Alisa Kessel: ’Traditional values’ and righteous violence: The politics of protection in U.S. rape culture

Professor Alisa Kessel from the University of Puget Sound will give a talk on ’Traditional values’ and righteous violence: The politics of protection in U.S. rape culture

In the U.S., white men have long exerted legal and extra-legal violence to protect “their” women and children from perceived sexual threats. These threats are often figured through the myths and discourses of U.S. rape culture, such as the myth of the sexually deviant “bad apple” who commits rape. In the context of this myth, protective violence can be legitimized through a discourse that identifies certain strong men as protector-citizens who exert righteous violence against “aggressors” whose foreignness, non-whiteness, or non-normativity require disciplining. In this presentation, I explore the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and religion in the U.S. in the context of the 2015-2016 anti-trans “bathroom debates.” I conclude that, counter-intuitive as it may seem, anti-trans bathroom bills, which are championed on the promise to protect women and children from sexual violence, actually facilitate sexual violence: enactment of “bathroom bill” legislation increases the risk of violence (including sexual violence) for trans persons; relegates the authority to exert violence to righteous “protectors” who are, invariably, white, cisgender, heterosexual men; and blurs the distinction between protectors and aggressors. In effect, the discourse of protection justifies the heteropatriarchal, violent masculinity that facilitates sexual violence in the first place.

Friday, December 15, 2023 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Ketchum Arts and Sciences, 1B31
1775 Central Campus Mall, Boulder, CO 80309

Event Type



Diversity & Inclusion, Law & Politics


Faculty, Students, Graduate Students

College, School & Unit

Graduate School, Arts & Sciences

Center for Critical Thought, Political Science
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