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Therefore, a man could not be prosecuted for raping his own wife because she was his possession (Schelong, 1994).However, if another man raped someone's wife, this was essentially stealing property (a women's sexuality) (Bergen, 2016).In these situations, the parties do not necessarily consent to marriage (in the case of forced marriage) (Yllö, 2016).Following this logic, if consent is not part of marriage, then it is not necessary for intercourse.Most countries criminalized marital rape from the late 20th century onward—very few legal systems allowed for the prosecution of rape within marriage before the 1970s.Criminalization has occurred through various ways, including removal of statutory exemptions from the definitions of rape, judicial decisions, explicit legislative reference in statutory law preventing the use of marriage as a defense, or creating of a specific offense of marital rape.The autonomy of the wife is also often compromised in cultures where bride price is paid.Under customary law in certain parts of Africa, forced sex in marriage was not prohibited, although some specific circumstances, such as during advanced pregnancy, immediately after childbirth, during menstruation, or during mourning for a deceased close relative, were recognized as giving the wife the right to refuse sex.

One of the origins of the concept of a marital exemption from rape laws (a rule that a husband cannot be charged with the rape of his wife) is the idea that by marriage a woman gives irrevocable consent for her husband to have sex with her any time he demands it.Marital rape (or spousal rape) is the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the spouse's consent.It is a form of domestic violence and sexual abuse.The reluctance to criminalize and prosecute marital rape has been attributed to traditional views of marriage, interpretations of religious doctrines, ideas about male and female sexuality, and to cultural expectations of subordination of a wife to her husband—views which continue to be common in many parts of the world.These views of marriage and sexuality started to be challenged in most Western countries from the 1960s and 70s especially by second-wave feminism, leading to an acknowledgment of the woman's right to self-determination (i.e., control) of all matters relating to her body, and the withdrawal of the exemption or defense of marital rape.

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