"Marital privilege" sounds more pleasant than what it actually refers to: exemptions written into state laws that treat marital rape differently than the rape of someone other than the perpetrator's spouse. And while RAINN notes that marital rape has technically been illegal in all 50 states and DC since 1993, these marital privilege clauses still remain on the books in certain states, leading to different standards that critics say minimize victims in this category, as laid out in a Daily Beast report. The website points to a 2014 AEquitas report that indicates eight states (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Washington) still contain marital exemptions for certain offenses—and that doesn't even take into account states that don't have such explicit exemptions but still treat marital rape differently in the way it's prosecuted.
South Carolina's exemption, for example, requires only evidence of "force or coercion," "aggravated coercion," or "aggravated force" to prove "criminal sexual misconduct" against someone who's not the perpetrator's spouse (or separated spouse). But if the victim is indeed the perpetrator's spouse, a higher bar must be reached for there to be a crime: Simple coercion doesn't fly; instead, there must be proof of "the threat of use of a weapon" or "physical violence of a high and aggravated nature" to prosecute "spousal sexual battery," the Daily Beast notes. The continued presence of these inconsistent standards keeps marital rape legitimized on some level, the site notes, and feeds attitudes like those expressed in a recent post on a Christian blog, which notes that, according to the Bible, "A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does." (Australia's highest court put an elderly man on trial for allegedly raping his then-wife more than 50 years ago.)