Digitised Narratives of Rape: Disclosing Sexual Violence Through Pain Memes
Drawing from contemporary “pain memes” found across YouTube and Tumblr, this chapter explores the creative ways the public communicates painful personal experiences of sexual violence in a digital age. Using the concept of platform vernacular (Gibbs et al. 2015), this chapter argues that digital platforms such as Tumblr and YouTube, which emphasise materiality, produce new vernacular practices that shape how “digitized narratives” (Mendes et al. 2019) of sexual violence are not only disclosed and known, but felt and experienced. These digitised narratives, we argue, have some potential to contest normative narratives of rape, and open up space for more nuanced and intersectional narratives to emerge.
KeywordsRape Affect Tumblr YouTube Feminism Pain meme
- Ahmed, Sara. 2004. The Cultural Politics of Emotion. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
- Alcoff, Linda Martin. 2018. Rape and Resistance. London: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Benedict, Helen. 1992. The Virgin and the Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Bivens, Rena, and Amy A. Hasinoff. 2017. Rape: Is there an app for that? An empirical analysis of the features of anti-rape apps. Information, Communication & Society. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118x.2017.1309444.
- Black Women’s Blueprint. 2011. An open letter from Black women to the SlutWalk. Black Women’s Blueprint, September 23. http://www.blackwomensblueprint.org/2011/09/23/an-open-letter-from-black-women-to-the-slutwalk/. Accessed 30 December 2011.
- Brownmiller, Susan. 1975. Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. Harmondsworth and New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Burt, Martha. R. 1980. Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 38 (2): 217–230.Google Scholar
- Carter, Carter. 1998. When the “extraordinary” becomes “ordinary”: Everyday news of sexual violence. In News, Gender and Power, ed. Cynthia Carter, Gill Branston, and Stuart Allan, 219–232. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Cho, Alexander. 2015. Queer reverb: Tumblr, affect, time. In Networked Affect, ed. Ken Hillis, Susanna Paasonen, and Michael Petit, 43–57. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Clough, Patricia, and Jean Halley (eds.). 2007. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Collins, Patricia H. 2005. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1989. Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist critique. University of Chicago Legal Forum 140: 139–167.Google Scholar
- Dobson, Amy Shields. 2015. Girls’ “pain memes” on YouTube: The production of pain and femininity on a digital network. In Youth Cultures and Subcultures: An Australian Perspective, ed. Sarah Baker, Brady Robards, and Bob Buttigieg, 173–182. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Doherty, Kathy, and Irina Anderson. 1998. Perpetuating rape supportive culture: Talking about rape. The Psychologist 11: 583–587.Google Scholar
- Edgren, Monica. 2017. Conditional agency and sexual discourses in Swedish court narratives of rape: A historical perspective 1990–2013. Paper presented at Intersectional Narratives of Rape, April 5–6, Lund University, Lund.Google Scholar
- Fileborn, Bianca. 2017. Justice 2.0: Street harassment victims’ use of social media and online activism as sites of informal justice. British Journal of Criminology 57: 1482–1501.Google Scholar
- Fileborn, Bianca. 2018. Naming the unspeakable harm of street harassment: A survey-based examination of disclosure practices. Violence Against Women. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801218768709.
- Gavey, Nicola. 2005. Just Sex? The Cultural Scaffolding of Rape. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Harvey, Alison. 2016. Dreams, design, and exclusion: The aggressive architecture of the utopian internet. Paper presented at Film, Television & Media Studies Research Seminar Series, March 7, University of East Anglia.Google Scholar
- hooks, bell. 1989. Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black. Boston, MA: Southend Press.Google Scholar
- Järvinen, Justine, Angela Kail, and Iona Miller. 2008. Hard Knock Life: Violence Against Women—A Guide for Donors and Funders. London: New Philanthropy Capital.Google Scholar
- Kanai, Akane. 2016. Sociality and classification: Reading gender, race and class in a humorous meme. Social Media + Society 2 (4): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305116672884.
- Karlsson, Lena. 2018. Towards a language of sexual gray zones: Feminist collective knowledge building through autobiographical multimedia storytelling. Feminist Media Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2018.1467944.
- Keller, J., Mendes, K., and Ringrose, J. 2018. Speaking unspeakable things: Documenting digital feminist responses to rape culture. Journal of Gender Studies 27 (1): 22–36.Google Scholar
- Kelly, Liz. 1988. Surviving Sexual Violence. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
- Kitzinger, Jenny. 1998. The gender-politics of news production: Silenced voices and false memories. In News, Gender and Power, ed. Cynthia Carter, Gill Branston, and Stuart Allan, 186–203. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Loney-Howes, Rachel. 2015. Beyond the spectacle of suffering: Representations of rape in online anti-rape activism. Outskirts: Feminism Along the Edge 33: 1–17.Google Scholar
- Loney-Howes, Rachel. 2018. Shifting the rape script: “Coming out” online as rape. Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 39 (2): 26–57.Google Scholar
- Marcus, Sharon. 1992. Fighting bodies, fighting words: A theory and politics of rape prevention. In Feminists Theorize the Political, ed. Judith Butler and Joan W. Scott, 385–403. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Mardorossian, Catherine M. 2014. Framing the Rape Victim: Gender and Agency Reconsidered. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- McCosker, Andrew. 2014. Trolling as provocation: YouTube’s agonistic publics. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 20 (2): 201–217.Google Scholar
- Mendes, Kaitlynn, Jessalynn Keller, and Jessica Ringrose. 2018. Digitized narratives of sexual violence: A case study of #BeenRapedNeverReported and Who Needs Feminism? New Media & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444818820069.
- Pease, Bob. 2010. Undoing Privilege: Unearned Advantage in a Divided World. London and New York: Zed Books.Google Scholar
- Renninger, B. 2015. “Where I can be myself … where I can speak my mind”: Networked counterpublics in a polymedia environment. New Media & Society 17 (9): 1513–1529.Google Scholar
- Rentschler, Carrie. 2014. Rape culture and the feminist politics of social media. Girlhood Studies 7 (1): 65–82.Google Scholar
- Ringrose, Jessica, and Emilie Lawrence. 2018. Remixing misandry, manspreading and dick pics: Networked feminist humour on tumblr. Feminist Media Studies. https://doi.org/10.1080/14680777.2018.1450351.
- Roiphe, Katie. 1993. The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.Google Scholar
- Shepherd, Tamara, Alison Harvey, Tim Jordan, Sam Srauy, and Kate Miltner. 2015. Histories of hating. Social Media + Society 1 (2): 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1177/2056305115603997.
- Soothill, Keith, and Sylvia Walby. 1991. Sex Crime in the News. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Spry, Tami. 1995. In the absence of word and body: Hegemonic implications of “victim” and “survivor” in women narratives of sexual violence. Women and Language 13 (2): 27–32.Google Scholar
- van Zoonen, Liesbet, Farida Vis, and Sabina Mihelj. 2011. YouTube interactions between agonism, antagonism and dialogue: Video responses to the anti-Islam film Fitna. New Media and Society 13 (1): 1283–1300.Google Scholar
- Warfield, Katie. 2016. “Reblogging someone’s selfie is seen as a really nice thing to do”: Spatiality and emplacement within a non-dominant platform vernacular on Tumblr. Paper presented at the Association of Internet Researchers Conference, October 5–8, Berlin, Germany.Google Scholar
- Wolbert Burgess, Ann, Annie Lewis-O’Connor, M. Elaine Nugent-Borakove, and Patricia Fanflik. 2009. Victim services and SANE/SART programs. In Practical Aspects of Rape Investigations, 4th ed., ed. Robert R. Hazlewood and Ann Wolbert Burgess, 39–51. Boca Raton: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
- Wolf, Naomi. 1993. Fire with Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use It. New York: Random.Google Scholar
- Young, Stacey L., and Katheryn C. McGuire. 2003. Talking about sexual violence. Women and Language 26 (2): 40–52.Google Scholar