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From at least medieval times until the early 20th century, a man's promise of engagement to marry a woman was considered, in many jurisdictions, a legally binding contract. If the man were to subsequently change his mind, he would be said to be in "breach" of this promise and subject to litigation for damages.
The converse of this was seldom true; the concept that "it's a woman's prerogative to change her mind" had at least some basis in law (though a woman might pay a high social price for exercising this privilege, as explained below) — and unless an actual dowry of money or property had changed hands, a man was unlikely to recover in a "breach of promise" suit against a woman, were he even to be allowed to file one (although there were certainly exceptions to this).
Changing social morals have led to the decline of this sort of action. Most jurisdictions, at least in the English-speaking, common law world, have become increasingly reluctant to intervene in cases of personal relationships not involving the welfare of children or actual violence. Many have repealed all laws regarding such eventualities; whereas in others the statute allowing such an action may technically remain on the books but the action has become very rare and unlikely to be pursued with any probability of success.
Some of the original theory behind this tort was based on the idea that a woman would be more likely to give up her virginity to a man if she had his promise to marry her; if he subsequently refused marriage it was considered that this lack of virginity would make her future search for a suitable mate more difficult or even impossible.
However, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the main factors were compensation for the denial of the woman's expectations of becoming "established" in a household (supported by her husband's wealth), and/or possible damage to her reputation — since there were a number of ways that the reputation of a young never-married woman of the "genteel" classes could be damaged by a broken engagement, or an apparent period of intimacy which did not end in a publicly-announced engagement, even if few people seriously thought that she had lost her virginity. She might be viewed as having broken the code of maidenly modesty of the period by imprudently offering up her affections without having had a firm assurance of future marriage.
Originally posted by bluemirage5
reply to post by Zmurfix
As the law stands, yes if a Jewish man lied and claimed he was an Arab to have sex with an Arab woman, he too would be up for rape.
...the woman complained to police only after learning he was an Arab.
,,,the Jerusalem District Court said the defendant, "who is married, introduced himself falsely to the complainant as a Jewish bachelor, and as such, interested in a meaningful romantic relationship."
...legal precedent in Israel classifying sex by deception as rape was set by the Supreme Court in a 2008 conviction of a man who posed as a government official and persuaded women to have sex with him by promising them state benefits.