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Rape, and Other Sexual Assaults: Towards a Philosophical Analysis

1 June 2001


Philosophers have identified the harm involved in stranger rape in various ways. This article reviews these with a view to making sense of surveys on date and acquaintance rape and minor sexual assaults: how much should these be bracketed with stranger rape as a major and traumatic violation? Or are some of these incidents closer to bad manners? It concludes that rape is a violation of autonomy that should be condemned because of the extreme unhappiness caused to the victim. It is argued that this criterion can be used to make sense of lesser sexual assaults whereas some of the other criteria philosophers have used to condemn rape tend to bifurcate sexual experiences into acceptable on the one hand and seriously traumatic on the other, with little space in between.


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