Vulnerability after Wounding: Feminism, Rape Law, and the Differend


In using Lyotard’s theory to think about feminist anti-rape politicizations, my aim is to challenge a currently dominant criticism of these politicizations as excessively and counter-productively focused on women’s vulnerability to rape. Since Sharon Marcus’s influential essay “Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention” (1992), many interlocutors in feminist debates about gender, vulnerability, and the politics of eliminating sexual violence have followed Marcus’s argument that feminist rape law reform efforts are counter-productive, because, in the effort to make various forms of rape socially and legally visible as wrong, they merely reinscribe patriarchal constructions of femininity as embodied vulnerability, perpetuating a sexist linking of femininity with victimhood rather than agency.

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