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Joanna Bourke

This article explores Pinker’s analysis of sexual violence in modern history. It argues that his analysis is flawed because of a selective choice of data, a minimization of certain harms, the application of an evolutionary psychology approach, the failure to interrogate new forms of aggression, and a refusal to acknowledge the political underpinnings of his research. By failing to acknowledge and then control for his own ideological bias, Pinker has missed an opportunity to convincingly explain the changing nature of violence in our societies.

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Beverly Weber

The perceived crisis triggered by the current refugee influx highlights the contradiction at the heart of human rights discourse. Modern humanity has been constructed as both European and as universal; the racialized “Other” against whom the “modern human” disturbs this construction by laying claim to human rights from the very heart of Europe. The sexualized violence reported in Cologne on New Year’s Eve fed into racialized fears of refugees and immigrants promoted by groups on the radical right, even as racialized fears returned to mainstream discourses. Critical responses to the racism of the radical right unfortunately also participate in racialized discourses by resorting to “Europe” or “European values.” This analysis suggests the need to consider Europe as a field of power, one in which the contestation over what Europe is or should be results in concrete, racialized disparities in access to social mobility, education, or public agency. A project for racial, gender and economic justice requires the thinking of Europe as an ongoing project of world-making. The call to revisit or reclaim “European” values cannot succeed here. Nor can a response to the new right (or the newly normalized racism of the center) allow the new right to determine the parameters of debates about possibilities for the future.

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Chloe Krystyna Garcia and Ayesha Vemuri

Sexual violence continues to be normalized in modern society through heterosexist jokes and problematic portrayals of female sexuality. A number of young female activists use YouTube as a technology of nonviolence to share their thoughts about rape culture and how it can be transformed. We performed a thematic analysis of 10 videos produced by young women and girls to investigate what they identify as rape culture and how they use videos to communicate their messages. We argue that they offer meaningful insight into the institutions that contribute to the normalization of sexual violence, including schools and universities, the media, and legal and political systems. We believe that stakeholders interested in dismantling rape culture can use these videos to educate themselves and others about the concerns voiced by women and girls, who are, arguably, the population most affected by sexual violence.

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Ethics and Violence

Simone de Beauvoir, Djamila Boupacha, and the Algerian War

Judith Surkis

This article situates Simone de Beauvoir's involvement in the case of Djamila Boupacha, an FLN militant who was tortured by the French Army in 1960, in the context of the repeated revelations of torture in course of the Algerian War. Drawing on Beauvoir's writings on ethics and other contemporary denunciations of torture, the essay illuminates how Beauvoir worked to overcome wide-spread public “indifference.” By focusing public attention on the Army's sexually degrading treatment of Boupacha, Beauvoir figured torture as a source of feminine and feminizing national shame.

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Sol Neely

Deadgirl (2008) is a horror film that gained notoriety on the film festival circuit for its disturbing premise: when a group of teenage social outcasts discover a naked female zombie strapped to a gurney in the basement of an abandoned asylum, they decide “to keep her” as a sex slave. Accordingly, two sites of monstrosity are staged—one with the monstrous-feminine and the other with monstrous masculinities. Insofar as the film explicitly exploits images of abjection to engender its perverse pleasures, it would seem to invite “abject criticism” in the tradition of Barbara Creed, Carol Clover, and colleagues. However, in light of recent critical appraisals about the limitations of “abjection criticism,” this article reads Deadgirl as a cultural artifact that demands we reassess how abjection is critically referenced, arguing that—instead of reading abjection in terms of tropes and themes—we should read it in diachronic, allegorical ways, which do not reify into cultural representation.

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Violence makes safe in South African prisons

Prison gangs, violent acts, and victimization among inmates

Marie Rosenkrantz Lindegaard and Sasha Gear

That gangs have a prominent place in South African prison violence—like in many other geographical contexts—has become increasingly clear. Based on qualitative research among South African inmates and ex-inmates, we propose that prison gangs be considered adaptation strategies to the extremely coercive and oppressive environments of prisons. We focus on the relationship between gang involvement in prison, violent acts among inmates, and the risk of being subjected to violence during incarceration. By providing emic perspectives, we aim to demonstrate how inmates negotiate three types of social roles, largely defined by their ability and willingness to use violence: franse, gangster, and wyfie. Our findings suggest that prison gangs may jeopardize the personal safety of inmates, but can also paradoxically offer some inmates the opportunity to establish a sense of safety and agency by avoiding random violence.

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Helmut Graupner

The basic human right to sexual autonomy and self‐determination encompasses two sides: it enshrines both the right to engage in wanted sexuality on the one hand, and the right to be free and protected from unwanted sexuality, from sexual abuse and sexual violence on the other. This concept elaborated by the European Court of Human Rights, in the light of European legal consensus, suggests that the age of consent for sexual relations (outside of relationships of authority and outside of pornography and prostitution) should be set between 12 and 16 years. In any event the age of criminal responsibility should be the same as the age of sexual consent.

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Eliza Guyol-Meinrath Echeverry

For decades, Canadian-based corporate development projects have been linked to acts of violence in countries all over the world. These acts include sexual violence, destruction of property, community displacement, the use of forced labor, and other forms of violence. While Canada has repeatedly failed to pass legislation holding Canadian-based corporations accountable for human rights abuses committed abroad, Canadian courts are increasingly asserting their jurisdiction over cases of development-related violence. Analyzing two ongoing court cases—Caal v. Hudbay, regarding sexual violence in Guatemala, and Araya v. Nevsun, regarding forced labor in Eritrea— this article examines the potential and limits of law to address the bureaucratic mechanisms and grounded experiences of corporate-development-related violence, and the changing relationship between states, corporations, law, and human rights in the modern global era.

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Amy Adele Hasinoff

Sexualization might seem like a sympathetic explanation for sexting because it positions girls as innocent victims of mass culture. However, there are problematic unintended consequences with understanding sexting, the practice of sharing personal sexual content via mobile phones or the internet, in this particular way. One troubling implication is that it provides a rationale for holding girls who sext criminally responsible for producing child pornography. A second is that when girls' acceptance of sexualization is positioned as a key social problem, the solution that emerges is that girls must raise their self-esteem and gain better media literacy skills. Despite the value of such skills, a focus on girls' deficiencies can divert attention from the perpetrators of gender- and sexuality-based violence. Finally, discourses about sexualization often erase girls' capacity for choice, relying instead on normative assumptions about healthy sexuality. Interrogating the pathologization of girls' apparent conformity to sexualization and mass culture highlights the complexity of agency.

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Richard Bessel

The argument put forward by Steven Pinker that violence has been in decline and that “we have been getting kinder and gentler” rests to a considerable degree upon data concerning violent events, in particular homicide and deaths on the battlefield. In discussing such data for the modern period, this article questions their reliability and, in particular, their comparability over time. Pinker’s argument may be stronger with respect to a growing public sensitivity toward many forms of violence, not least sexual violence, for which there is considerable evidence. However, the relationship between changing public sensibilities and changing levels of actual violent acts remains difficult to determine.