The promotion and resistance of rape myths in an internet discussion forum

Nicole Westmarland, Laura Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is now widespread recognition in the UK that the problems faced in
rape prosecutions cannot be dealt with solely through legal reform (HM
Government, 2007; Rape Crisis Scotland, 2008; Temkin and Krahe, 2008)
and that a societal shift in attitudes is needed throughout society. This
recognition has led to a renewed interest in ‘rape myths’, defined by Burt
(1980: 217) as ‘… prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape
victims, and rapists’. This research uses qualitative data downloaded from an
internet discussion forum linked to a television series shown in England and
Wales called ‘The Verdict’ (where celebrities acted as jurors in a fictional rape
trial). The data were used to investigate the ways in which rape myths were
promoted, challenged and resisted. The findings were both pessimistic and
optimistic - rape myths remained prevalent, but rarely if ever went
unchallenged. Disturbingly misogynistic statements co-existed alongside
feminist ones; the latter once would have been challenged as radical, but
appeared to be generally accepted as mainstream views. By showing how
rape myths are resisted, we suggest some emergence of ‘green shoots’ of
change amidst an otherwise grey landscape.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-104
JournalThe Journal of Social Criminology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010


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