Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Date Rape and the Coase Theorem


Date rape is non-consensual sexual intercourse by a person known to the victim.  According to Criminal Law Lawyer Source, eighty percent of rape victims know the attacker and over ninety percent are women.  Approximately 50 percent assailants and victims consumed alcohol prior to the incident (Abbey,et al, “Alcohol and Sexual Assault”).  The use of alcohol is problematic because it limits the ability of the parties to contract.  Date rape is common; one in four women will suffer from it (Abbey,et al, “Alcohol and Sexual Assault”). 

The Coase Theorem states that the amount of an externality generating activity will be the same regardless of the assignment of rights if negotiating costs are zero of low.  In the case of date rape, rights are not well assigned and negotiating costs may be high.  Rape is the externality; it is the uncompensated impact of one person’s actions on a bystander.  Assuming a heterosexual event and a woman as victim, many factors can confuse consent.  As mentioned above, alcohol consumption limits the ability to contract implying that negotiating costs are high.  In the absence of well assigned property rights and low negotiating costs, sexual intercourse during dates will be too high.

The problem can be resolved by assigning property rights.  Although the theorem states that the amount of an externality (date rape) will be the same regardless of who is assigned the rights, assignment in this case should be given to women.  In most cases, men are stronger than women and a man’s strength could confuse consent if men were assigned these rights.  To limit date rape, grant women these rights.  Intercourse cannot occur without the women’s explicit consent which must be given in writing or in the presence of a third party of the woman’s choosing.  Consent cannot be given if a woman has been drinking prior to consent.