Redefining Consent: Rape law reform, reasonable belief and communicative responsibility

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Contemporary trends in rape law reform have resulted in the adoption of more affirmative or communicative conceptions of sexual consent across many jurisdictions. Drawing on empirical research conducted by the author in the wake of the 2019 Gillen Review into Serious Sexual Violence in Northern Ireland and proposed changes to the law on consent, this article illuminates the social and cultural norms that inform and complicate the construction and interpretation of consent models. Three broad themes from the primary data are identified: the laws (in)ability to capture the complexity of human interactions; societal ambivalence around consent and rape; and consent confusion. The article concludes by introducing and further developing the notion of communicative responsibility and arguing that it should be used as a prism to try and make sense of the enduring challenges in this area of law and human interaction.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Law and Society
Publication statusAccepted - 19 Jul 2022


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