Analysis & Comment

Opinion | It’s Fraudulent Seduction, but Is It Rape?

To the Editor:

Re “You Were Duped Into Saying Yes. Is It Still Consent?,” by Roseanna Sommers (Op-Ed, March 6):

Sorry, but this slope is way too slippery. Who among us has never said anything deceptive to improve the chances of sexual contact with someone we’ve just met?

We exaggerate the importance of our jobs, and our prowess at tennis and chess. No matter how cantankerous we might be, we try to come off as cheerful. We might nap and play video games, but we project ourselves as sociable and extroverted.

Imagine someone bursting into a police station and declaring: “Officer! He said he loved Mozart, but he really loves Drake! Arrest him!”

Sorry, folks, but even 13-year-old Juliet knew that seduction is all just a big scam. As she points out in the balcony scene, “At lovers’ perjuries, they say, Jove laughs.”

William Cole
Sitges, Spain

To the Editor:

Roseanna Sommers discusses a married man lying to a single woman to engage in sex. Because that woman doesn’t knowingly consent, Ms. Sommers suggests that this is a form of rape. However, just as the words fraud, theft and armed robbery refer to different forms of stealing, so too there can be different forms of sexual offense.

The exact word for what Ms. Sommers describes is “seduction.” From Jane Austen’s time through the Victorians, seduction came to mean fraudulently luring someone into sexual behavior. If you want to talk about fraud in sexual terms, seduction is the word, not rape.

Terry Lawrence
Essex, Vt.

To the Editor:

If Roseanna Sommers’s hypothetical Frank tells Ellen he’s rich and he isn’t, is it rape? Since when is it unusual for people to misrepresent themselves to prospective romantic partners? And when consent is given under false pretenses, what makes that rape?

Not everything that’s wrong is a crime, nor should it be. If you want to sleep only with people you can trust, don’t offer consent to people you don’t know.

Susan B. Shurin
San Diego

To the Editor:

Roseanna Sommers quotes many “feminist legal scholars” as advancing the position that if a married man induces a woman to have sex with him by lying about his marital status, he is guilty of rape because the woman’s consent has been obtained by fraud.

Just to make certain that I understand this concept: If a woman lies to a man about her marital status and they have sex together, do these same feminist legal scholars believe that the woman is guilty of rape?

Thomas Hauser
New York

To the Editor:

As both a statistic (a term I much prefer to victim or survivor) of both “violent” stranger rape and “romantic” social rape, I am not persuaded by Roseanna Sommers’s thoughtful argument.

While the attacker who threatened to strangle me if I didn’t cooperate (or “consent”) was clearly a rapist, was the duplicitous (married) man I was willingly courted and seduced by guilty of a crime?

Of rape, no. Of fraud, yes.

Raleigh Mayer
New York

To the Editor:

Intent matters. The lie obviates the basis of the consent obtained under false pretenses. Something gained through duplicity is something wrongfully gained. So we must ask: Why is fraud self-evident in the case of contracts for material goods, and yet murky when it pertains to relationships?

It must be that we do not, as a society, want true accountability. Are people not at least as worthy of the dignity, value and legal protection afforded to things?

Diane Frank
Stanford, Calif.

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