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Debating rape

Rumney, Philip



Debating Rape

In October 2013, the Department of Law at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) hosted the inaugural debate in its ‘Debating Law’ series. The debate, entitled Is Rape Different? attracted much discussion, as well as criticism primarily because of comments made during the debate by two participants which it has been argued ‘appeal to existing rape myths in society’ and were not based on evidence. The hosting of the debate was criticised by the editors of the feminists@law online journal who sought signatories for a statement that condemned the hosting of Is Rape Different? and criticised the LSE for giving a platform to what they referred to as ‘dangerous and unsupported’ views on rape. In another response, it was argued that the debate ‘resurrected’ and gave ‘credibility’ to ‘long dis¬cred¬ited myths and as-sump¬tions about rape and about women’s sexu¬ality’. Further, the use of social media by the LSE to publicise the debate was criticised on the basis that it ‘closes down and severely limits careful, con¬sidered and evidenced-based dis¬cus¬sion about rape and rape law’.

This paper critically examines the Is Rape Different? debate and its aftermath. It considers the notion of dangerousness in the context of ideas and specifically, rape. It places the response to Is Rape Different? within a wider context of scholarly attempts to cordon off certain topics as beyond responsible discussion or debate. This paper also develops an argument based on classical free speech theory that emphasises the benefit to be derived from the expression of contested ideas and how scholars might respond to such ideas while maintaining a commitment to academic freedom and wider public engagement with scholarship.


Rumney, P. (2014, April). Debating rape. Paper presented at Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference 2014, Robert Gordon University

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference 2014
Conference Location Robert Gordon University
Start Date Apr 9, 2014
End Date Apr 11, 2014
Publication Date Jan 1, 2014
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords socio legal studies
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Conference 2014