, it is about marital rape. These are not the same thing. I think men are violating their vows, however, when they force a woman to have sex when she doesn’t want to just to satisfy their own needs.

      “I am not suggesting that women have to automatically put out every time, there are legitimate exceptions and men understand that. It is just men are sick to death of women routinely turning him down and feminists supporting this and his needs be damned or worse yet he is put down for his sexuality by his wife. This makes about as much sense as a man putting you down for having a period.”

      So, the legitimate exception is up to the husband? And what I mean by that, is that the husband gets to decide if his wife has a good excuse for not being in the mood? I would never advocate that a wife should decide whether her husband has a legitimate excuse whether he wants to have sex or not and then emotionally blackmail him or physically force him into having sex. That would also be marital rape.

      “I explain to women that a man’s sexual drive is different than a woman’s. It is similar to a woman’s increase desire and urgency to pee when she is pregnant because the baby is pressing on her bladder. Imagine the roles were reversed and men talked to women the way that women talk to men and you are in a car, pregnanat and having to pee. The husband snaps at you: “What are you some kind of peeing pervert? Is that all you ever think about? I don’t feel like pulling over, maybe tomorrow, I will pull over and let you pee.”

      Pregnancy and sexual libido are two different things. If I were married and pregnant, and my husband talked to me like that when we were in the car, I’d tell him fine. I’d pee on the seat and leave it for him to clean up, because a bodily function of having to pee is something you CANNOT help. Peeing and sex, pregnancy and sex, are not the same thing.

      “I realize that there are women with higher libidos than their husbands and a couple even blog on here routinely about it and bitch loud and long even more than men and routinely blog about cheating on their husbands to safisfy their sexual desires.”

      And what does this have to do with my post? Nothing. I’m sorry Mr. Wilder, but again, cheating is not what this post was about. Unfaithfulness is not what this post was about. Who has more or less of a libido than their partner based on ANYthing is not what this post was about. Any woman who isn’t being satisfied by her husband, in my opinion, does not have the right to go outside of the marriage and cheat just to get that satisfaction. That is why we have divorce. If you are not happy with what you’re getting at home, at least have the decency to end one relationship before beginning another. And, I would say the same thing for a man or a woman.

      “All I am suggesting that a little less damanding your rights to say no and a little more taking care of a husbands needs even when you don’t feel like it because you love hi, No woman wants to change a dirty diaper but she does it because the baby needs it and she loves the baby. Why sholuld the husband be any different?”

      We should have the right to say no whenever we want if we are not in the mood. I’m sorry if this bothers you, but I firmly believe this. Men have the same right. That is equal. And a woman changing a baby’s diaper has nothing to do with this. It’s different because a baby cannot change it’s own diaper. SOMEone must do that for the baby. Babies having their diapers changed aren’t the same as marital rape.

      “I suggest that you hop over and read my blog where I have a guest post where a young woman brags about keeping her husband happy and satisfied and anxious to get home. If more women practiced this kind of love there would be a whole lot less divorce where the children are the real loser.”

      What does this have to do with my post? Nothing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her doing this. This is not an example of marital rape. This is an example of a woman who is satisfied in her marriage and her sex life and nothing is currently impeding that. This is an example of a marriage in which no marital rape even seems to occur. I’m very glad that her relationship with her husband is going so well. And, as for divorce, I’d rather a child live in a broken home than an unhappy home.

      “Let me close with this. If you had sex 4 times a week at a half hour per session, that amounts to 1% of your time. I say if you can’t give your husband 1% of your time to nurture him and take care of his needs, you should not be married. Where in that post can you find that I support marital rape?”

      I think that I would certainly be giving my husband more than 1% of my time in many ways other than sexual throughout the day and night despite my not wanting to have sex on certain nights.

      And when you advocate for women to have sex against their will out of moral obligation, that is advocating for marital rape through emotional blackmail. Rape is not JUST a physical abuse against a woman and it comes in more than just one form.

    • Where did he get that statistic? The bearded redneck sitting in a pick-up truck at the end of the street? No source, no credibility.

      That said, we don’t exist just to have sex with men. Any man who believes that is a definite turn-off. But I’m sure that John Wilder knows all about how to turn women off…

  4. Roxy, you represent what I say about a lot of women; the number one complaint made to me by men about women is that if you in any way critique them, they invariably go on the attack with vicious verbal put downs with the idea of teaching that terrible man to NEVER EVER DO THAT AGAIN. Unfortunately, too many men accept the lesson and seethe in silence. All it does is to completely turn off communication between men and women. The number on cause of breakups among couples is the lack of conflict resolution skills. Here is a statistic that you might find interesting that you can google for yourself. Japan has less than half the divorce rate of the US which has the highest divorce rate in the world.

    I am trying to have a serious and intelligent conversation, your condascending and insulting remarks and ad hominem attacks contribute nothing worthwhile to the conversation. Fortunately my ego is strong enough to slough off your comments as immature. You might find it interesting that in Japan they practice the art of face or saving face. It is considered extremely poor behavior to do anything to cause embarrassment, humiliation or causing anyone to be uncomfortable in any way. The conversations are always civil. Perhaps this would explain why the divorce rate in Japan is so low.

    Now as to the statistic, you can google it for yourself by checking Kinsey or even Redbook. Here is a link that treats the subject in much better detail with explanations. http://www.nomarriage.com/articlesexless.html

    V I have never encountered an individual with such tunnel vision as you. You concluded your article with
    Despite all that, I am up for the challenge! Are you? I simply took you at your word and am throwing down a challenge. You apparently neglected that I rated your article at 5 stars and liked it. I am simply trying to say that things do not exist in a vacuum. I am seeing the bigger picture and explaining the problems that couples come to me with.

    Roxy’s answer that women don’t exist to have sex with men is also simplistic. If you or she believes that then don’t get married but marriage is about sex. Sex is one of the big 3 that couples fight about and is one of the big reasons that couples get divorced. Judith Wallerstein did a landmark study on the effects of divorce on children and it is devastating. Fatherless homes have a much higher school drop out rate, girls becoming sexually active at a much earlier age and more likely to become pregant, earlier experimentation with drugs and alcohol, much higher chance of becoming involved with the law enforcement. You might go to the National Center For Fathering to see the statistics that are widely reported.

    The answer that couples should just get divorced is also simplistic because a lot of people stay married becuase of their kids. Dr. Phil says that if a woman puts her needs or the needs of her children above the husband’s needs then the husband likely won’t be around to raise those kids to adulthood.

    Again your fight is noble but you would do well to see things from a more global perspective and tell your sisters that sex is an integral part of marriage and telling a husband routinely to do without is counterproductive to their best interests.

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

    • Dr. Wilder, Neither Roxy nor V are advocating the end of sex within a marriage. I think you’ll find that they both consider sex–good, healthy, consensual sex between equal partners–to be very important to a marriage. They — we — are objecting to forced sex. There is a difference between compromise–having sex a little more frequently than you’d prefer–and being forced to have sex. The first might be unpleasant, but the second is rape.

      We do not approve of women who use sex as a weapon. Sex should never be a weapon. Sex should bring a couple closer, not drive them apart. You are right to say that poor communication is at the root of many marital difficulties, but you seem to be placing all the responsibility on wives. It seems that it is always up to the woman to make compromises, to keep the peace, to not rock the boat.

      Also, it is unfair to suggest that V does not appreciate your rating of the post. (Our contributors can’t see their own post ratings. It’s a flaw, and we’re working on fixing that.) You suggest that she should be grateful and polite. She has been civil, and engaged in the debate. V’s “I’m up for the challenge! Are you?” was meant more in the vein of, ‘I will defend those who are raped within marriage.’

      Because you are oriented toward marriage, consider this. The women who are not likely to give their husbands “what they need” are either medically ill — i.e., sex is painful or somehow traumatizing — using sex as a marital weapon, or are sometimes bound to their schedules and unable to see the sexual needs of their partners or themselves as crucial to their marriages.

      As a counselor, we are sure you realize the first type of women needs serious counseling and therapy to address past issues before she is capable of being a loving partner in a relationship. The second type of woman is the reason why men should live with their partners before marriage. (Potential couples of faith for whom cohabitation is not possible should take advantage of a loving family’s cooperation to vet potential partners as thoroughly as is possible for these behavioral red flags.) A perceptive man can pick up on the manipulation of such women while in close quarters with her. And the third type of woman is the woman who should be counseled to talk with her husband find solutions that will satisfy him as well as her. We believe that couples have to be the strongest advocates of their relationship or else they will fail.

      Marital rape is about something else entirely. Men who rape their wives in the context of marriage do not do so because they have been denied sex. They do so because a wife is readily accessible to a man and his external, pathological issues of power allow him to severely diminish his partner’s needs and take her by force. It is rarely because of sexual starvation — it is because of deeper psychological and character issues that would be present even if the woman complied with him, sexually, each time he initiated sex in a positive way.

      (i.e., Rape is not about sexual pleasure. Rape is about control. Rape is a tool of war, a way of subjugating the losing party. It destroys morale. Men who rape within marriage do not do so to relieve themselves. They do it to subjugate their wives, to ‘teach them a lesson’ — which may include sexual noncompliance — or to break her spirit.)

      Good men — normal men — when faced with sexual starvation, look to talk to their wives and engage her on an emotional level. Some men look for platonic love externally, through other friendships or interests. Some even look to other sexual partners outside their relationships. While we consider this a violation of the covenant of monogamy, we acknowledge that in the case of repeated rejection in the face of prolonged communication, the wife has violated that covenant first. At this point, the health of the marriage as a sexual organism is diminished or nonexistent, but the couple might remain together for other reasons. (Children, convenience, benefits, etc.)

      We reiterate that it is up to BOTH partners to ADDRESS the problems in their relationship before that covenant is breached. A wife who cannot bring herself to have sex should find a time to speak with her husband, who must be open to listening and engaging. Partners who are incapable of open communication will soon face the failure of their marriages.

      We hope that you agree with at least some of what we’ve said here and that you come and talk to us in the future. We thank you for your continued interest.

      Yours sincerely,
      Subterfusex
      (writers f & d)

  5. Subterfusex:

    Yes I am quite aware that rape is aobut power and contral and in no way condone it. I am quite aware of dyspareunia (painful sex) in this case a willing wife can give her hsusband oral sex while she is beiing treated for her medical condition. I am quite aware of women who have been viilated as girls and have trouble with sex and need treatment for it.

    That being said, I am speaking about the majority of that 60% who just odn’t want sex that often and enforce it on their husbands/. I am also aware of some husbands who out of frustration over long periods of denial have forced their wives to give them sex.

    I figured that V had good sex with her husband and like so many women generalize from their experience that other women treat their men the same. I have dealt with way too many couples to believe that. The article that I site gives lie to that. The overwhelming problem is that women have thier priorities screwed up and put their husbands dead last on their prioritie list. Mhy contention and the contention of Dr Phil, and Dr Laura Schlesinger as well as other clinicians like Michelle Weiner Davis of Diovrce Busting is that you should put your husband first.

    While I have sympathy for wives who suffer from marital rape as any legitimate healthy person would, far too many women including most feminists demand the riight to routinely deny their husbands sex.. This is a significant problme in modern marriages and is up to the wife to resolve it. You are right in assuming from my commentst that women by and large control the quality fo their marriages by the way that they treat their men..

    Blessings on you and yours
    John Wilder

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: