Expurgating the monstrous – an analysis of the South African Daily Sun’s coverage of gang rape

TitleExpurgating the monstrous – an analysis of the South African Daily Sun’s coverage of gang rape
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Prinsloo, J.
Affiliation (1st Author)Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, Grahamstown and CCMS, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban
Section or WGGender and Communication Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeGENT4b
Slot Code (Keyword)GENT4b
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleGender, Crisis and (Sexual) Violence
Submission ID6263

This paper does not focus on the economic crisis of the north, but on the construction of a particular form of violent masculinity prevalent in South African township contexts, where the impacts of the economic order are deeply felt. It focuses on the discourse of the ‘monstrous’ as articulated around the acts of sexual violence perpetrated by young teens. The paper considers the press coverage in 2012 of the ‘Soweto gang rape’, whose acts were additionally recorded by the perpetrators on mobile phones and ‘went viral’ as the media continuously noted. It undertakes a critical discourse analysis of the coverage of this case including the reporting, editorial and letters in the tabloid, the Daily Sun, the most widely read daily newspaper in South Africa. The ways in which this alarming case is mediated arguably plays a significant role in the ongoing definition of appropriate teen and masculine behaviours, and consequently of deviance and the abject. The analysis is informed by a Foucauldian understanding of discourse and the discursive subject. It accepts Hunter’s premise of different concepts of love that pertain for South African working class and township youth and men, specifically provider love and romantic love (Hunter 2010). Central to the former is its materiality and the assumption that being a ‘real’ man is associated with being able to command material resources, a prerequisite for both having a girl friend and sex. For working class and township youth the possibilities of gaining employment are constrained and their sense of being left behind is also lived in gendered ways. Arguably, in the face of harsh conditions and the absence of monetary wealth, the possibilities for chivalrous masculinities are minimised. Violent masculinities are then frequently characterised by rape, and gang rape becomes a marker of tough sexual masculinity. In South Africa, this has reached crisis proportions. The paper considers how the coverage constitutes such youth as monsters or subhuman, and interrogates the nature of its lament and the objects of its blame. This discourse, it is proposed, forecloses on other possible ways of understanding the escalating violence perpetrated by young men that increasingly marks this (and other) young democracies (Adams 2011), as well as ways of thinking of addressing these issues beyond merely the vengeful.

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