The Fictional Sexual Abuse of a Male: Language and Gender in 'The Book of Revelation'

Stream: Representing Violence
Date: Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Time: 1.00 pm – 2.45 pm


In Rupert Thomson’s The Book of Revelation, a male dancer is kidnapped and sexually abused by three women. Drawing on Deleuze and Guattarian notions of sensation and haecceity, this paper questions the unsettling disjunct between language and the fictional acts of rape in this novel. Sharon Marcus in her article ‘Fighting Bodies, Fighting Words: A Theory and Politics of Rape Prevention’ argues that rape is a language. It is socially scripted and this script takes its form from a “gendered grammar of violence {italics in original text}” (Marcus 392). I examine the “gendered grammar” in the representational incidents of rape in The Book of Revelation and argue that the male/victim/passive and female/abuser/active model that Thomson sets up is one where borders and boundaries cannot and do not hold. Thomson exposes the inadequacies of language and communication in social and personal acknowledgement and treatment of trauma. Although the male dancer is feminised and the female powered with the traditional attributes of the male abuser, the novel highlights that there is no language of rape to deal with the sexual abuse of a male. With Thomson’s keenness to explore what lies beneath the skin, The Book of Revelation traverses “far beyond the merely sensational” (Hynes, online) to question and provoke response to the healing of a fictional male.


Neena Balwan Sachdev (Presenter), Deakin University
Neena Balwan Sachdev is at Deakin University working on her PhD thesis, Desire and Hope in Contemporary Novels of Sexual Abuse.