Rethinking Rape: Implications of Embodiment

Dissertation, State University of New York at Stony Brook (1998)

Ann Cahill
Elon College
Previous attempts to understand rape have insufficiently described the extent of the effects of rape and the threat of rape in women's lives insofar as they do not address rape's complex bodily meanings. Using the insights of contemporary feminist theories of the body, which at once emphasize the fluid, indeterminate nature of the body and approach the subject as fundamentally embodied, I interpret rape as an embodied, sexually marked experience, one whose very pervasiveness serves as an essentially sustained moment in the production of femininity, including the constitution of the feminine body. Understanding rape as an experience of an embodied subject motivates my analysis of the intersubjectivity and multiplicity inherent in the phenomenon itself. In emphasizing the significance of embodiment, and therefore of sexual difference, my analysis demonstrates the inefficacy of re-defining rape in sex-neutral terms, a strategy which, although suggested by many legal theorists, would render unspeakable the sexually differentiated nature of rape, thus denying a crucial aspect of women's experience
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