HomeThe sexual harasser: gendered perspectives and discourses on a figure in need of historicizing

HomeThe sexual harasser: gendered perspectives and discourses on a figure in need of historicizing

The sexual harasser: gendered perspectives and discourses on a figure in need of historicizing

Historiciser la figure du harceleur : regards et discours genrés

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Published on Thursday, July 20, 2023

Abstract

The conference concerned by this call for paper is part of the AVISA project aiming at the identification of other periods in the past, in the Western world and well before #MeToo, during which behaviours that can be classified as sexual harassment were experienced or exposed by women and men who, in some instances, combatted them either in court or through creative modes of expression. It intends to explore the phenomenon of sexual harassment by questioning the way it is perceived through a focus not on the figure of the victim but on that of the perpetrator. This will enable us to approach the history of sexual harassment from the angle of the censure or justification of behaviour that falls today into the category of sexual harassment―which we define along with UN Women as encompassing “non-consensual physical contact, like grabbing, pinching, slapping, or rubbing against another person in a sexual way”.

Announcement

Arguments

This conference is part of the AVISA project, which has been ongoing since June 2020 with the support of MSH-Paris Saclay. The AVISA project aims at identifying other periods in the past, in the Western world and well before #MeToo, during which behaviours that can be classified as sexual harassment were experienced or exposed by women and men who, in some instances, combatted them either in court or through creative modes of expression. 

The forthcoming conference intends to explore the phenomenon of sexual harassment by questioning the way it is perceived through a focus not on the figure of the victim but on that of the perpetrator. This will enable us to approach the history of sexual harassment from the angle of the censure or justification of behaviour that falls today into the category of sexual harassment―which we define along with UN Women as encompassing “non-consensual physical contact, like grabbing, pinching, slapping, or rubbing against another person in a sexual way. It also includes non-physical forms, such as catcalls, sexual comments about a person’s body or appearance, demands for sexual favours, sexually suggestive staring, stalking, and exposing one’s sex organs”. Given that the overwhelming majority of such acts of harassment are committed by people identified as male in the sources, we would particularly like to investigate the gendered dimension of the figure of the harasser. How have these acts of sexual violence been described, represented and discussed, if they were not considered to be sexual violence in the first place? Were (young) men really never taught about consent before the postmodern era? Can we still believe that in the past, throughout the Western world, men have never been criticized, mocked, denounced or even convicted for such acts?

To tackle this issue, we welcome papers on  :

  • the social dynamics of power, particularly those of gender, class and race, that exist between the perpetrators of this sexual violence and their victims as they appear in the historical and fictional sources available to us. This will enable us to sketch a sociological typology of profiles but  also to better understand the evolution of different types of victim-perpetrator relationships over the course of several centuries from an intersectional perspective;educational models and discourses found in pedagogic and didactic literature geared towards men and women;
  • the mythology built around the figure of the sexual harasser, considering whether he has been turned into a monster or on the contrary been portrayed as a more ordinary, less criminal being;
  • the long-standing influence of the male gaze on the issue. We particularly invite papers tackling the ways in which the justice system has dealt with dirty jokes, sexual innuendos, non-consensual physical contact, pressing demands for sexual favours  or attempts to force sexual contact throughout the ages. Beyond formal complaints, private denunciations (through letters, diaries,  etc.) as well as public ones (through the press and the media, etc.) deserve to be investigated. This includes words of caution and advice found in conduct books, newspapers and magazines which condemn this type of behaviour. We also encourage participants to look at the reception of fiction, films, artifacts and performances, as the same work can garner very different reviews depending on whether they are done by professionals or amateurs but also on their social, political and geographical contexts;
  • the counter narratives delivered by women in the courts, the press,  literature and the arts;
  • narrative and descriptive techniques used to evoke, describe and report harassment in fictional and non-fictional stories. One may focus in particular on studying the gendered point of view from which the facts are recounted, and question the positioning induced for the reader, by analyzing, for example, the presence of a "male gaze" or a "female gaze", in a literary perspective. One may also propose a syntactic study of these narratives, for example by analyzing the transitivity of statements as a marker of dissymmetrical relations in terms of agency between the stalker and his victim. Finally, one can raise the question of the gendered effects of literary genres (narrative, drama, poetry, etc.) and their poetic characteristics on the representation of the stalker;
  • the perception and acknowledgement (or lack thereof) of how serious the instances of sexual harassment are in fictional or non fictional texts, which may vary depending on the type of act committed, so as to build a historically situated typology of such acts within the conceptual framework of a continuum of violence;
  • the ways in which cinema and visual media, through technical choices of camera angles, editing, sound effects (music, noise, speech…), but also through storytelling, examine the figure of the sexual harasser, constructing and deconstructing it over time. How have portrayals in film changed alongside evolutions in the wider discourse surrounding sexual harassment? Where does the “male gaze” fall? Which behaviours get shot, and in what way is film work specifically equipped to address the question of the condemnation or lack thereof of these behaviours? Critical and popular reception of these works may also be studied with the  harasser in mind: how is the perpetrator perceived over time, what emotional reactions arise, and what possible censure? Can these elements be found in promotional material (interviews with the directing team, production crew, cast…)?  

This conference aims to foster encounters between researchers of different disciplines in human and social sciences. The goal is to shed light on a figure not often talked about or prominently featured, by weaving together analyses stemming from art history, intellectual history, sociology, film and media studies, philosophy, literature, anglophone studies, legal studies, etc.

Submission guidelines

Please submit an abstract (no longer that 250 words) and short CV to by September 10th, 2023 to colloqueavisa@gmail.com.

Notification of acceptance by the AVISA scientific committee will be sent on October 10th at the latest. 

The conference will be held on 11 and 12 January 2024 at The Paris Institute for Advanced Study, 17 quai d’Anjou 75 004 Paris.

Organisers

  • Armel Dubois-Nayt (DYPAC, Université Paris-Saclay)
  • Anne-Claire Marpeau (Configurations Littéraires, Université de Strasbourg)
  • Juliette Misset (SEARCH, Université de Strasbourg)
  • Réjane Vallée (CPN, Université Évry-Paris-Saclay)

Places

  • Institut d’Études Avancées de Paris, 17 quai d’Anjou
    Paris, France (75 004)

Date(s)

  • Sunday, September 10, 2023

Keywords

  • harcèlement, sexuel, histoire du genre, représentation, littérature, art,

Contact(s)

  • AVISA
    courriel : colloqueavisa [at] gmail [dot] com

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Anne-Claire Marpeau
    courriel : acmarpeau [at] unistra [dot] fr

License

CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The sexual harasser: gendered perspectives and discourses on a figure in need of historicizing », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Thursday, July 20, 2023, https://doi.org/10.58079/1bm5

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