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Rape as an Essentially Contested Concept

Because "rape" has such a powerful appraisive meaning, how one defines the term has normative significance. Those who define rape rigidly so as to exclude contemporary feminist understandings are therefore seeking to silence some moral perspectives "by definition." I argue that understanding rape as an essentially contested concept allows the concept sufficient flexibility to permit open moral discourse, while at the same time preserving a core meaning that can frame the discourse.