Winner of the 2023 National Communication Association's American Studies Division Outstanding Book Award
News media and popular culture in the United States have produced a conventional narrative of the outcomes of sexual abuse: someone perpetrates sexual violence, goes to trial, and is then punished with prison time. Survivors recede into the background, becoming minor characters in their own stories as intrepid prosecutors, police officers, and investigators gather evidence and build a case.
Leland G. Spencer explains how the stories we tell about sexual assault serve to reinforce rape culture, privileging criminal punishment over social justice and community-based responses to sexual violence. Examining a broad range of popular media, including news coverage of the Brock Turner case, Naomi Iizuka’s popular play Good Kids, the television program Criminal Minds, and the book turned television show 13 Reasons Why, Spencer demonstrates how these representations shore up the carceral state, perpetuate rape myths, blame victims, and excuse those who harm. While increased discussion about sexual violence represents feminist progress, these narratives assume that policing and prosecution are the only means of achieving justice, sidelining other potential avenues for confronting perpetrators and supporting victims.
About the Author
LELAND G. SPENCER is professor of interdisciplinary and communication studies at Miami University and coauthor of Campuses of Consent: Sexual and Social Justice in Higher Education.
“This outstanding book is clear and easy to read, while engaging with important, complicated issues. Spencer uses the case study chapters in effective ways to invite viewers—and scholars—to see the chosen texts from a different point of view.”—Jennifer C. Dunn, coeditor of Transgressing Feminist Theory and Discourse: Advancing Conversations across Disciplines
“Rape, Agency, and Carceral Solutions makes a significant contribution to the literature on rape culture, media, and popular culture, while also offering possibilities for ‘worldmaking narratives’ that present alternatives to our current overreliance on the carceral state.”—Nickie D. Phillips, author of Beyond Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in Popular Media