On the cover of this issue is an image taken from the Wellcome Collection. Titled “Dance of death: death and the pedlar”, the image shows a skeletal personification of Death picking through a basket of goods. In the basket are included masks, crosses, a deck of cards, swords, and a variety of other items. Published in the 18th Century, it is based on, and an interpretation of a piece in Basel on the Dance of Death. It is black and white and a print produced via etching a plate and using this to print the image.
Jonathan A. Allan, Chris Haywood, and Frank G. Karioris
Sharifah Aishah Osman
Rape culture is a provocative topic in Malaysia; the public discourse on it is plagued by gender stereotyping, sexism, misogyny, and rape myths. Recent literary works aimed at Malaysian adolescent girls have interrogated rape culture more pointedly as a means of addressing gender-based violence through activism and education. In this article, I discuss two short stories, “The Girl on the Mountain” and “Gamble” as retellings of Malaysian legends and feminist responses to the normalization and perpetuation of rape culture in this society. Through the emphasis on female agency, consent, and gender equality, these two stories reflect the subversive power of Malaysian young adult literature in dismantling rape culture, while affirming the significance of the folktale as an empowering tool for community engagement and feminist activism.
Mapping the City in John Rechy’s City of Night
This article discusses John Rechy’s 1963 novel City of Night and the metaphorical function of the “City.” The sprawling City includes street corners, bars, beaches, movie theaters, and parks. These spaces are public and private, queer and straight. I argue that Rechy’s City functions metaphorically—it is the “sexual underground,” with illicit acts conspiratorially narrated by an anonymous hustler—yet, at the same time, the City is also composed of spaces that are inhabited by so-called “average Americans.” Just as his City sprawls beyond officially recognized boundary lines, the novel also illustrates how efforts to demarcate sexuality as either “gay” or “straight” is futile, as are police efforts to differentiate between “legal” and “illegal” activity.
Student Activism against Rape Culture
In this article, I report on an action project undertaken by a group of young women (aged 18 to 20) to foster public discussions about the prevalence of rape culture on their university's campus. Students proposed this action project during a book study of a young adult (YA) novel that focused on rape culture and sexual violence. Discussions during the book study resulted in the women creating a video designed for university orientation events that addressed common misconceptions about issues such as consent, relationship violence, sexual coercion, and victimhood. Using case study and narrative methods, I recount my experience of witnessing unexpected activism in my classroom. Framed within critical literacy research, I consider the outcomes of making space for student activism and I discuss implications for practitioners.
The discursive shift during the twenty-first century from “no means no” to “yes means yes” clearly had an impact on contemporary American teen films. While teen films of the 1970s and 1980s often epitomized rape culture, teen films of the 2010s and later adopted consent culture actively. Such films now routinely highlight how obtaining a girl's “yes” is equally important to respecting her “no.” However, the framework of affirmative consent is not without its flaws. In this article, I highlight how recent teen movies expose some of these shortcomings, in particular how affirmative consent remains a highly gendered discourse that prioritizes verbal consent over desire.
Responding to Rape Culture in 13 Reasons Why
Cameron Greensmith and Jocelyn Sakal Froese
Using Lauren Berlant's concept of cruel optimism, we address the ways in which rape culture, as depicted in Jay Asher's 13 Reasons Why and the first two seasons of the Netflix adaptation, shapes girls’ agency and attachment to possible futures. We take seriously the ways in which social and institutional structures in 13 Reasons Why produce girls’ livability as tied to everyday forms of sexist violence, which supposedly grant them access to what they think of as the good life. Bound up in these cruel attachments is a more limited set of options than may appear available: girls are called upon to endure daily violence in hopes of achieving this fantasy or to choose alternative paths, such as slow death or even suicide.
I met Roxanne Harde, the guest editor of this Special Issue, at the Second International Girls Studies Association conference in 2019 when I attended the panel discussion, “Representations of Rape in Young Adult Fiction.” I recall Roxanne's passion vividly and, indeed, the enthusiasm of all three presenters as they discussed a variety of texts in superb presentations that aligned well with Ann Smith's notion of feminism in action in their seeing “a fictional text not only as a literary investigation into issues of concern to its author but also as the site of educational research” (2000: 245). Their papers pointed to the ways in which the analysis of how rape culture is treated in Young Adult (YA) literature, film, and the print media can take scholars and activists so much further into the issues, and, at the same time, noted the ways in which rape culture in all its manifestations as a global phenomenon has inevitably led to its becoming an everyday topic of YA fiction.
In 1983, Andrea Dworkin addressed the Midwest Men's Conference in Minneapolis. She discussed the rape culture in which we live, noted the similarities between rape and war, and, following the title of her talk, asked for a “24-hour truce in which there is no rape.” And she asked why men and boys are so slow to understand that women and girls “are human to precisely the degree and quality that [they] are” (n.p.). Every sexual assault begins with the dehumanization of the victim. And sometimes, after the violation, after the pain and the fear, comes the institutional dehumanization visited upon the victim who seeks medical or legal help. Two recent memoirs bring to the surface rape culture, evident in the young men who raped these girls and the systemic dehumanization they suffered when they sought justice. describes the aftermath of being sexually assaulted, when she was just out of college and still living at home, by someone she met at a fraternity party. Although the case against her rapist was as strong as possiblethere were eyewitnesses and physical evidence was collected immediatelyhe was sentenced to only six months in the county jail, and she was repeatedly shamed, her humanity denied by the judicial system. describes the aftermath of being sexually assaulted, when she was 15, by two boys, students at her New England boarding school, including an account of how school officials refused to do anything other than label her promiscuous and protect the boys. The ways in which she was silenced by St. Paul's, which disregarded her health and future, and denied her humanity because she was only a girl, were profound. In both cases, the promising future of the perpetrators was prioritized over the humanity of the girls by many institutions, including the judiciary and the press. Crawford was raped just seven years after Dworkin made her plea to that men's conference, but Miller was assaulted twenty-five years after, making perfectly clear that rape culture has become only more entrenched.
On a 1st Anniversary
Jonathan A. Allan, Chris Haywood, and Frank G. Karioris
Nota bene: This introduction was written near the end of 2020, a year that saw the world struggle with COVID-19. These issues make up the primary body of the below text. Yet, as we moved into the new year, perhaps thankful that 2020 had come to a close, on 6 January, and before the introduction was sent to publication, the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, was laid siege by far right extremists, White supremacists, and supporters seeking to stop the confirmation of the election of Joseph Biden. I [Frank] am reminded of a similar note I wrote in an article for the Sexual Violence Research Initiative’s “16 Days of Activism” series in early December: “We write this post amidst political protests that have shaken Kyrgyzstan, with the recent election results being annulled. We send our thoughts for those working to ensure a fair, democratic, and transparent government; and hope for a speedy resolution to these issues” (Kim and Karioris 2020). In a similar sense, with the events still etched in our minds and processes just beginning to begin (arrests, an impeachment, etc.) and the inauguration still to come, we include this short note affirming our commitment to democratic principles, challenging violent masculinity, and supporting antiracist activism.
Survivor Resistance in Rape Culture
Gay, Roxane, ed. 2018. Not that Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture. New York: Harper.