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  • Writer's pictureAshley Mack

Rape, Consent, & Culture

Updated: Feb 3, 2020


This course explores how sexual and gendered violence is symbolically negotiated in public culture. We will examine how sexual violence and consent are framed in legal, political, educational, mediated, and cultural contexts. We will survey the intersectional relationships between race, gender, sexuality, nation, age, ability, and class as they relate to sexual and gendered violence. Finally, we will consider the ways that the public framing of sexual violence impacts both cultural views about rape, and in turn, how social institutions (such as schools, the government, religious bodies, or the criminal legal system) attempt to stop sexual and gendered violence.


By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an ability to assimilate readings from class and to write in a manner that incorporates the readings.

  • Demonstrate an ability to use communication concepts to analyze human behavior and to apply those concepts to improve social and professional life.

  • Demonstrate an ability to critically engage established norms and expectations of sex, gender, and sexuality.

  • Become a more effective critical thinker and consumer of information.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the historical, cultural, and philosophical complexity that supports sophisticated discourse.


This class engages (as one might expect) difficult often deeply personal and traumatizing issues. We will be approaching all material, topics, and content from an academic perspective and for the purpose of understanding the relationship between sexual violence and communication. It is not easy to talk about sexual violence, and it shouldn’t be. If you are experiencing trauma-related responses to content or conversation, please take care of yourself.

I am going to encourage you to engage with ideas, scenarios, or concepts that may make you uncomfortable or elicit a highly emotional response. Make sure this is something you are comfortable with. Just because we watch or read something, should also not reflect that I am promoting it or that I agree with it. Finally, if you are uncomfortable engaging in adult related or sexual content for the purpose of academic debate and conversation, this may not be the class for you.

The success of this course depends on the interactions generated between all of us. I do expect you to participate actively in class, share your ideas and opinions, and comment on and assess those of your fellow classmates. However, I do demand that everyone treat each other with respect. Ridicule or disrespect of any sort will not be tolerated.


Critical Presentation (150 points) Each member of the class will partner with another member of the class to present a thesis-driven critical presentation that engages a communication artifact that is related to or about sexual assault and consent. Must follow specific format and requirements outlined in the assignment sheet. Each group will present their results in a 15-minute presentation and facilitate a 15-minute dialogue and discussion with the class. You will be graded on both your own presentation and your participation in the dialogues facilitated by your classmates. Attendance is mandatory on all days. Within groups, group members do not always participate equally in the preparation of group projects; however, all group members share equally in the final grade. To assess individual contributions to the group project, each student will be asked to rate the extent to which each of his or her group members contributed to the semester project. The average of the ratings you receive from members of your group, coupled with my own evaluation of your contribution, will be factored into your final assignment grade.

Exams (2 @ 150 points each = 300 points total) There will be two exams in this course. They are not comprehensive.  They will be essay-based examinations and you will receive a list of the possible concepts and questions ahead of time.

Engagement (50 points) This class relies on your thorough participation and critical engagement with text and exercise materials. I expect you to come to class having completed the readings for that unit. Students are expected to attend all lectures and to complete all required readings. Material will be presented in the lecture that is not in the readings and will be addressed in the exams. The engagement grade is composed of student contributions to class discussions and various engagement assignments given throughout the semester. In addition, you will be graded on in-class assignments and discussions for which you will lose credit if you are not present.


Unit 1: Rape Culture & Myths about Rape

Unit 2: Reading Violence as Gendered

Unit 3: A History of Sexual Violence in the U.S.

Unit 4: Sexual Violence and Racism in the U.S.

Unit 5: Defining Sexual Violence in Legal Contexts in the U.S.

Unit 6: Rhetorics of Rape Prevention

Unit 7: Victimhood & Rhetorics of Responsibility

Watch Audrie & Daisy

Unit 8: Statistics, Expertise, & Struggle to Represent Rape in Numbers

Unit 9: It’s Not Just Happening to Cis Women

Unit 10: Survivors Representing Sexual Violence

Unit 11: Sexual Violence on College Campuses

Watch The Hunting Ground

Unit 12: Sexual Violence and Sports

Unit 13: Militarization & Rape

Watch The Invisible War

Unit 14: Strategies for Changing Culture

Unit 15: Strategies for Changing Laws

  • Excerpt from: Kristin Bumiller, In an Abusive State: How Neoliberalism Appropriated the Feminist Movement against Sexual Violence (Duke University Press, 2008).

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