RHETORICS OF RAPE: FEMINIST RHETORICS AND POSTFEMINIST DISCOURSE OF RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

Open Access
Author:
Merlo, Elyse M.
Graduate Program:
Communication Arts and Sciences
Degree:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
August 02, 2010
Committee Members:
  • Rosa A Eberly, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • Feminism
  • Rape
  • Rhetoric
  • Postfeminism
Abstract:
This thesis interrogates feminist rhetoric of rape. As such, this project first investigates the history and rhetorical strategies of the rape reform movement, a decidedly feminist movement, before looking ahead to the burgeoning postfeminist discourse of “gray rape.” I recount the arguments of the rape reform movement and landmarks moments in the history of the movement as a watershed moment where the language used to describe rape changed in order to shift the perspective of rape as an assault that happens between strangers to an assault that more commonly exists between acquaintances, friends, and dates. I then look at the specific language created by the rape reform movement, the terms “acquaintance rape” and “date rape,” as feminist counterformulations of rape and the rhetorical dimensions of these terms. Finally, I look at the postfeminist discourse of “gray rape” as reiteration of rape myths, the “virgin”/“vamp” dichotomy, and the singular discourse of “stranger rape” and how this discourse, if left unchecked, is detrimental to serious public discussion about rape.