Rape as an Act of Institutional Wrongdoing
Smith, Jenee Ashleigh
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
What if rape is an act of institutional wrongdoing, and becomes treated as such? In 2008, Nigel Pleasants coined the term ‘institutional wrongdoing’ to describe acts that are “chronically embedded in lawful, socially accepted, collectively sustained practices.”1 In considering rape as an act of institutional wrongdoing, this thesis is concerned with how we can better conceptualise and practically address men’s violence against women. While the legal system, treatment of offenders, and everyday understandings of rape tend to focus exclusively on the individual, and particularly the psychological determinants of this violence, I propose that greater attention ought to be placed on its social and structural foundations. An attempt to reframe men’s violence against women as a cause and consequence of gender inequality is neither new nor unique. However, rape as an act of institutional wrongdoing is philosophically novel and provides a useful framework to combat men’s violence against women. Firstly, I establish how the act of rape is a complex social problem that cannot be addressed through legislative reform alone. Secondly, I investigate the wrongness of rape which reveals that it has no single wrong-making feature. Instead, the wrongfulness of rape is derived from the combination of individual features and the context in which it occurs. Finally, in assessing directions for future intervention and reform, I propose that men bear a collective moral responsibility for rape. Reconceptualising rape as an act of institutional wrongdoing is philosophically significant as this model provides a practical way to think about combating sexual violence and accounts for the very fact that rape is both an individual transgression and a social practice with institutional implications.
MbyRes in Philosophy