Callaghan, J. (2011) “Remember kids. Rape is only funny on facebook” Theorising talk about sexual and gendered violence in online spaces. Paper presented to: 14th Biennial Conference of The International Society for Theoretical Psychology (ISTP 2011), Thessaloniki, Greece, 27 June - 01 July 2011.
Feminist authors have long highlighted the importance of a public discourse that legitimates women’s experiences of sexual violence as an important issue. This paper explores online talk about ‘rape’, and sexual violence. Using public domain ‘likes’ and ‘groups’ on facebook, and definition entries in the Urban Dictionary, this paper explores how online talk represents and reproduces rape in a manner that minimises the significance of sexual violence, and then legitimates this trivialisation through the positioning of online comments as ‘jokes’. Gill (2007) points out that the sexual objectification of women is often passed off under the guise of ‘ironic’ commentary – charges of sexism are warded off by the apparently sophisticated act of being ‘ironic’. Locating my analysis in a supposedly ‘post-feminist’ ideological climate, I suggest that popular online spaces provide an arena within which representations of rape and sexual violence are contested, and where humour enables users to both reproduce and distance themselves from the trivialising constructions