Added: November 26, 2003 – Last updated: March 4, 2017


Author: Contance Backhouse

Title: 'Her Protests Were Unavailing'

Subtitle: Australian Legal Understandings of Rape, Consent and Sexuality in the 'Roaring Twenties'

Journal: Journal of Australian Studies

Volume: 24

Issue: 64

Year: 2000 (Published online: May 18, 2009)

Pages: 14-33

ISSN: 0314-769X – Find a Library: WordCat | eISSN: 1835-6419 – Find a Library: WordCat

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | Oceanian History: Australian History | Cases: Offenders / Joseph McAuliff; Cases: Victims / Mollie Meadows; Prosecution: Laws / 20th-Century Legislation


Link: Taylor & Francis Online (Restricted Access)


Author: Constance Backhouse, Faculty of Law - Common Law Section, University of OttawaAuthor's Personal Website, ResearchGate, Wikipedia


– »The article chronicled a spectacular blow-by-blow description of a sexual assault that had taken place on the sandhills of the Back Beach in Bunbury, WA one week earlier. The victim, a twenty-two-year-old waitress, worked at the Bunbury Rose Hotel. She had been out socialising with her twenty-year-old attacker, a visitor touring with the Perry Brothers’ Circus then performing in town. The press coverage was meant to titillate, but also to serve as a warning to single young women on the calamitous perils of unchaperoned outings in fast company.« (Source: Journal of Australian Studies)

– »In 1922, Joseph McAuliffe was accused of raping Mollie Meadows in Bunbury, Australia. The court struggled to make sense of conflicting testimonies, gendered expectations, and changing ideas of consent and sexuality during the “roaring twenties”. Meadows testified she was forcibly raped, but McAuliffe testified that sex was implicitly promised to him. Once intercourse began, he said he “could not stop” - a belief shared in society and the medical field. The defence portrayed Meadows' flirty behaviour the night before the incident as justifying the accused's belief that intercourse was “promised” the next day. The jury convicted McAulliffe. McAuliffe appealed and argued that Mollie Meadows had irrevocably consented to sex by her suggestive behaviour. The appeal was allowed, and McAuliffe was acquitted on retrial. Despite more liberalized sexual practices that were ushered into Australian society during the ‘twenties, Australian courts would not accommodate the changes in women's sexual behavior.The case made clear that a woman who failed to act “innocently” had no right to then refuse or revoke consent to sex. The result was to restrict women's freedom to experiment with their sexuality, but to valorize men’s coercive sexual behaviours.« (Source: Social Science Research Network)

Lecture: Backhouse, Constance. »Her Protests Were Unavailing: Australian Legal Understandings of Rape, Consent and Sexuality in the 'Roaring Twenties'.« Annual Conference of the Association of Australian Studies in North America. Ottawa 2000. – Bibliographic Entry: Info

Wikipedia: History of Oceania: History of Australia / History of Australia (1901–45) | Law: Laws regarding rape | Rape in Australia