Rape and Representation  

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Interior Scene (The Rape) (1868 - 1869) by Edgar Degas. The source of this painting is variably attributed to Émile Zola and Paul Gavarni
Interior Scene (The Rape) (1868 - 1869) by Edgar Degas. The source of this painting is variably attributed to Émile Zola and Paul Gavarni

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
rape culture

Rape and Representation is the title of a book of essays, edited by Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R. Silver and published in (1991). The book "explores how cultural forms in Western society construct and reinforce social attitudes that encourage sexual violence. The contributors argue that literature reflects a patriarchal representation which makes the act of rape seem natural and inevitable" according to the Amazon blurb. Concentrating mainly on literature, the collection suggests that the politics and the aesthetics of rape representation are indistinguishable.

The representation of rape takes place in our culture in many ways and across a number of different media, from mainstream Hollywood movies, independent cinema and television to literature, broadcast and print news and the popular press, as well as pornography. This has been an area for much academic research (see Representations of Rape in Popular Culture bibliography..

Theorists argue that it is important to differentiate between actual rape and its representation and to ask questions of the different ways in which rape is narrativised in Western culture(s). For example Sielke argues that "the term “rape culture” says more about the prominent status of rape as a central trope within the American cultural imaginary than about the state of real rape".

It has been argued that there is a culture of blame surrounding rape victims. and that the narrativisation of rape contributes to the ways in which rape is perceived (see rape culture), although some theorists are critical of what they identify as feminist criticism's exaggeration and perpetuation of the fear of rape.

Much has been written about the inherent rape narrative structure of many well-known fairy tales, such as Little Red Riding Hood, which some (feminist) critics argue reinforce our acceptance of rape culture. See, for example, Jack Zipes who has written extensively about fairy tale, disputing Bruno Bettelheim's arguments about the social acculturation of young children.

Another strong narrative trend is the rape revenge narrative of many exploitation films, see for example I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978). Gasper Noe's more recent Irréversible (2002) offers a very different take on the rape revenge theme, one that focuses on the implications of a woman's rape for the male character's of the film. See also Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs (1971), The Accused (Jonathan Kaplan, 1988) and Thelma and Louise (Ridley Scott, 1991) for some notable and often controversial examples of the visual representation of rape. One of the myths which is perpetuated by these representations is the idea of 'stranger rape' whereas it has been documented that rape victims are more often likely to be attacked by somebody that they already know, otherwise known as 'acquaintance rape'.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Rape and Representation" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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