Postfeminism and the representation of acquaintance rape in young adult fiction
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 03:02 authored by Aiyana Altrows
Anti-rape discourse was key to the success of the Women's Liberation Movement, which insisted on bringing rape into public focus. Western popular culture is now inundated with rape stories, and yet the feminism has largely disappeared from these narratives. This shift can be ascribed to postfeminism, which appears feminist through a use of feminist vocabulary but instead promotes anti-feminist neoliberal meaning. The last fifteen years have seen an increasing number of young adult novels about rape. My first chapter asserts that while authorial intention is doubtlessly to empower teenage girls, as evidenced in paratextual direct addresses to the reader, implicit anti-feminist neoliberal ideologies in the texts undermine that goal. Chapter Two examines how novels naturalise rape and condone surveillance frameworks through restrictive discourses on clothing and food, presenting female bodies as rape spaces. Chapter Three shifts focus to the affective regulation of mental states, arguing that the predominant 'silent victim' script stigmatises feminist anger, and makes the victim's traumatised psyche the 'problem' of the 'problem novel.' My fourth chapter shifts focus to boyhood, particularly the New Age Boyfriend type, whose construction in contrast to the essentially evil and undeveloped off-page rapist not only exonerates 'good guy' types from a potential to rape, but identifies rape as an inhuman, and therefore uninterrogable act. My final chapter argues that novels which reject dominant schemas of victims as isolated within hostile communities are better able to demonstrate feminist models of collectivity and interrogate rape culture. The success of the #MeToo movement signals a return to the second-wave tactic of reclaiming rape narratives as a means of empowerment. This thesis participates in this reclamation by examining how young adult fiction displaces feminism in its anti-rape discourse, and how it might be restored to promote an empowering vision of girlhood.