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date: 19 February 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Sexual violence has a surprisingly static history, whether regarding methods of sexual assault, the relationship of sexual vulnerability to economic and social vulnerability, an underlying suspicion of women’s claims of sexual force, or an emphasis on physical violence as the only believable means of coercion. This chapter explores the legal, social, and cultural meanings of rape throughout US history from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century. It includes discussions of feminist activism, rape culture, racism, and the overall relationships between social power and sexual power. While legal treatment of sexual violence has changed over time, the ability for powerful men to coerce less powerful women into sexual acts remains a remarkably consistent feature of America’s social, economic, and cultural past and present.

Keywords: rape, sexual violence, race, women’s history, African American, Native American, crime, legal history

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