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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Representing rape : a semiotic analysis of rape myths in three popular films Bleackley, Deborah A.


This essay considers the representation of rape in three popular films and how these depictions may reinforce or undermine ideas surrounding rape, gender and normative sexual behaviour. Often rape myths (female sexual availability and male sexual aggression) are mobilized in conjunction with the depiction of rape, and it is through this mobilization of rape myths that explorations of normative sexual behaviour and gender are considered. Each of the three films examined (The Accused, Boys Don't Cry and Pulp Fiction) depict a different type of rape (the gender of the victim is different in each), offering a considerable opportunity to explore issues of sexual violence and gender, especially masculinity. Significantly, these films also inadvertently comment on issues of race and class through their representation of rape. Taken together, the three films reflect an androcentric heteronormative view of sexual behaviour and gender, where male sexual aggression toward women is possibly justifiable and gender is conceived of as binary (masculine or feminine) and fixed. A critique of these sexual codes indicates the necessity of rejecting the binary conceptions of sex, gender and sexual behaviour in favour of more fluid conceptualizations. In this instance sex, gender and sexual behaviour would be understood as a range of behaviours and identities rather than as an either/or alternative and thus be inclusive and not exclusive of a wider range of identities, desires and expressions.

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