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Marital Rape License

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"Her smile vanishes when she looks into his eyes
All his sweet promises crumble to dust
She doesn't want to see this greed in his eyes
But her weak protest dries up in his lies."

It was once legal in the Western world for a man to rape his wife (or for a wife to rape her husband for that matter). Sweden was the first country to explicitly criminalize it in 1965, and it has only been illegal in all fifty US states since 1993. Fifty-three countries around the world still don't consider it a crime.

In some old patriarchal systems, a woman belonged first to her father (or closest living male relative if the father was dead) and then to her husband. The same logic was applied long after women were no longer literally considered property — the offense of rape, for example, was considered less an injury to the woman and more an injury to the man she "belonged" to. Once she married — and in some systems, she could be married without her consent to any man, even if it were someone she despised or had never met — her husband was understood to have an unconditional, legal, and "moral" right to her body. It gets even creepier when the bride is underage.

There are two basic ways in which this can come into play as a trope:

  • Character-Based is when a character or group of characters clearly are guided by this kind of morality, but this is not portrayed in a positive light. On the contrary, it is used to define them as villainous or at least severely flawed. In contemporary works, all examples of this trope can be safely assumed to be character-based unless otherwise noted.
  • Narrative-Based is when the narrative itself buys into the morality: it is portrayed as if the woman had it coming for denying her husband his marital rights. However, she still doesn't enjoy it: if the wife seems to be happy with the forceful sex afterward, then it's an entirely different trope, and if they agreed on it in advance, then it's yet another trope. This type of trope typically only comes up in older works.

Statutory rape is not automatically included in this trope: Old Man Marrying a Child overlaps with this trope if and only if the marriage is consummated and the girl is indicated to be traumatized or unwilling. This distinction is included because some people feel very offended when the marriages of historical persons get judged by contemporary standards and thus summarily defined as rape. No Real Life examples, please: include only media examples, and stick to how the relationship is portrayed in that particular work.

Also likely to overlap with other forms of Arranged Marriage. On occasion (though not necessarily), this trope overlaps with Lie Back and Think of England, where sex is just another chore instead of something done for mutual pleasure.

This is a drama trope. For cases where abusive partners are played for Fanservice, see Fetishized Abuser. Romanticized Abuse overlaps in cases where such a structure is played for drama and Fanservice.

Compare No Woman's Land, A Match Made in Stockholm (Stockholm Syndrome for more information on Stockholm Syndrome in general) and Date Rape.

And Now You Must Marry Me is the more child-friendly equivalent, but still carries the implication of this trope.

Though this trope has unfortunately been Truth in Television for virtually all of human history, and still endures in numerous cultures today, please don't add real-life examples. noreallife


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ceres, Celestial Legend, Mikagi, Ceres' once kind and gentle husband who became warped after she gave him a supernatural power boost, was seen ripping off her clothes and was heavily implied to have raped her, since afterward Ceres is seen half-naked on the floor crying.
  • Discussed in Futari Ecchi. Akira claims that a man has the right to get on top of his wife whenever he wishes and even cites the law saying that rape as a crime does not exist between married couples. His wife, Sanae, is quick to point out that this law was changed recently, and the narration adds that this law only existed in the first place due to misinterpretation of rights.
  • In Tales of Wedding Rings, Peridot eventually reveals that she was one of the five princesses married to the original Ring King, who gained magical powers from sleeping with them. As the Ring King's war with the forces of the Abyss raged on, he eventually stopped seeing his wives as people and came to view them as, essentially, batteries to fuel his own power. He would have sex with them whenever he pleased, whether his wives were willing or not, and they had no choice but to endure this until the Abyss King was finally defeated. They then conspired to kill the Ring King, partly out of retribution for how he mistreated them, partly out of fear that he would become a tyrant even worse than the Abyss King if left unchecked.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • Played with in later scenes between Torso and Mutsuki. When Torso finally manages to kidnap his crush Mutsuki in chapter 64 and declares they are getting married right before showing him how he cut his legs and arms off with a ring on his finger and he dressed Mutsuki in a white dress too.
      • In order for a marriage to be fully legal, it has to be consummated...considering his earlier scenes with him and his sexual obsession and longing of Mutsuki, who's to say he didn't sexually violate Mutsuki in any way to consummate the "marriage" with his "bride"? Also, remember how he freaked out when Mutsuki glared at him and didn't accept his compliments after bringing him a flower crown? He states that Mutsuki better become more affectionate towards him as they are a man and woman (Mutsuki's body is biologically female) alone in the same place so he says Mutsuki has no choice but to love him. He's later shown sharing a makeshift bed with his "bride" and says he only hurts Mutsuki out of love for him which causes Mutsuki to cry and think about how he is cursed to be abused and used by men.
  • In Vinland Saga, Sigurd and Gudrid are set up in an Arranged Marriage that neither of them wants and neither of them is happy about. When Sigurd attempts to consummate the marriage anyway (while suggesting they both Lie Back and Think of England), Gudrid stabs him and runs off, setting into motion the main conflict of the third arc.

    Comic Books 
  • When the Runaways had an adventure in 1907 New York, they met Klara Prast, a preteen mutant girl both physically and sexually abused by her much older husband. The story arc ended with her leaving him to go back to the present with the kids, and she was on the team for the remainder of the series.
  • A rather somber case combines this with Prison Rape in Persepolis: since it was illegal in fundamentalist Iran to execute virgins, and since people believed virgins can't go to hell, a female convict is married off to a member of the Secret Police and promptly raped by her 'husband' before being executed. Then, to hammer the point home, a pittance of a dowry is sent to her family. This happening to a person they knew, plus fears that it could happen to Marjane, was one of many reasons Marjane's family sent her to Austria.
  • Arawn: Subverted when Deirdre becomes Arawn's wife by right of conquest after he murdered her husband and took over his kingdom. Naturally, she despises him and pushes him away when he tries making a move. Arawn rips her dress and attempts to force himself on her, but he refrains from doing so as he prefers that she gave her consent. She eventually does after rejecting him for a few weeks.
  • In Orion Tigra claims her husband Darkseid raped her, but it's unclear if this is actually the case since she said so while lying about Orion's origin to try and manipulate Orion into becoming the new ruler of Apocalypse. In any case, it wouldn't be outside of Darkseid's normal behavior to do such.
  • Wonder Woman: Amazonia: Steve Trevor being a much harsher character than his standard incarnation includes believing that his marriage to Diana entitles him to sleep with her whenever he wants to with no regard to her consent.
    Stephen Trevor was a man who needed constant proof that he was important...that he counted.
    And in his opinion, nothing proved that more than this...the sweet yielding of his wife's flesh beneath him.
    What she thought of the matter was of supreme disinterest to him. It would never have occurred to him to ask her.
    What mattered was this, the feeling of joy and dominance. It was worth everything.

    Fan Works 
  • Discussed female-on-male example in What is Love? where Hinata wonders if having sex with a passed-out Naruto is okay. She goes through with it, repeatedly telling herself: "It's okay. We're married."
  • Hinted at during the Rumpelstiltskin retelling The Dressmaker Queen.
  • Many Once Upon a Time fics assume that Leopold raped Regina. There have been some implications to this in the series, or at least that the marriage was deeply unhappy, but it has yet to be confirmed or denied. (Although the fact that Regina's main complaint is that he ignored her for most of their marriage in favour of paying attention to his daughter Snow and that Leopold was still so completely hung up on his late wife that his only motive for remarrying was to give Snow a mother-figure to look up to would seem to suggest otherwise.)
  • Discussed and averted in Strings, Korra worries that after being kidnapped and forcibly married to Tarrlok that he would do this to her. Despite his Jerkass nature and his Domestic Abuse, Tarrlok never does this and only has sex with Korra when she initiates it after he made his Heel Realization and made amends with her.
  • This trope is implied in Kiryuuin Chronicles, in the sense that Ragyou had become pregnant by her abusive husband multiple times (she carrying two to term), which suggests that their relations were not consensual.
  • In The Price of Victory by sbmcneil, Ginny is married off to Draco due to family debts. He fathers three children, despite them both hating each other. Lucius even stated he will be whoring Ginny out. Thankfully, he was killed in a raid before he could start, and Draco, for all his abuse and infidelity, never saw a point in... sharing.
  • Empath tests the level of consent that Smurfette is willing to let him have in touching her after they are married in the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Empath's Honeymoon", when Empath uses his telekinesis to cop a "psychic feel" of Smurfette when she's taking a shower in the waterfalls on Utopia Island. Fortunately, it never gets to the point where either Empath or Smurfette are violated by each other.
  • Alluded to in Let the World Smile. Zelda will need to consummate her marriage whether she's ready or not, though all that's been shown thus far is Ganondorf kissing Zelda in a manner she dislikes.
  • Mandie's New Target: Princess Mandie desires to make Danny Phantom her husband and provide her children. She doesn't seem bothered that he wants nothing to do with her and it's implied she will not care for his consent once she gets her hands on him.
  • Discussed in A Northern Dragoness. It is abundantly clear that Naerys does not want to have sex with Aegon, but he continues to force himself on her. When called out on this by his son, he points out that after the Dance of the Dragons and the near-extinction of House Tagareyn, the realm desperately needs legitimate Tagareyn heirs to secure the succession. And with Aemon sworn to chastity and Baelor refusing to consummate his "marriages" with his sister-"wives", Aegon is the only one who can sire legitimate heirs, and Naerys the only woman he can sire them on.
  • Tomura in According to Persephone feels it doesn't count as rape if Izuko is his wife... though he also admits that he doesn't really care about the law anyway.
  • In Tavingtons Heiress - William Tavington is not enthusiastic about the prospect of forcing his newlywed, not-very-attractive, and clearly terrified bride. However, they have only one night together before he has to return to the front lines, and he's afraid that the marriage will be annulled if it isn't consummated, so he carries out the act despite her tears and screams. His motive was more to ensure his rights to her fortune than for sex or power, but it was definitely a rape, and everyone in the setting acknowledges that it was his right as her husband to do it. He never forces her again after that.
  • Snorkacks: Redux:
    Luna: A woman is supposed to be subservient to her husband in all things. That’s how the pureblood laws are written. For instance, did you know that a pureblood witch is still expected to enter her wedding bed a virgin, undress her husband and then herself, lie on her back, and then allow her husband to do exactly as he pleases, without protest of any kind, whether she wants what he does, or not.

  • The Barretts of Wimpole Street: Edward Moulton-Barrett has an unnatural fixation on his daughter Elizabeth. During his Villainous Breakdown at the end, he strongly implies — at least as far as 1934 censorship allowed — that all of his children after Elizabeth, totaling eight, resulted from Edward raping his wife.
    "You, my eldest child, were born of love, only love. But the others, long before they came, love died out and fear took its place. Fear — and all because I saw the right and did it. Not that she ever opposed me, ever once."
  • Call Her Savage has Larry the dirtbag summon Nasa under the pretense that he's dying (in fact he appears to be suffering an attack of insanity, probably from syphilis), and try and rape her, citing the License. She hits him over the head with an end table.
  • Coal Miner's Daughter: when 14-year-old Loretta, a virgin, panics on her wedding night, her husband rapes her. She doesn't enjoy it, but they stay married.
  • The Duchess: Georgiana Cavendish is raped by her husband, the Duke of Devonshire, for having an affair and daring to call him out on his own mistress. This results in pregnancy, and the son he's always wanted...
  • Gone with the Wind: Rhett Butler complains that he doesn't get sex from his wife Scarlett, then roughly picks her up and runs up to the bedroom with her while she attempts to fight him off. The next morning she has a big smile on her face, singing the suitably Victorian lyric "She wept with delight when he gave her a smile / And trembled with fear at a frown."
    • This scene is a strong contrast to its counterpart in the book. There, Rhett goes out of his way to make Scarlett enjoy sex; the book clearly states that she has never gotten anything out of it before. In the morning, she is overcome with shame.
  • In A History of Violence (2005), when Edie learns of her husband Tom's crime-filled past and double life, Tom chases after her to stop her from leaving and she slaps him. During their fight, Tom grabs Edie by the neck and attempts to force himself on her. Only when he realizes what he is doing and stops, Edie pulls him back in herself and they have passionate violent sex on the staircase.
  • Marnie: Sean Connery's character blackmails Marnie into marrying him and then commits this trope on their honeymoon cruise, despite initially appearing to respect her wishes.
  • Osama ends with the main character, a female child, getting married off to a man old enough to be her grandfather or even her grandfather's father. The scene right before the last scene is on the wedding day, focusing on how terrified the girl is and how much the other wives hate their husbands. The very last scene is at night, showing the old man happy and content, performing the holy cleansing ritual that he had earlier in the movie taught a class of young boys that every good man is supposed to do after he has bedded his wife.
  • Quills: Dr. Royee-Collard's first night with his young bride, who was raised in a convent. He rips off her nightgown while she is pretending to be asleep and tells her that it's her duty to give him whatever he wants. It is also heavily implied that he's a back-door kind of guy.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: Played for Black Comedy when the Sheriff insists on a hasty yet "proper" marriage with Marian while attempting to have his way with her, before Robin Hood interrupts.
    Sheriff: Do you mind? We've just been married.
  • The backstory to Separate Tables reveals that Tom tried to exercise the Marital Rape License after Ann withheld sex from him to mess with his head. It's portrayed as a dysfunctional relationship from both sides.
  • A variation in Sleeping with the Enemy with Martin and Laura's post-abuse sex scene. His portrayer Patrick Bergin outright declared it to be rape despite Martin's cajoling and apologetic demeanor, given that Laura clearly doesn't want to and is visibly forcing herself to pretend that she's enjoying it.
  • Tale of Tales: The ogre naturally forces himself on Violet shortly after he gets her back to his lair.
  • What's Love Got to Do with It (1993): Ike Turner beats and rapes his wife Tina in their home recording studio because he's dissatisfied with the way she was singing "Nutbush City Limits". Shortly after this, Tina, having had enough of Ike's years of abuse, reaches the Despair Event Horizon and attempts Suicide by Pills. It should be noted that there's no evidence suggesting that the real Ike ever raped Tina. Tina did mention in her autobiography that Ike would sometimes have sex with her after he hit her, but she never actually accused him of rape. Tina did, however, actually attempt suicide in real life, but it happened years before when it was depicted in the film and for different reasons.
  • Zandy's Bride: Zandy rapes his Mail-Order Bride Hannah on their wedding night. They argue about it the day after, with Zandy insisting that since it was his right, it wasn't rape.

  • In A Brother's Price, Trini is raped by her husband Keifer, who then convinces her older sister that "she provoked him", and gets off with no punishment at all. Also includes double standards, as her raping him wouldn't have been seen as so easily forgivable, but if he had raped some random woman he would at least have gotten punished for adultery. When he dies sometime after the incident, he is not missed.
  • In Clan of the Cave Bear, when men make "the signal", women are expected to drop everything and prepare for a sexual encounter. The Signal is generally done only with one's mate but can be done with any female if the need is much upon the male. When Broud does it to Ayla it's only because he knows she doesn't like it but may not disobey. Ayla is shocked to learn that other women like sex and even invite it, trying to get their mates to make the signal. Note that the Clan are not homo sapiens, and their physiology directly dictates a number of gender roles that would be inappropriate in our societies; it takes a great deal of inventiveness and willpower for a Clan female to even conceive of disobeying the order of a male, and it's strongly implied that obeying "the signal" is not so much a social construct as a literal biological imperative. When Ayla discusses her rape with her Clan mother, said Clan woman is completely incapable of understanding the idea of not having sex because you don't want to, and in later books, Ayla herself has to be taught what "rape" is.
  • Hest and Alisa's marriage in Dragon Keeper is explicitly stated to be this.
  • The Belgariad sort of skirts the two with protagonist Barak and his wife Merel, but ultimately seems to fall closer to side B. Their marriage was arranged, but Barak wanted it while she did not. In the first book, we're told on his return to the city he had his way with her although she was unwilling. Barak is ashamed for what he did, but his wife is portrayed as shrewish and shallow, doing all in her power to make him unhappy (like denying him access to their daughters, who he loves). Those who talk about the situation largely reserve their sympathy for Barak, and no one ever suggests he didn't have the perfect right to do as he did. She becomes pregnant as a result of his unwanted advances, and the son she bears winds up healing their marriage and making her more sympathetic to and towards the protagonists.
  • In the Jodi Picoult novel Handle with Care Sean rapes Charlotte, all the while telling her that he loves her because he is trying to show her that words don't always make actions any better.
  • Generally accepted as normal in A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Cersei complains about Robert getting drunk and demanding his "rights".
    • Subverted with Tyrion, who declines to do this with his reluctant wife Sansa. It's expected of him to bed and impregnate his new wife whether she wants to or not (or, to be more specific, whether either of them wants to or not). Although clearly attracted to her, Tyrion outright refuses and says he won't touch her until she wants it, in part because she's so young.
    • Then there's Ramsay Bolton, though what he does is shown, and implied to be much worse, to go far beyond what even someone who fully supported this tradition would consider acceptable.
    • Daenerys clearly expects it on her wedding night, but Khal Drogo is surprisingly considerate and arouses her to the point that she consents. Following that night, however, Dany complains that Drogo simply flips her over and goes to town whenever he's in the mood. After receiving some tips on lovemaking, her relationship becomes more equal both in and out of the bedroom.
    • Subverted with the wildlings, who practice gender-disparity equality: any man can forcefully marry, and then rape, his wife, but any woman who is married can legally murder their husband if he tries this. It's a sort of "if you're going to be a dick about your right to marry me, I'm going to be a cunt about my right to fight back".
    • The Mad King Aerys, on top of being cruel towards his people, was physically and sexually abusive towards his wife, Rhaella. Jaime recounts that Aerys paid Rhaella a visit after he's satisfied burning people alive (an activity he did frequently), and she would look like she had been savaged by an animal the morning after. It's implied that Daenerys was conceived during this routine.
    • Brother and sister Aegon IV and Naerys had a dysfunctional arranged marriage, with Aegon being a serial cheater who happily admitted to sleeping with dozens if not hundreds of women. Naerys tried to leave him many times, but Aegon really did not like it when women said no to him, and refused. To rub salt into her wounds, Aegon did not name Naerys as one of the nine women he claimed he truly loved. They still conceived two children, nevertheless, but they were certainly not begotten out of consensual love (and were rumored to be fathered by middle brother Aemon, though this was likely started by Aegon himself to disinherit his legitimate heir, Daeron II).
  • In Hurog, this is accepted as normal, with Ward recalling that when his mother was drugged, his father didn't rape her quite so often. (He says "come to her bed" but it's pretty clear that those visits were not wanted). None of the heroes think it's right to do that, (Ward's father is universally acknowledged to have been a jerk and abuser) but they don't consider making a law against it, either, this being a patriarchal, medieval fantasy setting, and it would be anachronistic. The good guys just don't use the marital rape license.
  • In Tobacco Road, Lov contemplates getting Jeeter's help to tie Pearl in bed, having tried every other method of persuasion and force he could think of to alleviate his frustration with his Sexless Marriage to a wife who refuses to even speak with him. This possibility is made Squickier by the fact that Pearl is only about twelve years old. Fortunately for Pearl, nothing of the sort happens to her before she runs away.
  • The Madasans of Honor Harrington follow this. They serve as a regular source of bad guys. And worse, the Masadan religion doesn't even recognize the concept of rape.
  • The Forsyte Saga: Soames Forsyte is madly in love with his wife Irene and he absolutely adores her, but she never reciprocated his feelings. Eventually, she has an affair with a young architect and wants to leave their marriage. Desperately trying to secure her for himself, he rapes her.
  • The Alienist: The cold and strict Mrs. Dury couldn't stand her husband touching her. Mr. Dury tries pleading with her, arguing about her duties and his needs as a husband, then finally snaps and rapes her.
  • There's a version of this in The Thorn Birds when Luke takes Meggie with absolutely zero consideration for the fact that she's a virgin, as well as completely ignorant as to matters of sex (her mother never bothered to explain anything to her and she had no older sisters or girlfriends who could have). When she screams in pain as he enters her, his only response is to snap at her to "shut up and lie still".
  • This happens to Beatrice, the poor female protagonist of Simona Ahrnstedt's Överenskommelser. After being pressured into marrying the heinous villain Rosenschiöld, who's like forty years older than her and treats women like dirt, she suddenly panics on the wedding night and says no. But not only does he rape her, he even has the nerve to go into a rage after finding out that she wasn't a virgin. Let's just say that nobody missed him after he died in a couple of days...
  • In the novel My Sweet Audrina by V. C. Andrews, the main character is resistant to her husband. The next morning, after he rapes her unconscious, he says she enjoyed it after a while. While the character, (who was gang-raped as a child and brainwashed to forget about it), doesn't enjoy it, she stays because she's been in love with the man since she was a child. It gets worse from there.
  • In Petals on the Wind, Paul admits to resorting to raping his wife Julia, after all his other efforts at helping her get over her sexual fears fail. Cathy suffers this at her abusive husband Julian's hand and it's implied with Bart and Corrine—after he assaults Cathy and she calls him a rapist, he dismissively tells her, "My wife often says the same thing. But she enjoys it, just like you did."
  • Count Kalliovski threatens this to poor helpless Sido in The Red Necklace.
  • In Changes, after Harry agrees to become Mab's knight consort, the first thing she does is have sex with him. Harry bears with it because he needs Mab's help to save his daughter's life, but his consent is clearly coerced.
  • In The Nibelungenlied, Gunther has to physically overpower Brunhild and rape her in order to consummate the marriage. When he can't do so, he secretly has Siegfried, in an invisibility cloak, tie her up first. Suspicions that Siegfried actually went the whole way (which would obviously be really bad) end up provoking the cycle of murder and revenge that fills the second half of the story.
  • Occasionally, some of the villainous husbands in the average Danielle Steel novel apply this to their wives. And disturbingly enough, one of the heroic husbands displays this towards his wife on one occasion. His demeanor is playful and cajoling, but the bottom line is, she declines his advances and he ignores her refusal. In a classic demonstration of Steel's frequent Double Standard regarding her "good" and "bad" characters, this is never portrayed as wrong, and worse yet, implied that she deserves this because she's been cheating on him.
  • The Courtship of Princess Leia: One short scene features Teneniel Djo explaining to Isolder that she's within her rights to do this to him, but she isn't going to. Isolder isn't entirely sure how to respond (especially since he's a prince, back on his own world). Oddly enough they do have feelings for each other, although they're both pursuing other partners at the time. He didn't agree to be her husband either. By their customs, as she captured him, he's hers. However, Isolder later willingly takes her as his wife, with Teneniel becoming Queen of Hapes.
  • In the medieval Romance Novel "Enchanted", the heroine is so terrified that her husband will invoke this that she brings a Chastity Dagger to bed so as to protect herself. He's bewildered at her reaction but assures her that he isn't that kind of man. She eventually confides that I Have This Friend who was raped to explain her fears and he becomes even more understanding.
  • A part of Spinning Silver, not so much in human marriages but as part of the Staryk's Blue-and-Orange Morality. Specifically, the King insists on giving Miryem her "rights" as his wife, even though she doesn't want them, and he doesn't want to give them. She resorts to bargaining away her rights in exchange for his answering three questions a night (of which she has plenty).
  • The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali: Rukhsana's grandmother (a minor to begin with) had to suffer this often in her marriage, and was happy being pregnant since then her husband temporarily let up.
  • In Garden of Shadows, Malcolm raped Olivia their first time together, even though she begged him not to do it. It's made worse by the fact that the act was triggered by remembering his mother who abandoned him and he whispered her name the entire time.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The King's Woman: Ying Zheng storms into the room of one of his concubines and physically pulls her over to the bed.
  • Goodbye My Princess: Cheng Yin is implied to have invoked this after Xiao Feng declared how much she hated him. This just makes their already-disastrous marriage even worse.
  • Divorce Court: The 1980s version was one of the first courtroom dramas to have an episode where the husband was accused of raping his wife in a marital setting. A few pre-trial scenes showed the attorneys talking about how this case could test the strength of the then-new marital rape laws as grounds for divorce. Throughout the episode, the husband – who already was accused of being increasingly abusive throughout the marriage – steadfastly denied that the encounter in question was anything but consensual, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Finally, after his wife's attorney grills him on the stand and threatens to have him charged with perjury, the man finally breaks down and admits he was trying to regain the passion that once existed in the marriage. Judge William B. Keene doesn't buy it for a second and orders him bound over for trial on the charge.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: One of the darkest episodes in the entire run was "Daisy's Shotgun Wedding", where Daisy is kidnapped by the Beaudrys, a sociopathic, misogynistic backwoods family intending to turn her into their sex slave; it is the dumbest but most vile and evil of the two brothers – the mammoth-sized Milo – who will be primarily responsible for having sex with Daisy. And it is of course with knowledge that the Beaudrys plan to rape Daisy as brutally as possible – plus use her as their slave and be otherwise mean, vicious and cruel to her in general – that has Bo, Luke, Boss, and Rosco racing against time to stop an imminent Shotgun Wedding.
  • This came up in an early episode of CASUAL+Y, which publicised that this was technically still on the books in England and Wales until 1991. Scotland, with its different legal system, has always held it to be illegal.
  • In the North and South miniseries, the hero's Love Interest is married off to an abusive man who rapes her, among other things. Being the openly evil villains they are, her husband and his friends consider this to be nothing more than his marital rights. Of course, the hero disagrees.
  • Brookside features a storyline where Rachel Jordach is forced to have sex with her husband and the reaction of the bigoted character Ron Dixon is to say "he can't have raped her he's her husband".
  • Barney Miller has an episode (actually titled "Rape") where a woman comes into the police station distraught and says she's been raped. The husband, and, to a great extent, Barney, don't understand what the big deal is, assuming that it would be impossible for a rape to happen inside a marriage since marriage implies a loving relationship and a greater sense of "consent". The District Attorney, a woman, and Lt. Dietrich, do understand the gravity of the situation (and just how wrong the rape was), and the husband's lawyer, though agreeing with Linden and the husband, wants the case to go ahead because he wants the fame associated with it. Dietrich, Lt. Harris, and the DA spend the rest of the episode explaining how classless the husband was and how he needs to treat women with more respect. The episode ultimately concludes by treating the incident as if it was "just another marriage disagreement", with the husband agreeing with Harris that he was just uncouth and was just clueless about how to treat women properly (which raises the question about how he got married in the first place), learning, through the experience, just how to do it properly, causing his wife to forgive him and drop the whole matter. Perhaps the only reason why the episode works is due to Values Dissonance (social inequity, though improving, still had quite a bit of work to do when the episode aired in 1978) — it's doubtful now that such a scenario, with society's greater understanding of the real impact of rape, even in marriage, could be played for laughs today. Truth in Television as New York's marital rape exemption wasn't found unconstitutional until 1984.
  • The Burning Bed: Although it's talked about and not shown, we're told during the last courtroom sequence that the only reason Francine gave in to Mickey was she knew he'd beat her if she refused.
  • This is the reason why Mad Men fandom nicknamed Joan Holloway's fiancé and eventual husband "Doctor Rapist".
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • The episode "Asunder" deals with a cop raping his wife after she throws a frying pan at his head (not that there's a justification for either). The cop, of course, claims it was consensual (and the wife says so as well at one point), while his precinct buddies simply say that it isn't rape if it's your wife. The SVU cops go after him, after a bit of bickering, and Benson makes reference to the 1993 law. Note that while the jury finds him not guilty, ADA Cabot calls it a partial victory as she was the first one to get it past the Grand Jury. She hopes this will pave the way for future ADA's.
    • This trope was discussed in the episode "Persona" after Olivia and Cragen hear Linnie's story (that her name was actually Carolyn and that she escaped from police custody while awaiting trial for shooting her husband six times after he raped her), they note that "Marital rape wasn't made a crime until 1984. Nowadays, we wouldn't even charge her, it'd be ruled self-defense." In the end, she's found not guilty of the murder, though she will have to at least serve probation for the escape.
    • In "Downloaded Child", the team meets a woman who's so broken by childhood abuse that she doesn't seem to view anything her husband does to her as wrong. While the major focus is tracking down the pedophiles who are still circulating the pictures her childhood abuser published, they do at one point arrest the husband, walking all over this trope, as Barba suggests they try and "see if he's dumb enough to confess to something he doesn't realize is a crime". The husband ends up doing exactly that, to the point where even when Amaro hints at the fact that his actions might constitute rape, he replies, "That's the beauty of it. There's no such thing as raping your wife." We never see him again after this conversation.
  • The Borgias depicts Lucrezia's husband raping her on a regular basis and claiming it as his right. This trope is further examined with the marriage of Gioffre Borgia and Sancia of Aragon — except it's gender-swapped, with Sancia disrobing and climbing into bed on top of her alarmed (and very young — 12 years old in Real Life) husband before he can protest...
  • The focus of several ground-breaking Soap Opera plots, such as Guiding Light (Roger and Holly) and Days of Our Lives (Jack and Kayla). True to form, both men insisted that since the women were their wives that they were completely entitled to have sex with them and there was no rape. Jack did later acknowledge he'd done the wrong thing, following his Heel–Face Turn.
  • One Life to Live had a similar storyline with Blair and Victor, though it was more morally ambiguous: it happened off-camera, but basically they had been having a fight which turned into sex as per usual TV conventions. Apparently Blair never directly said no, so Victor assumed it was consensual, but afterward she regarded it as a rape. This is also heavily implied with Blair's marriage to Asa. When she tells her mother that she's pregnant, she admits that she's lying in the hopes that "he'll leave me alone."
  • Also on Passions, Alistair Crane repeatedly forces himself on wife Theresa and is stated to have done the same thing with wife Katherine.
  • General Hospital: Alan and Monica prepare to make love to solidify their reconciliation following her adultery. Unfortunately, his demeanor gradually made her more and more fearful and repulsed until it turned into an example of this trope. Audrey Hardy suffered this at the hands of husband Tom (she managed to divorce him and marry her true love Steve). Sadly, this is how their son was conceived. 30-something years later when her granddaughter Elizabeth was raped, it brought back the terrible memories.
  • The Young and the Restless' Paul Williams cheated on his wife Christine and divorced her to marry the other woman after getting her pregnant. Despite Christine now being his ex-wife, he was so enraged upon hearing that she was engaged that he stormed over to her apartment to confront her and ultimately forced himself on her.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • This happens in the first episode, "Winter is Coming", where Khal Drogo rapes Daenerys on their wedding night despite her protests-it's made all the worse when he reveals that despite not having spoken the Common Tongue all episode, he knows full-well what "no" means. Drogo continues to rape Daenerys in the second episode until she finally has a servant girl (a former prostitute) teach her how to enjoy sex (and teach Drogo that there are positions other than doggie-style). She also learns a few words in Dothraki in order to convince Drogo that she's not refusing sex but merely wants to show him something else. This trope wasn't present in the book's depiction of this event, in which Drogo doesn't force her but instead they have some intimate moments involving hair-braiding, and he gets her consent before having sex, in a scene that was surprisingly tender given his reputation and the language barrier. However, Drogo raping Daenerys every morning after the wedding night was present in the book.
    • Later averted with Sansa and Tyrion in "Second Sons". Sansa fully expects to have to consummate her marriage with Tyrion even though she REALLY doesn't want to, but Tyrion promises he won't share her bed until she wants him to, even if that never happens (it doesn't before they've been separated).
    • Played fully straight between Ramsay Bolton and Sansa Stark when he brutally rapes her on their wedding night in "Unbent, Unbowed and Unbroken". As shown in "The Gift" one episode later, he doesn't stop this, keeping her as a Girl in the Tower and aggressively and forcefully raping her every night to the point that she has bruising all along her arms (and probably also in many places we can't see).
  • The incident of marital rape in the 1967 BBC adaptation of The Forsyte Saga was made reasonably explicit (for the time) and caused some controversy.
  • One of the cases in Boston Public involved a young girl who was going to be forced to marry and consummate the marriage.
  • The Tudors: George Boleyn resents his arranged marriage to Jane Rochford, so he takes her maidenhood quite violently on their wedding night.note 
  • On Salem Mary claims that George Sibley did this to her. The flashbacks we see appear to confirm it.
  • Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman's sister Marjorie implies this about her husband, saying that he "insisted on his right to my bed".
  • Tyrant (2014): Jane, an American Muslim who joined the Army of the Caliphate, is referred to as "comforting" her husband Faisal, but replies "in America we call that rape." This is one of the factors (plus the cold-blooded killings that the Army carries out) convincing her to flee.
  • Subverted for laughs in Galavant. When Galavant finds out that the evil King Richard (theoretically evil, anyway) hasn't slept with his wife, he awkwardly asks if he didn't... insist.
    Richard: I'm not an animal. I mean, sure, I'll kidnap a woman and force her to marry me, but after that, I'm all about a woman's rights. I'm a modern, 13th-century man.
  • Even more creepy than usual in Arrow. Ra's Al Ghul forces his daughter Nyssa to marry his chosen heir Oliver. When Nyssa objects to bearing a child, Ra's dismisses her complaints by stating that she will do as ordered and she will have no more say in the matter than her mother had (implying she may be a Child by Rape herself). This is par for the course for Ra's in his comic book incarnation as well. Talia is definitely attracted to The Detective, but Ra's attitude towards this is mainly "how nice for you; that will make your task easier."
  • On Good Girls Revolt Patti asks Cindy whether she feels she has to have sex with Lenny. Cindy just shrugs and says he's her husband.
  • Almost happens on Into the Badlands between Quinn and Veil. Earlier in the episode, Quinn decides to make Henry, Veil's infant son by Sunny, his legal heir by making her his second wife. Of course, it's very clear that he's also using the marriage to gain the extra perk of having sexual access to Veil since he has always had a weird infatuation with her since season one. After the marriage and Quinn takes Veil to their bedchamber, he more or less presumes to assault her while Veil hesitantly tries to slit his throat before he can consummate the marriage. The only thing that stops the act is when Lydia, Quinn's first wife, barges in with news that Sunny is alive and is coming to kill Quinn.
  • On Good Girls Boomer forces himself on his fiancée Mary Pat, although even their engagement is only a result of his blackmailing her. It's implied this is the last straw driving her to kill him.
  • Strange Empire: Isabella has to endure Slotter abusing this after he decides to father another child with her.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: Gilead clearly does not deem it rape if a man is having sex with his Wife or a Handmaid, their consent be damned.

  • Blutengel: One of the ways to interpret the song "Black Wedding" — see page quote.
  • This is heavily implied by the the song "Labour" by Paris Paloma: "It's not an act of love if you make her ..."
  • Implied in the song Mother's Little Helper by The Rolling Stones. The lyrics suggest that the protagonist's addiction to Valium is at least in part due to her husband not taking no for an answer in bed.
  • "Pizza" by Ruth Wallis heavily implies this, using "giving him pizza every night" to mean sex, which the narrator's husband demands from her whether or not she wants it.
  • This is something of a frequent trope in 1950s calypso music from Trinidad - the narrator will usually act as the observer and try to help out the female. On the rare occasion, it is female on male, the narrator is usually the victim and it will typically be Played for Laughs (which is, of course, Values Dissonance from a modern perspective).

    Mythology and Religion 
  • A Hadithnote  hints at this trope. A husband can demand sex at any time whatsoever and his wife should come immediately no matter what she is doing or whether she wants it or not. If she refuses or even leaves his bed, angels will curse her.
    • The verse 2: 223 of The Qur'an "Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will." also has been interpreted as a rape license.
  • The Bible:
    • Paul states, "The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife." in 1 Corinthians 7:4, implying that marital relationships are to be consensual. Some interpret this as this trope but more — both spouses have the license, should they want to invoke it. Similarly, a passage used to justify marital rape is in Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit to your husbands." However, there's also the flip side in verse 25: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ so loved the church." (A love which went as far as accepting torture and death for the sake of the other.) The entire passage (v.22-33) goes into both statements in more detail. In general, Paul and other Biblical writers make it very clear that marriage is meant to be a loving partnership with both parties willingly sacrificing the self for the other (in all aspects, not just sex), not a master/slave deal, but those passages tend to be ripe for cherry-picking.
    • The Old Testament had laws dealing with rape and marriage, but the situation was a bit complicated due to cultural differences:
      • Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says that if a man rapes a non-betrothed virgin, he is forced to pay her father fifty silver pieces and marry her, and is not allowed to divorce her. However, this is more of a Shotgun Wedding situation: marriage can be refused by the father (Exodus 22:17), as it was a patriarchal society in ancient times, but the rapist cannot refuse. It is likely that they would usually agree to a marriage, though, since rape victims usually had a very hard time finding a husband, and women usually had trouble supporting themselves without one. Virginity was highly valued, and unmarried women may have been forced to sell themselves into slavery or prostitution to survive. This law would ensure that she would have a means of sustenance available if she chose to do so (even though that would mean marrying her rapist).
      • Also, the word translated 'rape' also refers to seduction and is more suited to placing the blame and subsequent penalty upon the man, even if the intercourse was consensual. If she is already married to someone else, it is treated as adultery; otherwise, he must pay her a generous dowry (roughly five years' worth of a middle-class wage, at the time) which she keeps whether she accepts the marriage or not. This also downplays the "will I have a hard time finding a husband" and the "can I support myself without a husband" problems, as there were men willing to marry a woman with a good fortune, and women in that culture (even married) were allowed to own property, inherit wealth, and transact with merchants (when married, even apart from their husbands). The sexual intercourse was seen as an offense to her right to self-determination, and the generous dowry and offer of marriage a recompense.
    • There's an application of that law in the Book of Genesis when the prince Shechem rapes Jacob's daughter Dinah and later obtains her in marriage with her father's consent. However, Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi proceed to slaughter Shechem and his people in retribution.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Taken to the illogical extreme in F.A.T.A.L. where not only can a man rape his wife, but any male of age in the village is welcome, and is likely, to join in. Then after it's all said and done, the woman is likely to be punished for being raped, with more rape.

  • Prima Facie: Discussed. In her impassioned filibuster near the end Tessa brings up how not too long ago it was perfectly legal for men to rape their wives, and how the law changed to accommodate them. And how it must change again to better protect victims.

    Video Games 
  • Crusader Kings: Implicit, and fitting for the time period. Marriages are merely political arrangements, often between complete strangers, to produce children, and typically do so regardless of the couple's opinion of one another.
    • Falling in love with your spouse is a separate event which only fires off sometimes. The lucky couples who get it also get a fertility boost, because they're having sex a lot more often. Unloving couples only do it for the duty of producing heirs.

    Web Animation 

  • In one Chick Tract called "The Little Bride", the marriage between Aisha and Muhammad is used to condemn Islam, highlighting that she was only 6 when they got engaged and only 9 when they got married. The tract draws the conclusion that Muhammad was a pedophile rapist. (Other portrayals, such as The Jewel of Medina, avert this trope.)
  • In Collar 6 this turns out to be the norm in Laura's homeland in the Puritan Territories, and it's stated that men get to have their way with the woman of their choice in the hopes of conceiving a male because of a severe gender imbalance, and Laura's father had a harem of sixty-three women. This is contrasted with the consensual BDSM of the main setting.

    Western Animation 
  • The Breadwinner doesn't outright say it, but it's implied plenty. Nurallah gets understandably protective when a teenage Talib mentions that Parvana is old enough to marry him, Soraya isn't happy with being married off, and Shauzia tearfully tells Parvana "Maybe they'll find you a husband too, and all your troubles will be over, until after the wedding at least," when she explains her situation.
  • In one episode of Kaeloo, the characters play house, with Kaeloo as the mother and Mr. Cat as the father. At one point when the two are alone, he suggestively rubs his groin against hers, lies on top of her, and turns out the lights, stating that he is "exercising his marital rights". Fortunately, nothing happens.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Marital Rape Licence


Rhett Takes Scarlett By Force

Evidently, he did SOMETHING that made her happy.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / MaritalRapeLicense

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