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This view was described by Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676) in History of the Pleas of the Crown, published posthumously in 1736, where he wrote that "The husband cannot be guilty of a rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife, for by their mutual consent and contract the wife hath given up herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract"." Also, American and English law subscribed until the 20th century to the system of coverture, that is, a legal doctrine under which, upon marriage, a woman's legal rights were subsumed by those of her husband. 455 (1981), a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held a Louisiana Head and Master law, which gave sole control of marital property to the husband, unconstitutional.

In English customs, "bride capture" (a man claiming a woman through rape) was thought to be stealing a father's property by raping his daughter.Following this line of logic, a woman was (and still is in many cultures across the globe) first the property of her father, then, upon marriage, the property of her husband (Bergen, 2016).Therefore, a man could not be prosecuted for raping his own wife because she was his possession (Schelong, 1994).Laws are rarely being enforced, due to factors ranging from reluctance of authorities to pursue the crime, to lack of public knowledge that sexual intercourse in marriage without consent is illegal.Marital rape is more widely experienced by women, though not exclusively.

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