UC Law SF Journal on Gender and Justice


Sarah Doan-Minh


Corrective rape originally referred to rape perpetrated by straight men against lesbians in order to “correct” or “cure” their homosexuality—a punishment for being gay and for violating traditional gender presentation. The term is now used more broadly to refer to the rape of any member of a group that does not conform to gender norms or heterosexuality when the motive of the perpetrator is to “correct” the individual. In the United States, the actual causes of corrective rape are usually ignored or de-emphasized, thereby perpetuating the rates of sexual violence. Sexual violence is often framed in terms of personal dynamics of a relationship, rather than as a problem deeply rooted in traditional gender and sexual orientation norms. Americans seem to have a distorted, de-politicized view of rape, one that fails to include anyone but heterosexual women. However, corrective rape is political, systemic, group-based violence. This note attempts to demonstrate that corrective rape is defined by the distribution of power in society, and not by individualized relationship dynamics or personal antagonism between the rapist and victim. It discusses the ways in which corrective rape is a violation of bodily autonomy and sexual identity, which ultimately leads to the lack of true societal equality. Additionally, this Note examines the current legal response to corrective rape and proposes a threefold response that states should adopt to remedy deficiencies in the law for victims. The threefold response includes:1) enacting hate crime statutes in the states that have not yet done so and strengthening the legislation in states that have; 2) recognizing corrective rape as a distinct hate crime; and 3) providing legal mechanisms that would compel prosecutors to charge corrective rape as a hate crime.