Theorizing Feminist Antirape Praxis and the Problem of Resistance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Writing in Signs in 2002, Carine Mardorossian argued that sexual violence had become a taboo subject in feminist theory. She lamented the lack of engagement of postmodern feminists with the issue of rape, leading to a turning away from “antirape politics” or its reduction to a “psychic dimension” in which “subjectivity” had become central. In this article, I revisit Mardorossian’s key claims, testing their veracity against some current critical and theoretical rape scholarship. Ultimately, I agree with Mardorrosian’s conclusion about the inadequacy of contemporary feminist theoretical work for grounding feminist antirape praxis, albeit for different reasons. In my argument, the failure of such scholarship to theorize sexual difference as critical not only to understanding rape culture but to what is required to oppose it leads to a circular logic that stymies a critical feminist praxis of resistance to rape. The prevention of and resistance to rape is not just about prohibitive laws that that fix a particular iteration or account of what sex or desire looks like, nor is it about the reconstitution of women’s bodies as ready to fight off rape. Drawing on the work of Māori feminist scholars, I argue that feminist antirape scholarship must look beyond the act of rape as its point of departure for resistant praxis and instead orient itself around radical ontologies of sexuate being that offer an alternative to those through which rape culture currently proliferates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-488
Number of pages24
JournalSigns: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
Issue number2
Early online date7 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

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