A Feminist-Sartrean Approach to Understanding Rape Trauma

in Volume 11 (2005): Issue 1 (Mar 2005): Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration

To many Sartreans, these accounts of the common physical and psychological responses to trauma reflect a familiar view of the self. For Sartre, the self is not an unchanging, underlying essence that guarantees personal identity over time; rather, it is an ongoing project that is founded on our being-in-the-world as embodied freedom, on our concrete relations with others, and, I would add, on our emotions. It thus appears that feminist writings on the effects of sexual trauma could benefit greatly from a careful reading or rereading of Sartrean ontology, even though Sartre himself has not, to my knowledge, related any aspect of his philosophy specifically to the problem of trauma. With this in mind, this essay attempts to work out, within the broader Sartrean ontological framework, a preliminary outline of a phenomenology of rape trauma, one that is based on a feminist consideration of Sartre's distinct but intertwined theories of freedom, embodiment, and the emotions. In this endeavor, an important point I hope to bring out is that even though Sartre has at best provided a rough sketch for his theory of the emotions, we can nevertheless glean from that sketch valuable insights that can both inform and illuminate our understanding of the effects of trauma.

Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture

in Volume 11 (2005): Issue 1 (Mar 2005): Sartre Today: A Centenary Celebration

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