Brooklyn Heights

St. Francis College criminal justice professor goes beyond blurred lines

Brooklyn BookBeat: Nickie Phillips Examines Rape Culture in Popular Media

December 8, 2016 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Professor Nickie Phillips. Courtesy of St. Francis College
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Over the past several years, the concept of “rape culture” has become a common framework for understanding a range of behaviors, including street harassment, online gendered harassment, sexual assault and rape, says St. Francis College sociology and criminal justice Professor Nickie D. Phillips in her new book “Beyond Blurred Lines: Rape Culture in Popular Media” (Rowman & Littlefield).

“Beyond Blurred Lines” looks at shifting pop culture narratives around sexual violence, from activist efforts to raise awareness to counterclaims of false allegations, overreaching political correctness and threats to due process. 

“I was interested in exploring how rape culture became a popular framework for understanding varied behaviors such as microaggressions, sexual harassment, victim-blaming and sexual assault,” said Dr. Phillips. “I was also struck by the ways that feminist efforts to raise awareness were reframed as a ‘moral panic’ — a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.”  

Phillips traces the history of rape culture from its academic beginnings in the 1970s to its prominence in public discourse around representations on television, in gaming and comic books and on college campuses. She uses public reactions to high-profile incidents and rape narratives in popular culture to illustrate the changing perceptions of sexual violence.

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“Popular culture is a crucial site for understanding sexual violence,” added Phillips. “I hope ‘Beyond Blurred Lines’ helps people understand how the concept of rape culture is debated in our society.”  

In addition to being at St. Francis, Phillips is also director of the college’s Center for Crime & Popular Culture. Her research focuses on the intersection of crime, popular culture and mass media. Phillips’ book “Comic Book Crime: Truth, Justice, and the American Way” (NYU Press), co-authored with Staci Strobl (University of Wisconsin-Platteville), is a cultural criminological analysis of themes of crime and justice in contemporary American comic books.


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