William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


Kim D. Ricardo


Despite five decades marked by progressive rape law reform...there has been little significant change in the rate of rape crimes. In fact, 2018 marked the sixth successive year in which the rate of rapes rose. In rape trials, prosecutors and defense attorneys struggle with the notion of consent. What does consent look like? That is, how do we know when sex happens with the participants’ mutual willingness, free from undue coercion?

It is against this backdrop that I began my research on necrophilia. Following Catharine MacKinnon’s criticism of the now-prevailing consent model of rape law, I began to wonder what the line actually was between access to a dead woman’s passive body and a passive woman’s consent. My initial instinct was that necrophilia laws, which I understood to be housed in the general category of sexual offenses, would provide some insight. Surely the question of consent when it comes to the sexual violation of a dead person would provide a straightforward answer. The result of this speculation is the following Article on the social harms of necrophilia.

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