Synnøve Bratlie, a former board member of the Norwegian Medical Association, told Aftenposten: "Rape must be divided into several categories. There's a very great difference between a violent rape and something that happens with a man you know, after you've been drinking and already had bodily contact,"
She said that in her experience women who had been penetrated without permission in their sleep by a man they had gone to bed with often did not want the man to go to jail.
"Often these girls want an apology from the perpetrator. They want to tell him that he is a disrespectful bastard. Women have told me that they would not want him to spent several years in prison," she said.
Bratlie's comments have caused a storm in Norway, with the prominent lawyer Trine Rjukan accusing her of attempting to downplay the seriousness of the crime.
"I fear that her statements will be perceived as insulting and offensive to those who have experienced being raped," she said.
"By trivializing rape as a crime, she is adding to the existing burden on those who have experienced rape."
Sunniva Ørstavik, the country's Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman tweeted: "Rape is rape. Full stop."
Voldtekt er voldtekt. Punktum. http://t.co/jgmTbU5inl
— Sunniva Ørstavik (@SOrstavik) April 24, 2014
"I am very keen that we must not try to move the boundaries of what is considered a rape," she told Aftenposten. "There has been a long struggle to make rape a term that is used for other matters as well as for the relatively small percentages constituted by assault rape."
Bratlie, however, argued that today's attitudes to rape made it more difficult for women to recover.
"Women are looking to reclaim their dignity, but instead they get a long process of investigation, interrogation, trial…and a partial suspicion of her account," she said. "Of course they are victims, but not for the rest of their lives."
Rune Baard Hansen, the Chief of Police in Vestfold, agreed with the psychiatrist that the high penalty for sleep rape has unfortunate consequences.
"The boundary between natural, but unwanted sexual experimentation among adolescents and rape could be in danger of being wiped out," he said. "That a sequence of events gets out of control and ends up in an assault is unfortunate, unacceptable and should be punished, but not everything can be countered with increasingly stringent punishment, and the costs can be significant."