After decades of rape law reform, it is still being argued that the criminal justice system fails rape victims, that too few cases are prosecuted and too few prosecutions result in conviction.
Compelling Engagements is a ground-breaking work which investigates the narratives of rape law and of romance fiction, and explores the outmoded and strikingly similar depictions of their normative female subjects. These are women who are not only vulnerable but also evidently worthy of the protections or rewards promised: punishment of the rapist or the hero’s love.
Larcombe’s analysis explores:
the definitions of “rape” in the criminal law and “romance” in Harlequin Mills and Boon fiction;
the feminine subjects represented in the texts of rape law and romance fiction;
the feminised subject positions the texts produce: the rape complainant and the romance reader;
particular fictionalisations of the rape complainant and the romance reader: the false rape complainant and the ideal romance consumer; and
how these fictionalisations serve the interests of the criminal justice system and the romance publishing industry.
Larcombe shows how the legal construction of gender and subjectivity in rape law is still working to disempower victims. She suggests feminism’s failure to accommodate women’s investment in heroines of romance fiction has limited their effectiveness in transforming rape law.
Compelling Engagements is an original and engaging analysis, and fascinating reading for anyone who deals with rape as part of the criminal justice system.