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I must admit that I am not really sure if this counts as a ‘legal curiosity’ but in the UK a woman cannot rape a man, or another woman, as a matter of law. That is because of the terms in which the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defines the act of rape. Essentially women don’t have the necessary ‘bits’ to commit the offence! Put more pompously, the 2003 Act makes penile penetration the main element of the offence. Legal academics describe this approach as being ‘phallo-centric’, because only biological men can commit the offence, in law, whether their victims be male or female.

Women can, of course, sexually assault men and other women. And their victims might define their experiences, morally in terms of having been ‘raped’. For example, this is the situation for men who, against their will, have been forced or compelled to have penetrative sexual intercourse with a woman. Such men have not been ‘raped’ by their female assailants; they have ‘only’ been sexually assaulted.

Does it matter that their female assailants cannot legally be prosecuted for rape? The short answer is ‘probably’, because the maximum sentence for rape is life, whereas the maximum sentence for sexual assault is 10 years. There is, in fact, a specific offence of ‘sexual assault by penetration’, which can be committed by both men and women. That offence also carries a life sentence, but it is separate and distinct to the offence of rape.

As already pointed out, according to the law, only a biological man can commit the offence of rape.

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