Criminalizing Sex: A Unified Liberal Theory

Criminalizing Sex: A Unified Liberal Theory

by Stuart P. Green


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Starting in the latter part of the 20th century, the law of sexual offenses, especially in the West, began to reflect a striking divergence. On the one hand, the law became significantly more punitive in its approach to sexual conduct that is nonconsensual, as evidenced by a major expansion in the definition of rape and sexual assault, and the creation of new offenses like sex trafficking, child grooming, and revenge porn. On the other hand, it became markedly more permissive in how it dealt with conduct that is consensual, a trend that can be seen, for example, in the legalization or decriminalization of sodomy, adultery, and adult pornography. This book explores the conceptual and normative implications of this divergence.

At the heart of the book is a consideration of a deeply contested question: How should a liberal system of criminal law adequately protect individuals in their right not to be subjected to sexual contact against their will, while also safeguarding their right to engage in (private consensual) sexual conduct in which they do wish to participate? The book develops a framework for harmonizing these goals in the context of a wide range of nonconsensual, consensual, and aconsensual sexual offenses (hence, the "unified" nature of the theory) — including rape and sexual assault in a variety of forms, sexual harassment, voyeurism, indecent exposure, incest, sadomasochistic assault, prostitution, bestiality, and necrophilia. Intellectually rigorous, fair-minded, and deeply humane, Criminalizing Sex offers a fascinating discussion of a wide range of moral and legal puzzles, arising out of real-world cases of alleged sexual misconduct - a discussion that is all the more urgent in the age of #MeToo.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780197507483
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 05/14/2020
Series: Oxford Monographs on Criminal Law and Justice
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Stuart P. Green is a Distinguished Professor of Law at Rutgers University.

Table of Contents


Part I. Conceptual Toolbox

Chapter 1. The Sexual Offenses and Sexual Conduct
Chapter 2. Autonomy and Consent
Chapter 3. Criminalization and Liberalism

Part II. Nonconsensual and Unwanted Sex

Subpart A. Proving Nonconsent
Chapter 4. Rape Law Commonalities
Chapter 5. Rape as Unconsented-to Sex
Chapter 6. Rape by Deception
Chapter 7. Rape by Coercion

Subpart B. Presuming Nonconsent
Chapter 8. Incapacity to Consent
Chapter 9. Statutory Rape
Chapter 10. Abuse of Position

Subpart C. Unwanted Sex
Chapter 11. Sexual Harassment as Crime

Subpart D. Assumption of Risk
Chapter 12. Voyeurism
Chapter 13. Indecent Exposure

Part III. Putatively Consensual Sex

Chapter 14. Incest
Chapter 15. Sadomasochistic Assault
Chapter 16. Prostitution

Part IV. Aconsensual Sex

Chapter 17. Bestiality
Chapter 18. Necrophilia


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