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BARNARD, Ian

Spring 2017, 47.1, pages 3-25

Rhetorical Common Sense and Child Molester Panic – A Queer Intervention

Abstract: This article considers how contemporary representations of child molesters in scholarly, political, and popular culture participate in projects that revolve around the recuperation of heteronormativity. I argue that these multimodal obsessions with child molestation displace the resilience of entrenched homophobic fears, prejudices, and dispositions, giving the lie to the commonplace that the political advance of same-sex marriage in the United States signals the apotheosis of gay rights. My analysis focuses on two representative popular and scholarly texts: the long-running television series Law and Order: SVU and a scholarly article about the Jerry Sandusky case published in jac. The former capitalizes on a combination of stranger and familiar child molester figures, reflecting a mix of popular sex panic mythology and social reality. The latter reenacts this combination, so the discourse about the Sandusky case becomes imbricated in the convergences between mythology and social reality that characterize the television show.


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