Rape, claims Ann J. Cahill, affects not only those women who are raped, but all women who experience their bodies as rapable and adjust their actions and self-images accordingly. Rethinking Rape counters legal and feminist definitions of rape as mere assault and decisively emphasizes the centrality of the body and sexuality in a crime which plays a crucial role in the continuing oppression of women.
Rethinking Rape applies current feminist theory to an urgent political and ethical issue. Cahill takes an original approach by reading the subject of rape through the work of such recent continental feminist thinkers as Luce Irigaray, Elizabeth Grosz, Rosi Braidotti, and Judith Butler, who understand the body as fluid and indeterminate, a site for the negotiation of power and resistance. Cahill interprets rape as an embodied, sexually marked experience, a violation of feminine bodily integrity, and a pervasive threat to the integrity and identity of a woman's person.
The wrongness of rape, which has always eluded legal interpretation, cannot be defined as theft, battery, or the logical extension of heterosexual sex. It is not limited to a specific event, but encompasses the myriad ways in which rape threatens the prospect of feminine agency. As an explication that fully countenances women's experiences of their own bodies, Rethinking Rape helps point the way toward reparation, resistance, and the evolution of feminine subjectivity.