Theses Master's

Correcting Conversations: United States Media Discourse on “Corrective Rape”

Roskic, Isidora

The term corrective rape was born out of a 2006 criminal case in which a lesbian was raped by a perpetrator intending to “turn” her straight. During the following decade, the issue of corrective rape gained international attention as global researchers, reporters and human rights organizations became increasingly interested in uncovering how the phenomena has manifested in the Global South.

Against this backdrop, this study seeks to understand how United States online newspapers and U.S-based LGBTQ+ activists and human rights organizations have framed corrective rape discourse. Grounded in frame-theory, a discourse analysis was undertaken of data drawn from 91 articles published between the years 2006 to 2021. The findings demonstrated that U.S mainstream media employed racist, sexist, and xenophobic stereotypes when presenting corrective rape.

Specifically, authors disarticulated corrective rape from the United States by isolating the issue to the Global South. Narratives of corrective rape bolstered race and class hegemonies by treating the issue as synonymous with Blackness (Black victims and Black perpetrators) and poverty. At the same time, U.S newspapers produced a constrained definition of “victim” that only accounted for cisgender lesbians. These victims were continuously exoticized and eroticized while the brutality inflicted upon them was sensationalized.

Lastly, U.S media continuously over-simplified the issue, such as attributing the entire problem to South Africa’s failed Constitution and thus limiting the reader’s understanding of potential solutions. Whilst most newspapers employed dangerous discourse, a few articles challenged the dominant depiction of corrective rape to uplift the voices of victims, spotlight the work of LGBTQ+ activists and acknowledge that the issue occurs across the globe.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Currah, Paisley A.
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
August 3, 2022