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).
However, if another man raped someone's wife, this was essentially stealing property (a women's sexuality) (Bergen, 2016).
In English customs, "bride capture" (a man claiming a woman through rape) was thought to be stealing a father's property by raping his daughter.
The reluctance to criminalize and prosecute marital rape has been attributed to traditional views of marriage, interpretations of religious doctrines, ideas about male and female sexuality, and to cultural expectations of subordination of a wife to her husband—views which continue to be common in many parts of the world.
These views of marriage and sexuality started to be challenged in most Western countries from the 1960s and 70s especially by second-wave feminism, leading to an acknowledgment of the woman's right to self-determination (i.e., control) of all matters relating to her body, and the withdrawal of the exemption or defense of marital rape.
Marital rape (or spousal rape) is the act of sexual intercourse with one's spouse without the spouse's consent.
One of the origins of the concept of a marital exemption from rape laws (a rule that a husband cannot be charged with the rape of his wife) is the idea that by marriage a woman gives irrevocable consent for her husband to have sex with her any time he demands it.
Marital rape is often a chronic form of violence for the victim which takes place within abusive relations.
It exists in a complex web of state governments, cultural practices, and societal ideologies which combine to influence each distinct instance and situation in varying ways.
A husband's control over his wife's body could also be seen in the way adultery between a wife and another man was constructed; for example in 1707, English Lord Chief Justice John Holt described the act of a man having sexual relations with another man's wife as "the highest invasion of property".
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.