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Sexual Violence in the Media

Jenny Kitzinger


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The representation of sexual violence has been subject to critical inquiry in two main ways. One strand of research explores whether scenes of sexual violence (in films, computer games, and pornography magazines) might trigger sexual aggression. This sort of research is often pursued under the umbrella of psychology and criminology (→  Violence as Media Content, Effects of ). A second strand, more often pursued by communication scholars, focuses more on how the media frame sexual violence as an issue. The aim of this body of work is to explore how the media present the causes of, and solutions to, sexual violence, and examine how this might help to shape public and policy responses. This approach also includes an interest in the everyday representations of sexuality that infuse popular culture and how these might reinforce gender inequalities or romanticize sexual aggression ( Ramasubramanian & Oliver 2006 ). Research into sexual violence in the media blossomed from the 1970s onwards in the UK and the US alongside the emergence of the women's liberation movement (WLM). WLM activists fought for recognition of the extent and seriousness of all forms of violence. Although rape is the “signature assault” usually used to represent sexual violence, feminists highlighted a continuum of abuses, including sexual harassment in the workplace, forced sex in marriage, domestic violence, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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