The Woman Was Raped - A Critical Discourse Analysis of Swedish News Media Coverage of Rape and Sexual Assault

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Abstract: Departing from the question of how linguistic representations of sexual crime are connected to social practices around sexuality, this discourse analysis looks into 30 news articles on sexual crime to identify discourses around male and female sexuality. As most sexual crimes are committed by men and against women, the analysis focuses on connecting discursive descriptions of men and women in relation to sexual crime, to power relations between men and women in society. It investigates whether the identified discourses contribute to sustaining an unjust power relation between men and women where women are subjugated. The analysis builds on theories on gender constructivism and feminist theory departing from Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler, and discourse theory and theories on the relation between power, discourse and sexuality as formulated by Michel Foucault and Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe. Using Critical Discourse Analysis, a method developed and defined by Norman Fairclough and Lilie Chouliaraki, the texts are analysed in relation to their role in social practices. The findings in this analysis are in line with the referenced previous research centred around the theme of how victims and perpetrators of sexual crime are portrayed linguistically in the media, in police reports and court documents. They show that linguistic constructions of sexual crimes, victims and perpetrators in the investigated news texts use discourses around male and female sexuality by centring the criminal activity around the female victim and by using passive form. Several discourses around female sexual behaviour are identified as used in the material to put part of the blame for sexual crimes on the female victim, e.g. responsibility to protect one’s sexual virtue by saying no and by not being intoxicated.

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