Seduction (tort)

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The tort of seduction was a civil wrong in common law legal systems. An unmarried woman could sue on the grounds of seduction to obtain damages from her seducer, if her consent to sex was based upon his misrepresentation.[1]

Legal basis[edit]

The tort of seduction was based on "notions of property interests in humans", specifically fathers' property interests in their daughters' chastity.[2]

The suing woman was "usually but not always a virgin".[1]


Historically, the seduced female could not bring a suit herself. Rather, it would be brought by her father, acting under the legal fiction that the parent-child relationship falls under the master-servant relationship. However, if the daughter was a contracted servant, a suit could not be brought by her father against her master.[2]


Property and civil rights is a provincial power in Canada, so all torts can vary by province.


An Act to make the remedy for cases of seduction more effectual, and to tender the fathers of illegitimate children liable for their support, was passed in Upper Canada on March 4, 1837. Amending traditional common law, it allowed fathers to sue their daughters' masters for the tort of seduction. It also held biological fathers liable for children conceived out of wedlock.

The Seduction Act was repealed in 1978.[2]


The 1934 John Brownlee sex scandal revolved around a seduction suit.

Other provinces[edit]

An 1852 statute in Prince Edward Island allowed for a seduced woman to sue for herself with this tort.,[2] although damages were capped at 100 pounds. Manitoba and the North West Territories enacted similar legislation around the turn of the 19th century.[2]

United States[edit]

The tort is abolished in "most states".[1] Fears of fraudulent suits, combined with a turn away from the view of property interests in persons, led to the enactment of "heart balm" statutes, abolishing causes of action for seduction, breach of promise, etc., in many states in the 20th century.


  1. ^ a b c Posner, Richard (1994). Sex and Reason. p. 81. ISBN 0-674-80279-9. "The tort of seduction allows an unmarried woman (formerly her father or other guardian), usually but not always a virgin, to obtain damages from her seducer, provided that he made misrepresentations to obtain her consent to sex." 
  2. ^ a b c d e Bailey, Martha (1991). "Girls and Masters: The Tort of Seduction and the Support of Bastards". Canadian Journal of Family Law 10: 137–162. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 

See also[edit]