The definition of rape will be examined so that a clear understanding of past and present law is possible. Next, a discussion of the history of spousal rape as a current issue will show how much of a non-issue is has been for those critical of the entire concept. Finally, a survey of news articles will show the extent to which spousal rape is indeed an important issue, and not what some critics call, "a contradiction in terms."
Rape can be defined as an act of aggression in which a person is forced to participate in a sexual act against his or her will, or, for various reasons, is not able to give consent. For discussion here, spousal rape will refer to women who are raped by their husbands, because rape victims are generally women. Discussion will include only heterosexual husband and wife relationships, although it should be noted that lesbian and gay partnerships follow the same patterns of abuse as do heterosexual unions. In such relationships, cases of spousal, or "partner," rape go e