Publication Details

Loney-Howes, R. (2015). Beyond the spectacle of suffering: Representations of rape in online anti-rape activism. Outskirts: feminisms along the edge, 33 1-17.


From vigilante street politics, to consciousness raising, speak outs, and now online spaces, the mediums through which representations of rape are transmitted by anti-rape activists have transformed over time. Although activists have made concerted efforts to broaden the representation of rape, narratives about women's sexual suffering and vulnerability continue to dominate popular assumptions about rape. The internet purportedly offers a more complex and networked platform for activists to engage with and challenge these representations propagated by a culture which condones sexual violence, due to a proliferation of fluid public and counter-public spaces. By examining the ways in which rape is depicted on three online anti-rape campaigns: Stop Rape Now, This is Not an Invitation to Rape Me, and Project Unbreakable, I demonstrate that online spaces do provide a viable forum for feminist anti-rape activists to contest normative depictions of rape and sexual victimisation. However, these norms are not always effectively challenged. Because of this, I argue that it is necessary to persist in questioning the modes of representation in these online anti-rape campaigns, as well as find ways to make victim-survivors theorists of their own experiences to move beyond the spectacle of sexual suffering. Otherwise, social justice struggles will continue to be beset by misrepresentation and misframing.