Gang Rape in Transnational Contexts: Masculinity, Identity and Ethics in Transnational Contexts

Stream: Gendered Identities: Exploring Sexual Violence
Date: Wednesday, 11 February 2015
Time: 3.15 pm – 5.00 pm


Both India and Australia have witnessed high rates of public reports of group sexual assault of women. In the Australian context, men's elite team sports in Australia have been the subject of considerable public scrutiny subsequent to a series of instances of group sexual violence against women. In the Indian context, groups of men 'bonded' in other ways have been a central feature of reporting the crimes. A transnational approach to masculinity and a culturally-informed investigation of the ways in which identity operates among groups in ways which make group sexual assault thinkable by otherwise ethical, gender-aware men is warranted. This paper investigates the representation of masculine bonding in group sexual assault scandals from the perspective of Judith Butler's theories of identity performativity. Arguing that the performance of men’s identity occurs differently in highly-bonded group contexts in contrast to individual masculinities, cases of sexual assault can be understood as resulitng from masculine group 'suspension' of ethics in temporary moments of bonding. Approaching the distinction between individual responsibility and local group subjectivity, sportsplayers and others are therefore well-placed to recognise through their own vulnerability to injury and loss, presenting an ethics of non-violence grounded in recognition of the vulnerable other.


Rob Cover (Presenter), The University of Western Australia
Rob Cover is Associate Professor in Communication and Media Studies at The University of Western Australia, and is visiting teaching fellow at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur. Rob’s research focuses on communication, identity and belonging. He has published over 50 articles on topics of media theory, sexualities and migration. His recent book Queer Youth Suicide, Culture & Identity (Ashgate 2012) explored how identity, sexuality and suicide converge in popular media. His new book, Vulnerability and Exposure: Footballer Scandals, Masculine Identity and Ethics (UWAP 2014) examines how masculine bonding and identity among high-profile sportsplayers in Australia are implicated in scandal.