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Framing the Rape Victim

Framing the Rape Victim: Gender and Agency Reconsidered

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 178
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  • Book Info
    Framing the Rape Victim
    Book Description:

    In recent years, members of legal, law enforcement, media and academic circles have portrayed rape as a special kind of crime distinct from other forms of violence. InFraming the Rape Victim,Carine M. Mardorossian argues that this differential treatment of rape has exacerbated the ghettoizing of sexual violence along gendered lines and has repeatedly led to women's being accused of triggering, if not causing, rape through immodest behavior, comportment, passivity, or weakness.Contesting the notion that rape is the result of deviant behaviors of victims or perpetrators, Mardorossian argues that rape saturates our culture and defines masculinity's relation to femininity, both of which are structural positions rather than biologically derived ones. Using diverse examples throughout, Mardorossian draws from Hollywood film and popular culture to contemporary women's fiction and hospitalized birth emphasizing that the position of dominant masculinity can be occupied by men, women, or institutions, while structural femininity is a position that may define and subordinate men, minorities, and other marginalized groups just as effectively as it does women. Highlighting the legacies of the politically correct debates of the 1990s and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the book illustrates how the framing of the term "victim" has played a fundamental role in constructing notions of agency that valorize autonomy and support exclusionary, especially masculine, models of American selfhood.The gendering of rape, including by well-meaning, sometimes feminist, voices that claim to have victims' best interests at heart, ultimately obscures its true role in our culture. Both a critical analysis and a call to action,Framing the Rape Victimshows that rape is not a special interest issue that pertains just to women but a pervasive one that affects our society as a whole.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6604-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. 1-23)

    According to FBI statistics, the incidence of rape often increases at times when the incidence of other crimes is on the decline. For instance, the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report of 19 September 2011 announced that “while [DC] saw a moderate reduction in 2010 violent crime levels, reports of forcible rape jumped 25 percent” (Skomba and Chen 2001). Similarly, in spring 2011, the New York Police Department reported “a significantly lower homicide rate and a decrease in the overall crime rate” for 2011 but a dramatic 24 percent jump in rape complaints from the year before (see Huffington Post 2011; Johnston...

    (pp. 24-40)

    This chapter uses two examples to illustrate how the concept of “victim” in U.S. culture has been framed in discussions that either directly or indirectly pertain to rape. Both events took place in 2004. The first, a particular response to the tragic events of 9/11, is metaphorically linked to sexual violence. The second, the Kobe Bryant rape case, focuses on the legal developments that surrounded a literal case of alleged sexual violence. Both “current events” reveal the hermeneutics of suspicion through which the term “victim” has been framed over the last two decades and the reactionary consequences of this discursive...

    (pp. 41-67)

    In the late sixties and seventies, the second wave of the women’s movement became the site of emergence of a pro-victim approach to rape in public policy.¹ Specifically, the second wavers worked to undermine the dualistic representations of victimization and agency that informed discourses of rape and challenged the diametrically opposed options of “innocent” sexual victim and rational (and hence “guilty”) sexual agent that were traditionally offered women with regard to sexual subjectivity. The second wavers were instrumental in exposing this configuration as an extension of what they called “rape culture.” In the same way that queer politics worked to...

  7. 3 “BIRTH RAPE”: Laboring Women, Coaching Men, and Natural Childbirth in the Hospital Setting
    (pp. 68-89)

    In 2010, debates surrounding “birth rape,” a controversial phrase, which had previously circulated on midwife and childbirth blogs, was vigorously discussed anew on the worldwide web. “Birth rape” refers to the violating experiences laboring women incur in the hospital setting. The blog defines it in the following way:

    A vulnerable woman, who is powerless to leave the situation, is at times held down against her will, has strangers looking & touching at private parts of her body, perhaps without appropriate measures being taken to acknowledge her ownership of her body or to preserve her comfort levels. Perhaps she has fingers...

    (pp. 90-111)

    According to a report released in 2007 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 4.5 percent of state and federal prisoners surveyed reported sexual victimization in the previous twelve months (Beck and Harrison 2007). This would mean that in one year alone, between 70,000 and 100,000 prisoners were sexually abused. Put another way, nearly one in twenty inmates are raped or sexually abused in prison. For incarcerated women in particular, sexual assault, particularly guard-on-prisoner sexual assault, is simply a fact of life. It can vary from institution to institution, but in the worst prison facilities, one in four female inmates is...

    (pp. 112-128)

    As critics and historians have shown, the intersection of rape and racism has a long and inextricable history, and no representation of slavery or its legacies would be complete without a consideration of how sexual violence has worked to perpetuate hierarchical relations of gender and race in the plantation world. The rape of black women by white men has historically been the underside of white rule. As a result, a large number of works of African American fiction, for instance, has been consistently informed by the presence of male-on-female rape and its relation to racism in black women’s lives (Hesford...

    (pp. 129-136)

    The 2004 movieStealing Sinatratells the story of the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra’s son in 1963, an incident that, as the movie’s credits make clear in a tongue-in-cheek manner, failed to be momentous: “1963, an event shook the nation. This isn’t it.” One particular scene in the film depicts an altercation between Sinatra’s kidnapped son (who is a singer as well) and the bumbling smalltime criminal Barry Keenan who masterminded the operation. In the scene, tensions converge around the implications of using the term “victim” and highlight the loaded set of ideological meanings the term has amassed over the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 137-146)
    (pp. 147-160)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 161-164)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-166)