Critical Criminology

, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 119-140

First online:

Keeping the ‘Lady’ Safe: The Regulation of Femininity through Crime Prevention Literature

  • Alex CampbellAffiliated withThe University of New England

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Rape and the fear of rape have been understood by numerous feminists as an ideological weapon used by men to subordinate women. This paper argues that this analysis of power is overly reductive. The omnipresent threat of rape for women encourages them to engage in multiple ‘safe-keeping’ acts which have come to be a performative condition of normative femininity. These restrictive bodily acts (not dressing in certain ways, avoiding certain public locales) promoted through some strands of rape prevention literature, are not merely a reaction to the reality of rape, rather, these advisory narratives unwittingly operate to install rape as a fixed reality. Rape prevention literature (re)produces gendered bodies – the vulnerable/indefensible feminine and the potent/unstoppable masculine – which does not disrupt the possibility of rape, more exactly, it makes rape seem evermore inevitable and unstoppable.