Rape as a crime was constructed as a property crime against a father or husband not as a crime against the woman's right to self-determination.
The property to be withheld in a female was her virginity; this was the commodity (Bergen, 2016).
Therefore, rape laws were created to "…protect the property interests men had in their women, not to protect women themselves" (Schelong, 1994).
This concept of women as property permeates current marital rape ideology and laws throughout the globe.
Most countries criminalized marital rape from the late 20th century onward—very few legal systems allowed for the prosecution of rape within marriage before the 1970s.
For this reason, in many cultures there was a conflation between the crimes of rape and adultery, since both were seen and understood as a violation of the rights of the husband.
Marriage created conjugal rights between spouses, and marriage could not be annulled except by a private Act of Parliament—it therefore follows that a spouse could not revoke conjugal rights from the marriage, and therefore there could be no rape between spouses.
The principle was repeated in East's Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown in 1803 and in Archbold's Pleading and Evidence in Criminal Cases in 1822.
Laws are rarely being enforced, due to factors ranging from reluctance of authorities to pursue the crime, to lack of public knowledge that sexual intercourse in marriage without consent is illegal.
Marital rape is more widely experienced by women, though not exclusively.