Eroticism, and the Politics of Representing the Abused Body

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This essay explores the potential for representations of sexual violence to be framed as erotic, and received as sexually titillating. It focuses mainly on two different examples of representation, both concerning sexual violence in conflict: the photographs of American soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, and the representation of mass rape during the Bosnian war in Colleen Wagner’s play The Monument. Drawing on the work of Weil and Bataille, and a range of material from later philosophers and performance scholars, the essay considers the complex relationship between the spectacle of the suffering body, its apparent vulnerability, and responses to that vulnerability from care to harm. Ignorance functions as a concept that shapes vulnerability as alien and thus as deserving of further cruelty, or as feminine and thus allied to eroticism. The essay interrogates the staging of the violated body as it raises questions about the spectatorial pleasures of violence, and the ethical and practical issues of representing the suffering body on stage or in media.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Politics and Performance
EditorsShirin Rai, Milija Gluhovic, Silvija Jestrovic, Michael Saward
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780190863456
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 5 Mar 2021


  • Sexual violence
  • vulnerability
  • conflict
  • eroticism
  • body in pain
  • violence


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