SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF CONSENT
The problem with conceptualizing rape around the issue of consent is that the decision whether a woman has consented to sexual intercourse rarely is determined only by the woman herself. Often, instead, a woman’s consent, and ultimately her sexuality, may be determined for her by others —her partner, the community, or the court system. Women in American culture traditionally have little power to control their own bodies and their own sexuality, but, ironically, they are held responsible for the consequences. As has been noted by Weis and Borges (1973), sexual interactions are “socially structured by the culturally prescribed norms, rights, and obligations which define the expectancies for men and women and establish the rules by which [men and women] relate to one another” (p. 90). Sociocultural factors ultimately determine a woman’s consent in many situations, especially in attributions made by the community regarding acquaintance rape. Women’s experiences are viewed from an androcentric perspective and are lost in traditional definitions of consent and rape.
We will discuss five specific cultural factors that influence definitions of consent and attributions of acquaintance rape: cultural attitudes, cultural metaphors, societal myths, sexual scripts, and the legal system. We will argue that cultural attitudes, and their resultant metaphors and myths, lead to prescriptions for male-female relationships as reflected in sexual scripts and as codified in rape laws.