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Thinking Sexual Difference Through the Law of Rape

Russell, Yvette (2014) Thinking Sexual Difference Through the Law of Rape. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:47940)

Language: English
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2013 marked ten years since the Sexual Offences Act 2003 was passed. That Act made significant changes to the law of rape which appear now to have made very little difference to either prosecution or conviction rates. This thesis argues that the Act has failed against its own measures because it remains enmeshed within a conceptual framework of sexual indifference in which woman continues to be constructed as man’s (defective) other. This construction both constricts the frame in which women’s sexuality can be thought and distorts the harm of rape for women. It also continues woman’s historic alienation from her own nature and denies her entitlement to a becoming in line with her own sexuate identity. It effaces woman’s specificity leaving her suspended in an ahistorical space in which the unique and gendered meaning of rape for women is also erased. This thesis argues that the law is complicit in its own failure because it is structurally invested, for its own survival and coherence, in the exclusion and erasure of woman’s voice, which represents the possibility of a plural form of being and thinking and is thus a fundamental challenge to the legitimacy of law. Using Luce Irigaray’s critical and constructive frameworks, the thesis seeks to imagine how law might ‘cognise’ sexual difference and thus take the preliminary steps to a juridical environment in which women can more adequately understand and articulate the harm of rape. It argues that the prevention of rape is not just about prohibitive laws that fix the iteration of the sex act and of sexed bodies. It first requires an ethics of subject-subject relations and the recognition of two distinct and different subjects. Only then can we hope to generate a minor jurisprudence capable of providing justice owed to women who are raped.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Hunter, Rosemary
Uncontrolled keywords: criminal law, feminist theory, harm, justice, legal discourse, poststructuralism, Luce Irigaray, rape, sexual difference.
Subjects: K Law > KD England and Wales
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2015 11:00 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 22:10 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Russell, Yvette.

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