Cover image for What It Feels Like: Visceral Rhetoric and the Politics of Rape Culture By Stephanie R. Larson

What It Feels Like

Visceral Rhetoric and the Politics of Rape Culture

Stephanie R. Larson

COMING IN OCTOBER

$99.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09143-3
Coming in October

232 pages
6" × 9"
3 b&w illustrations
2021

Rhetoric and Democratic Deliberation

What It Feels Like

Visceral Rhetoric and the Politics of Rape Culture

Stephanie R. Larson

What It Feels Like is an exciting contribution to rhetorical studies and women’s and gender studies, offering a theory of visceral rhetoric that provides both explanatory power for rape culture and a potential framework for feminist intervention. It addresses a timely topic in a refreshingly new way, providing critical insight into how rape culture is rhetorically constituted as well as reason to hope for change.”

 

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What It Feels Like interrogates an underexamined reason for our failure to abolish rape in the United States: the way we communicate about it. Using affective and feminist materialist approaches to rhetorical criticism, Stephanie Larson examines how discourses about rape and sexual assault rely on strategies of containment, denying the felt experiences of victims and ultimately stalling broader claims for justice.

Investigating anti-pornography debates from the 1980s, Violence Against Women Act advocacy materials, sexual assault forensic kits, public performances, and the #MeToo movement, Larson reveals how our language privileges male perspectives and, more deeply, how it is shaped by systems of power—patriarchy, white supremacy, and heteronormativity as well as masculine commitments to “science” or “evidence.” In addition, Larson finds that the culture holds a general mistrust of testimony by women, stereotyping it as “emotional.” But she also gives us hope for change, arguing that women’s testimony—the bodily, material expression of violation—is needed to give voice to victims of sexual violence and to present, accurately, the facts of these crimes. Larson makes a case for visceral rhetorics, theorizing them as powerful forms of communication and persuasion.

Demonstrating the communicative power of bodily feeling, Larson challenges the long-held commitment to detached, distant, rationalized discourses of sexual harassment and rape. Timely and poignant, the book offers a much-needed corrective to our legal and political discourses.

What It Feels Like is an exciting contribution to rhetorical studies and women’s and gender studies, offering a theory of visceral rhetoric that provides both explanatory power for rape culture and a potential framework for feminist intervention. It addresses a timely topic in a refreshingly new way, providing critical insight into how rape culture is rhetorically constituted as well as reason to hope for change.”

Stephanie R. Larson is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University.