Common Sense, (Ab)normality and Bodies in Norwegian Rape Verdicts
Article written by Solveig Laugerud published in NORA – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 28(1). The article is available online.
Common sense, which refers to judgement rooted in everyday life experiences, constitutes an important part of legal decisions. In this article, I study how the female victim’s body appears in written rape verdicts, by investigating how common sense invokes ideas about the normal and the abnormal. This builds on a discourse analysis of written rape verdicts handed down by Norwegian courts. I find that the (female) victim’s body in these is problematized if its size and shape is considered uncommon and that the more (un)common something/someone is considered, the more (ab)normal that event/person is perceived to be. I argue that common sense reasoning becomes a normalizing legal gaze directed towards the female victim’s body in a way that makes the court evaluate the body’s relation to the norm to assess whether the incident was rape or consensual sex.