Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Special section Philosophical Studies, Alcoff’s Rape and Resistance (2020)

Philsophical Studies, Volume 177, Issue 2, February 2020

Ann J. Cahill, Alcoff’s Rape and Resistance: A Précis

Abstract
This article summarizes Linda Martin Alcoff’s Rape and Resistance (Polity, Cambridge, 2018). Alcoff’s analysis centers on a political and philosophical defense of the need to recognize the complexity of both the phenomenon of sexual assault and the various political attempts to counter it. Such complexity extends to the process of describing an experience of sexual assault (whether public or private), which Alcoff argues is always shaped by a multitude of political and social discourses. Alcoff’s Foucauldian analysis results in an innovative description of the harms of sexual assault, one that focuses on the ways in which experiences of sexual assault prohibit the active involvement of the subject in the development of their sexual subjectivity. Recognizing that gender-based violence is a global phenomenon, Alcoff nevertheless argues that place-specific instances of such violence are contextualized by the larger phenomenon, which is heterogeneous to its core. The article concludes by posing several questions to Alcoff, centered on the themes of the ethics of sexual experimentation, assailants’ ascription of hyperagency to targets of sexual assault, and how sexual assault may influence the sexual subjectivity of maleidentified victims, particularly those who were assaulted as children.

Keywords
Sexual violence Rape Foucault Subjectivity Global gender-based violence

Additional articles
Megan Burke, Survivor experience and the norm of self-making: comments on Rape and Resistance

Susan J. Brison. Can we end the feminist ‘sex wars’ now? Comments on Linda Martín Alcoff, Rape and resistance: Understanding the complexities of sexual violation

Response
Linda Martín Alcoff

Abstract
In this response to the comments on my book, Rape and Resistance: Understanding the Complexities of Sexual Violation, I offer a further elaboration of the crucial concept of sexual subjectivity put forward as a way to approach the normative evaluation of sexual practices. This concept makes possible a healthy pluralism without retreating to a facile libertarian view that would render consent sufficient to determine morally unproblematic sex. The concept of sexual subjectivity sanctions experimentation in our sexual lives (individual and also collective) and the question arises as to whether this opens the door to anything. Yet the concept of experimentation also presupposes that some experiments fail and that all require assessment. I argue that assessment is best done in intra-group discussions where people share broad experiences and aims, but it is also possible to communicate concerns and ideas across groups. I then discuss my use of Foucault to elaborate the specific challenges that are encountered when one tries to speak about rape and sexual violations, and also the ways we can use his work to develop more effectively resistant speaking practices.

Keywords
Rape Resistance Sexuality

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