The thesis examines discourses about rape in American media. The author has selected a case from 2006 in which three White men from the lacrosse team at Duke University, North Carolina, were falsely accused of raping a Black woman at a party. The research question is as follows: ”What discourses can be traced in media coverage of the Duke lacrosse “rape” case, and what power effects can be derived from these representations?”
The author gives an overview on contemporary theories about rape and positions research on rape within political geography. The archive covers 94 articles from New York Times, USA Today and News & Observer. The author examines which explanatory models that are prevalent in the data, and how notions of gender, race and nationalism are produced and reproduced in the media debate. A five-fold discourse typology, consisting of conservative, liberal, neoliberal, feminist and bio-geopolitical discourses, is outlined, followed by an analysis of how particular hegemonic discourses displace alternative ways of understanding rape. The coding of data suggests that feminist discourses are marginal. Conservative discourses often correspond with explanation models offered by sociobiology where rape is understood as an outcome of natural male aggression and moral decay. Liberal discourses problematize how the police and the legal system handle justice. Neoliberal discourses stress individual risk management more than the effectiveness of the legal system. Bio-geopolitical discourses intersect with other discourses, and produce “spaces of shame” and “spaces of risk” where places like Durham and Duke University are discursively constructed in relation to national values about sexual purity and human rights. The geography of rape is mediated and negotiated through technologies of political and sexual exceptionalism on multiple geographical scales where, as the case turned out, it became illegitimate to raise concerns about race, class and gender inequality. The power effects include a depolitization and individualization of rape at home, and a justification of political and military intervention in the name of gender equality and human rights abroad.