Sex without Consent

Rape and Sexual Coercion in America

380 pages

February, 2002

ISBN: 9780814797891


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Merril D. Smith is the editor of Sex and Sexuality in Early America and Breaking the Bonds: Marital Discord in Pennsylvania, 1730-1830. She lives in National Park, New Jersey.

All books by Merril D. Smith

A group of men rape an intoxicated fifteen year old girl to "make a woman of her." An immigrant woman is raped after accepting a ride from a stranger. A young mother is accosted after a neighbor escorts her home. In another case, a college frat party is the scene of the crime. Although these incidents appear similar to accounts one can read in the newspapers almost any day in the United States, only the last one occurred in this century. Each, however, involved a woman or girl compelled to have sex against her will.

Sex without Consent explores the experience, prosecution, and meaning of rape in American history from the time of the early contact between Europeans and Native Americans to the present. By exploring what rape meant in particular times and places in American history, from interracial encounters due to colonization and slavery to rape on contemporary college campuses, the contributors add to our understanding of crime and punishment, as well as to gender relations, gender roles, and sexual politics.


  • "Needed historical perspective . . . thorough documentation . . . excellent."

    Library Journal

  • "The book provides some very interesting examples of early legal standards for prosecuting rape charges and charges of child sexual abuse in the United States."

    Archives of Sexual Behavior

  • "Merril Smith's edited volume provides numerous articles that will be of great worth to the historical and feminist communities. The range or articles in this volume goes beyond the usual "hotspots" while still allowing for important comparisons."

    Journal of Social History