Discourses of Sexual Violence in a Global Framework

Philosophical Topics 37 (2):123-139 (2009)
Abstract
In this paper I make a preliminary analysis of Western (or global North) discourses on sexual violence, focusing on the important concepts of “consent” and “victim.” The concept of “consent” is widely used to determine whether sexual violence has occurred, and it is the focal point of debates over the legitimacy of statutory offenses and over the way we characterize sex work done under conditions involving economic desperation. The concept of “victim” is shunned by many feminists and nonfeminists alike for its apparent eclipse of agency. Putting these concepts into a global framework sheds light on their limitations. Bringing in the debate over the concept “honor crime” reveals contrasting assumptions about the nature of sexual violence. The comparative analysis used in this paper shows how we can avoid universalizing from specific frameworks, but also how we can learn from the discourses elsewhere toward developing an account of commonalities across contexts. Ultimately I argue that in applications to sexual violence, “consent” has intrinsic limitations, “victim” has context-based dangers, and “honor crime” makes both correct as well as incorrect assumptions
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