Men and Women

How We Talk About Sexual Violence

“Me Too has been a movement driven by the written word: the personal experiences shared on social media, the reporting published—and funded—by newspapers and magazines,” writes Elaine Blair in our May 25 issue. But when it comes to film, she asks, “What is it exactly that the medium has to offer?” Examining the way journalists and advocates for sexual assault survivors write about victims’ experiences alongside recent movies like Women Talking and My Name Is Andrea, Blair argues that representations of sexual violence must grapple with more than the question of how trauma feels.

Below, alongside Blair’s essay, we have collected from our archives writing about the politics and language of rape.

Elaine Blair
The Limits of Language

In the newsroom and in Hollywood, a new vernacular is emerging to describe sexual assault.

Sam Huber
Risk, Originality, Commitment

Andrea Dworkin’s dual commitment to language and politics constituted a single thread running taut through the length of her life.

Christine Smallwood
The Power of Questions

As Jacqueline Rose writes in On Violence and On Violence Against Women, gender-based violence is not caused by sexual difference—she does not attribute aggression to, for example, an excess of testosterone—rather it establishes the hierarchy of sexual difference.

Lili Loofbourow
The Post-Traumatic Novel

“What is the situation of survivors who saw the injury proven and exposed—and maybe even punished—and saw, also, that nothing much changed?”

Alissa Quart and
Barbara Ehrenreich
Sisters in Arms

Is the #MeToo “moment” the beginning of a new feminism?

Melissa Gira Grant
The Unsexy Truth About Harassment

A co-worker’s or boss’s actions don’t have to feel like a profound violation to be harassment. They can feel more like a waste of time.

Joan Didion
New York: Sentimental Journeys

“In its quite extensive coverage of rape-murders during the year 1971, the Daily News published in its four-star final edition only two stories in which the victim was not described in the lead paragraph as ‘attractive.’”

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