Consuming Others: The Social Production of Rapable Bodies and Rapist Mentalities
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I intend to publish papers.
Sexual violence is ubiquitous throughout the Anglophone West and shows no sign of abating. Feminist analysis has long demonstrated that this is a problem grounded in gender relations, patterns of masculine socialisation, and patriarchal social organisation. However, this thesis proposes that the roots of the Anglophone West’s rape culture also extend far beyond matters of gender and sexuality, deep into the core of the dominant culture itself. Setting feminist theory in dialogue with wider socio-cultural analysis, the research explores the complex relationships between the prevailing ideologies, ethics, systems, structures and practices of the dominant culture and the Anglophone West’s high incidence of sexual violence. In so doing, it reveals that, contrary to popular misconceptions, rape is neither a ‘natural’ nor a ‘savage’ act but a highly ‘civilised’ one which expresses the foundational philosophies of Anglophone Western culture in a sexualised, gendered form. Specifically, it shows that sexual objectification, which presents women as little more than ‘rapable bodies’, is part of a far wider pattern of normalised objectification developing from the Anglophone West’s underlying belief that some lives are worth less than others and so may be legitimately used and ‘consumed’ for personal gain. Expanding this to include analysis of men who commit sexual violence, it also establishes that perpetrators’ ‘rapist mentalities’, or the modes of thought and relation that enable and motivate rapists to commit rape, function as interpersonal, gendered expressions of the Anglophone West’s celebration of and reliance upon exploitation, conquest and coercive rule. Through these arguments, the thesis ultimately demonstrates that rape is not only an act of gender violence but also an inevitable manifestation of the dominant culture of the Anglophone West at large which can be fully addressed and challenged only by expanding analytical frameworks to include broad socio-cultural critiques and diverse social justice activism. In taking this position, the thesis expands understanding of rape beyond the limits of existing research and raises significant issues for both future scholarship and the ongoing struggle against sexual violence.
PhD in Sexuality and Gender Studies