Rape Redefined: Catharine A. MacKinnon in conversation with Kate O’Regan

Event date
29 November 2022
Event time
17:00 - 18:45
Oxford week
MT 8
Bonavero Institute of Human Rights - Sir Joseph Hotung Auditorium

Catharine A. MacKinnon

Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law, University of Michigan and The James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Notes & Changes

Catharine MacKinnon will argue that consent is an intrinsically unequal concept and should be eliminated from the law of sexual assault. To redefine rape as the crime of inequality that it is, the prohibited act should center instead on a concept of force that, beyond physical force, incorporates multiple inequalities of power -- such as age, race, disability, celebrity, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex/gender -- when used to coerce a sexual interaction.

You can read Professor MacKinnon's Rape Redefined paper here.

A photograph of Catharine A MacKinnon speaking at a lecturn

Professor Catharine MacKinnon

Professor Catharine A. MacKinnon is the Elizabeth A. Long Professor of Law, University of Michigan and The James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School since 2009.

In the 1970s, Professor MacKinnon created the legal claim for sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. With Andrea Dworkin, she created the equality approach to pornography and racist hate speech, both of which were largely accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada. With Bosnian and Croatian survivors of the Serbian-led genocide, she conceived the concept of rape as an act of genocide and successfully litigated with co-counsel to establish it and secure a damage award at trial for survivors. She was involved in creating the language for the Palermo Protocol on international trafficking and drafted anti-trafficking legislation that was passed by Congress in the United States. She and Andrea Dworkin conceived, and she proposed, the Nordic/Equality Model for prostitution, decriminalizing prostituted people and penalizing their buyers and sellers, which was passed in Sweden in 1999, and has since become law in Norway, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Canada, France, and Israel. From 2008-2012, Professor MacKinnon was the Special Gender Advisor to the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC’s Rome Statute largely encompasses her concept “gender crime.” In 2022, she was selected for the Henry Phillips Prize in Jurisprudence, which has only been awarded 29 times since 1895. She has written many articles and over a dozen books, which have been translated into many languages, including Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination (1979), Feminism Unmodified (1987),  Toward a Feminist Theory of the State (1989), Only Words (1993), Sex Equality (the casebook) (2001, 2006, 2016), Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws (2006), Are Women Human? (2007) and Butterfly Politics (2017). According to empirical studies, she is the most frequently-cited woman scholar on law in English and among the top most-cited legal scholars over time.

Professor Kate O’Regan

Professor Kate O’Regan is the inaugural Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights and a former judge of the South African Constitutional Court (1994–2009). In the mid-1980s she practiced as a lawyer in Johannesburg in a variety of fields, but especially labour law and land law, representing many of the emerging trade unions and their members, as well as communities threatened with eviction under apartheid land laws.  In 1990, she joined the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town where she taught a range of courses including race, gender and the law, labour law, civil procedure and evidence. Since her fifteen-year term at the South African Constitutional Court ended in 2009, she has amongst other things served as an ad hoc judge of the Supreme Court of Namibia (2010–2016), Chairperson of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown in trust between the police and the community of Khayelitsha (2012–2014), and as a member of the boards or advisory bodies of many NGOs working in the fields of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and equality.

Ruth Chang headshot

Chair: Ruth Chang

Ruth Chang is Chair and Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Oxford. Her research focusses on normativity, conflict, rationality, and agency. She has given lectures or been a consultant at Google, the World Bank, CIA, US Navy, Big Pharma, TellTale Games and many financial institutions. Her TED talk about decision-making has over 9 million views. She has written guest essays for popular publications and has been interviewed about her work by newspapers, magazines, radio and television programs from around the world. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Found within

Human Rights Law