Rape or consent? Effects of the new rape legislation on legal reasoning and practice

Research project
Active research
Project size
2 973 314
Project period
2020 - 2023
Project owner
Department of Sociology and Work Science

Short description

The Swedish rape legislation reform in 2017 adopted a requirement of voluntariness (“consent”). This project studies the new legislation and its impact on institutionalised legal culture, by focusing on the emotive-cognitive reasoning and practice of legal professionals. How do legal actors reason about the application of the new law? How does the law affect trial procedures in practice? How do judges operate the new legislation when writing judgements: what perceptions and assessments about voluntariness, gender and sexuality are represented?

We follow 16 cases of rape in district court and the appeals court. Legal actors are interviewed and shadowed, trials are observed, written judgements are analysed. The project enhances the knowledge of legal discrimination as part of how processes of silencing emotions interact with gendered power structures. It contributes to developing the emotive-cognitive reflexivity of legal professionals regarding tacit norms and routinized behaviour. This is important in order to further strengthen the legitimacy of the legal system.


Lisa Wallin, Sara Uhnoo, Åsa Wettergren & Moa Bladini (2021) Capricious credibility – legal assessments of voluntariness in Swedish negligent rape judgements, Nordic Journal of Criminology, 22:1, 3-22

Bladini, M., & Svedberg Andersson, W. (2021). Swedish rape legislation from use of force to voluntariness - critical reflections from an everyday life perspectiveBergen Journal of Criminal Law & Criminal Justice8(2), 31.

Bladini, M. Uhnoo S. & Wettergren Å. (2023) 'It sounds like lived experience. On empathy in rape trials' i International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 72, 1-14, 100575.

Uhnoo, S. Bladini M. & Wettergren, Å. (2023) Negotioating access, in Flower, L., & Klosterkamp, S. (Red.) Courtroom Ethnography: Exploring contemporary fieldwork, approaches and challenges. Palgrave Macmillan.