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Unwanted Sex: The Culture of Intimidation and the Failure of Law Hardcover – November 7, 1998

ISBN-13: 978-0674576483 ISBN-10: 0674576489 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; 1St Edition edition (November 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674576489
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674576483
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,766,222 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Unwanted Sex masterfully draws together and rearticulates many of the main ideas in the debate over sexual autonomy. Schulhofer, a senior professor at the University of Chicago Law School, notes that "the right to sexual autonomy is simply missing from the list of essential rights that our society grants us as free and independent persons."

Throughout the 1990s, debates on sexual consent have commanded headlines, and Schulhofer's timely critique of existing law, attempts at reform, and the still-common cultural regard of male sexual aggression as natural (and in many cases even appropriate) is incisive and lucidly argued. Specific examples of sexually coercive situations fit into broader explorations of what does--or should--constitute coercion, consent, and autonomy and raise questions about our notions of sex and gender roles and the lines between seduction, deception, and fraud in sexual relations. Schulhofer's proposals for improved reform are thought-provoking and themselves help clarify the parlous state of existing laws and the challenges inherent in regulating sexual behavior. As he notes, "Respect for sexual autonomy requires safeguards against abuse and exploitation. But--equally important--it requires that the law protect our freedom to seek emotional intimacy and sexual fulfillment with willing partners." --Julia Riches


[Schulhofer] leaves no stone unturned in addressing the question of how to create a law which will take seriously sexual autonomy--the right to choose freely whether and when to be sexually intimate with another person. He argues that unlike laws that provide for comprehensive protection for property rights, labour and other important interests, laws on sexual autonomy have failed: from the excessive degree of force needed for an action to be defined as rape, to the grey areas in which coercion and exploitation can be used to elicit a false, legally valid 'consent' between, for example, professionals--such as doctors, lecturers, lawyers and therapists and their clients or students. Schulhofer calls for a radical reconstruction of such laws [and] does not shirk difficult questions...This is an insightful and scholarly book written in an accessible style rarely encountered in law. Even rarer is Schulhofer's willingness to debate feminist views in a balanced and enlightened way. (Sue Lees Times Literary Supplement)

"In this extraordinary book, Stephen J. Schulhofer makes very clear that unwanted sex, ranging all the way up to rape, is not always viewed as criminal behavior. Schulhofer...offers us a new way of viewing the subject of rape. He also offers a proposal for change that makes overwhelming sense...[An] immensely readable, sometimes shocking book." (Susan Alexander ABA Journal)

Powerfully argued and meticulously documented, fully supported by statistical, legal, and other theoretical grounding…Exceedingly well written. I couldn't say that [Unwanted Sex is] a pleasure to read, since the subject matter is so outrageous and upsetting. This is not a topic for the faint hearted, and [Unwanted Sex is] full of powerful examples, all the more infuriating because they are real cases. (Patricia Smith Hypatia)

Schulhofer sets himself the task of examining and explaining why, in spite of so much recent legal reform, the laws against rape and sexual harassment fail to protect women...Schulhofer's overriding moral precept is that respect for sexual autonomy requires a radically different view [of consent]. (Susan Edwards New Law Journal)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I heard Professor Schulhofer present this book a few months back at the University of Chicago. Within it, he explains that our sexual assault laws are *not* founded on notions of consent, despite widespread popular beliefs to the contrary.
Schulhofer argues that our laws must do a better job of protecting sexual assault victims, and that by focusing on autonomy (and not force or even requirements of affirmative resistance), we can better protect potential victims of sexual assault. It's a hard argument, because consent can be extremely difficult to prove, or even know at the time of the interaction, but Schulhofer confronts those difficulties directly and helpfully.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 7, 1999
Format: Hardcover
"Unwanted Sex" explains, in clear and understandable language, how limited is women's (and men's ) legal protection from unwanted sex. Schulhofer shows that rape laws in almost all states STILL require actual physical force or the immediate threat of it: other forms of coercion are okay! Amazing. He convincingly debunks the claims of Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe and Christina Hoff Sommers that the law indulges weak-willed women, criminalizes 'bad sex" and so forth. I recommend "Unwanted Sex" to anyone who wants to understand rape law and the ongoing debate around it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a thorough argument speaking in favor of "affirmative sexual consent" as prerequisite to sexual intercourse. It is mostly persuasive but I still have a problem with people trying to determine which nonverbal behaviors indicate tacit consent. It seems to me that the partners would have to be enthusiastically tearing off one another's clothes to satisfy the criterion of unspoken consent. Most sexual encounters fall short of that enthusiasm. They are a gradual progression from less to greater intimacy. So, we are left with the same problem, when does a partner know that their sexual overtures are welcomed. This is one of those instances in which a woman's lack of explicit communication can get a man in very serious trouble. She too.
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