Can a husband “rape” his wife? By “rape” I mean cause a major psychological trauma based on a forced sex episode. In other words a “real rape,” a rape that causes major harm against the victim.
I think men have to come to terms with the fact that the answer to this question is “yes,” yes even your wife, the woman that you love and have had sex with many happy times in the past can experience a forced sexual encounter with you as a painful rape event causing major problems in your relationship with her going forward and causing her major emotional stress in her life in general. Just because your wife has felt emotionally safe and comfortable with you in the past doesn’t mean she feels safe and comfortable with you at every point in your relationship with her when you desire to have sex with her. Just because your wife has been attracted to you and desired to have sex with you in the past doesn’t mean she feels attracted to you and desires to have sex with you right now as you initiate sex with her. A wife’s evaluation of you and sexual feelings towards you during a marriage can go up and down; can be good during one period and then turn negative later.
In your self-image as a man, as the husband of your wife, you want to see yourself as being good and as being sexually desirable, sexually desirable in the eyes of your wife at least!, and you don’t want to be viewed or treated as being “bad” just because you want to have sex with your wife. Maybe you feel your wife is being malicious in denying you sex, that she is just being mean to you or wants to punish you or control you with the power of her pussy. How dare she! You have the “right” to have sex with your own wife, don’t you? You give a lot to your wife; she at least owes you some sex in return for all you do for her. A man can’t be accused of being a rapist just because he wants to have sex with his own wife!
You must however see your sexual encounter, your potential sexual attack, from the wife’s point of view to understand how she feels, how she might react and how she might interpret your sexual violation of her will, your aggression against her. From her point of view she might feel raped, she might experience your sexual aggression against her as a traumatic event. It doesn’t matter that you as the man didn’t intend to traumatize her or that you didn’t think you were traumatizing her, it is how she experienced and interpreted the sexual violation of her will that matters, that determines whether the sexual act was harmful or not.
The social science research points to the conclusion that yes, rape against wives is a major harm against the wife; that wives are not inoculated against psychological harm just because the man who forced sex upon them was their husband.
“Only in the last decade or so has research begun to address the relationship between marital rape and post-trauma symptoms. Kilpatrick, Best, Saunders, and Veronen (1988) found no significant differences between marital, date, and stranger rape victims in terms of psychiatric disorders (e.g., major depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, and sexual dysfunction). Likewise, Riggs, Kilpatrick, and Resnick (1992) found similar types and levels of post-trauma distress when comparing marital rape to stranger rape victims. These studies refute the cultural stereotype that marital rape is somehow less traumatizing than stranger rape.”
“In order to control for the effects of physical violence severity, hierarchical regression analysis was used. Results indicated that sexual violence severity significantly predicted PTSD after controlling for physical violence severity. These results support the hypothesis that sexual violence is uniquely related to PTSD, explaining a significant proportion of the variance beyond that which is already accounted for by physical violence. These results suggest that, in the case of intimate partner violence, the severity of sexual violence may account for the bulk of subsequent PTSD symptoms. Even within the context of ongoing physical violence the experience of sexual violence directly results in more severe PTSD.”
From the study “Comparing the Psychological Impact of Battering, Marital Rape and Stranger Rape” it states:
“Victims of marital rape scored consistently higher than stranger rape victims on all dimensions of the BSI, except Phobic Anxiety. On this subscale, their scores were almost identical (MR= .98; RV= .94). Marital rape victims scored significantly higher than stranger rape victims at or above the .05 level on the dimensions of Paranoid Ideation (MR= 1.69; RV= 1.16) and Psychoticism (MR= 1.41; RV= .76). They were significantly higher on Anxiety at a .10 level (MR= 1.72; RV= 1.19).
In general, it appears that marital rape in the presence of battering produces higher levels of psychological distress than does battering alone. Further, marital rape appears to produce levels of distress equal to or greater than those caused by stranger rape. Victims of battering score at levels similar to those of stranger rape victims. This suggests that battering may be as psychologically traumatic as stranger rape. The combination of marital rape and battering produce significantly higher levels of Paranoid Ideation and Psychoticism, and to a lesser extent, Anxiety than either battering alone or stranger rape.”
“The second question asked, “How much of the time have you enjoyed sex lately (in the past year)?” Table 3 indicates that 59% of the stranger rape victims had enjoyed sex “most of the time.” This percentage was much higher than the 31% of “raped and battered” women, and the 44% of “battered only” victims who enjoyed sex most of the time. The marital rape study non-victims were the most likely of all groups to indicate that they enjoyed sex most of the time, and none of the non-victims indicated that they never enjoyed sex.
Examination of the group means indicates that all three marital rape study groups were significantly different from one another. Almost 12% of the “raped and battered” victims said they never enjoyed sex, as compared to 2.4% of the “battered only” victims, and 8% of the stranger rape victims. The majority of the stranger rape victims enjoyed sex most of the time, as did the non-victims and the “battered only” victims, whereas the majority of the “raped and battered” women enjoyed sex only occasionally. A T-test revealed that the stranger rape victims were significantly more likely than the “raped and battered” victims to enjoy sex.”
This is social science research here, not just my opinion. The evidence found by those who have researched the subject shows that marital rape produces a major independent harm against women that cannot be explained by just the domestic violence or battering part. I found this particularly interesting, that “Almost 12% of the “raped and battered” victims said they never enjoyed sex, as compared to 2.4% of the “battered only” victims, and 8% of the stranger rape victims.” So among women battered only by their husbands, their husbands did not sexually attack them, that only 2.4% of those women said they never enjoyed sex. If however the woman was sexually attacked by her husband in addition to being battered then the rate of her never enjoying sex shot all the way up to 12%, a stronger aversion to sex than experienced by women who had been raped by a stranger (8% of whom never enjoyed sex).
“Forced sex within marriage by a husband toward his wife is not in and of itself a sin but it can be a sin under certain circumstances. The “Markland Letter” case which I addressed in my article “It is Not a Woman’s Consent That Matters, It is God’s” where the man forced sex on his wife after surgery would be an example of a husband sinfully forcing himself on his wife.”
The “Markland Letter” case is an example where forced sex would cause physical injury to the wife, the forced sex therefore being sinful because of the physical injury it would cause according to Larry.
In Larry’s earlier post “It is Not a Woman’s Consent That Matters, It is God’s” Larry’s basic argument is that a man has a right to have sex with a woman based on whether he is in a relationship with the woman where sex is permitted; meaning the man can have sex with his wife but with no woman other than his wife.
As Larry states in that post:
“In other words, from a Biblical perspective forced sex within the confines of marriage is not and cannot ever be classified as rape, but only forced sex outside of the confines of marriage can rightly be considered rape.
Also I need to point out something very important for Christians to understand about rape. The world says rape is immoral because it violates a woman’s consent to sexual relations but the Bible shows us rape is wrong because it violates God’s consent for a man to have sexual relations with a woman. God only consents to a man having sexual relations with a woman if he has entered into a covenant of marriage with her and then he may have sex with her “at all times” as Proverbs 5:19 commands.”
OK, I am OK with the formulation that “It is Not a Woman’s Consent That Matters, It is God’s.” I am not here to obey women; I am here to obey God. What if however God has granted to women the right of sexual refusal so that it is a violation of God’s law to force sex on a woman against her will? Then the woman would indeed have a right of sexual refusal that a man must honor and accept. I argue that the sexual trauma that women suffer when sex is forced upon a woman against her will shows that forced sex against women is intrinsically sinful because it is intrinsically severely harmful; forced sex itself causing a severe trauma reaction in the woman. This being true whether it is a stranger forcing sex upon the woman or whether it is the woman’s husband forcing sex upon the woman; the woman suffering a severe harm in both cases meaning that a woman has a right to refuse such sex in order to protect herself psychologically in both cases; both against the stranger and also against her husband.
Why do women react strongly negatively to rape? From an evolutionary perspective it is quite obvious that women react strongly negatively to rape precisely so that rape will be considered a serious crime severely punished by society so that women will then be in control of their sexuality able to refuse the sexual advances of men so that they can then reject men who are inferior and mate with the individual man who they like the most and who can give them the most. In other words rape is a crime, severely harmful to women, in order to give to women control over their sexuality; the woman’s control over her sexuality being something that the woman has to have in order to have the power that she needs to have in relation to men.
The woman’s need, her psychological need, to be in control of her sexuality does not disappear just because she gets married; this being shown by women’s vulnerability to harm from rape even at the hands of her husband. A woman does need to have a measure of power in relation to her husband so that her husband will respect her and take care of her needs during the course of the marriage; in this way it making sense that the vulnerability to harm from forced sex remains even during marriage thereby giving to the woman control of her sexuality even within marriage, even in relation to her husband.
Looking at things from the husband’s perspective and the overall relationship dynamic between husband and wife; yes it is true that a wife is to obey her husband including in the sexual arena. A wife has a duty to submit to her husband in general and has a duty to submit to her husband sexually specifically. A husband has a right to punish his wife for her disobedience to him in general and a husband has a right to punish his wife for her sexual rejection or sexual refusal of him more specifically. A wife does have a duty, a marital obligation, to submit to her husband sexually. A husband does indeed have a “right” to have sex with his wife and a husband has the right to set the sexual rules or the sexual expectations of how the sexual relationship between him and his wife will work; rules that he enforces through punishment if necessary.
Regarding “punishment,” punishment involves its own code of ethics that need to be followed. The general principle of ethical punishment is that the husband withdraws a reward in order to punish rather than inflicting a harm. This is so the husband’s power will be based on the contribution he gives to his wife so that the husband will always be a benefit to his wife overall. This principle of only withdrawing a reward as a means to punish forbids physical violence as physical violence is based on causing a harm. Also punishment should be based on causing the minimum harm necessary to achieve the goal of gaining the wife’s submission to the husband’s demands.
Domestic Discipline that the wife consents to is also a reasonable system to use to enforce obedience upon the wife as Domestic Discipline is based on a well defined well regulated system of rules and expectations that both the husband and wife agree to as an effective safe means of enforcing discipline and harmony in the relationship between husband and wife.
So regarding the sexual relationship between husband and wife; the wife owes her husband sex and has a duty to submit to her husband sexually and has a right to refuse sex at the same time. I would consider the wife refusing a sexual advance by her husband as her committing an offense against the relationship; an “offense against the relationship” that the husband can punish if he wants to, if he thinks it would be wise or worthwhile to do so. Still the husband must accept the wife’s sexual refusal of him nonetheless.
The husband has the right to be pushy in his efforts to be sexual with his wife; the husband has the right to be persistent in his efforts to be sexual with his wife; the husband has the right to punish his wife after the fact following ethical rules of punishment for the wife’s sexual refusal of him; but the husband MUST accept the wife’s clear and forceful refusal of his sexual advances if the wife feels she needs to reject her husband at that point in her marriage to him. The wife NEEDS to have a means of protecting herself against sexual trauma inflicted upon her by her husband even if the husband doesn’t understand why it is exactly that his wife is sexually rejecting him at that time.