UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Deconstructing docility : sexual assault law and embodied resistance to violence Lorenzi, Lucia


From the disproportionate sexual violence faced by Indigenous women to the incidents that prompted Canadian activists to found the SlutWalk movement, the nation-state’s relationship to violated bodies continues to highlight the ways in which legal and cultural discourses often situate victims of sexualized violence as self-surveilling agents who are ultimately deemed responsible for their own safety. Building on work by Michel Foucault, I trace a history of vulnerable bodies and subjectivity vis-à-vis sexual violence, arguing that through the politics of self-surveillance and contemporary rape-prevention discourse, both specific bodies and specific geographical locations are materialized as abject. Focusing specifically on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and drawing on literary texts that directly address how vulnerable bodies are legally constituted, I suggest that violated bodies are not merely passively inscribed by the law, but rather that our readings of them can help to unsettle and resist the discourses that attempt to constrain and define them.

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