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Week 10 Sex and Violence.docx

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Women's Studies
Women's Studies 2161A/B
Susan Knabe

Week 10 Sex and Violence Historical and cultural context: Film • Birth of a Nation (1915) – Attempted rape of protagonist’s sister leads to her death, his revenge and a particular reiteration of racialized men as rapists • 1930s - the production code reduced the direct representation of rape, but the allusion to sexual violence remained – Projansky notes in Watching Rape that this prescribed specific narrational strategies for Rape within films which remain part of our visual vocabulary • Late 1960s and early 1970s - saw a shift to more explicit representations of rape on film, linked to 2 wave feminism (issues of rape and sexual violence) – sometimes these films also are linked to anti‐racist narratives(To Kill a Mockingbird) – Rape‐revenge narratives more common (I Spit on Your Grave (1978)) – Projansky notes that rape has an oddly ambivalent representational quality in much film– both central to film and ubiqitous, but also often effaced or only implicitly suggested • Centrality of rape or threat of rape within the genre of the western Historical and cultural context: Second Wave Feminism • Susan Brown miller’s book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape was an important 2 wave textnd • Andrea Dworkin and Robin Morgan linked pornography and rape in the famous slogan: Pornography is the theory; rape is the practice. • Dismal state of legislation around rape – Rape was largely understood as a kind of property crime – Certain types of women were deemed unrapeable – Rape was defined very narrowly in terms of forceable vaginal penetration Historical and Cultural Context: Sexual Violence in the 1980s and 1990s • Legislation and rape – Changes in Canadian rape law (1983) • Redefinition of rape to sexual assault (three levels of seriousness) – Sexual assault; sexual assault with a weapon; aggravated sexual assault • Rape culture – Increasing understanding of a pervasive “rape culture” • “Big Dan” rape case 1984 – Trial of rape spectators covered by CNN (first criminal trial to be nationally televised by CNN) – Award winning film The Accused (1988), starring Jodie Foster, was based on this case • Increased focus on prevalence of date rape – Move away from traditional understandings of rape as perpetrated by strangers –underscored by William Kennedy Smith rape case in 1988 Representation and Rape: Rape Revenge • Rape‐revenge narratives – sexual assault puts in motion plot of film • Historical narrative – usually understood in terms of men taking revenge for raped daughter daughter, wife, lover • 1970s saw birth of feminist rape revenge films – Women extracted revenge for sexual assault » Often employed their sexuality to effect this revenge » Revenge often sexual in nature (castration) » Early feminist Rape‐ Revenge films often had a kind of resolution that allowed women a successful resolution to their rape • Late 1980s and 1990s rape revenge films (Thelma and Louise, Foxfire, Freeway) less likely to have an unproblematic ,though violent, resolution – Women depicted as unable to control violence they unleashing responding to rape by taking the law into their own hands – Both feminist and post‐feminist aspects to these films (as Projansky notes in her chapter) but films often believe a discomfort with feminism and sp
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