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Theorizing Feminist Anti-Rape Praxis and the Problem of Resistance

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalSigns: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
DateAccepted/In press - 29 May 2019


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 anti-rape praxis, albeit for different reasons. In my argument the failure of such scholarship effectively 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 fix the iteration of the sex act and of sexed bodies, 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 anti-rape scholarship must look beyond the act of rape as its point of departure for resisting praxis and instead orientate itself around radical ontologies of sexuate being that offer an alternative to those through which rape culture currently proliferates.



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