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Defining Sexual Misconduct - Power, Media, and #MeToo

Defining Sexual Misconduct

Power, Media, and #MeToo

Paperback : 9780889778092, 368 pages, May 2022
Hardcover : 9780889778702, 368 pages, May 2022


  • Short-listed, The Hill Times Best Books of 2022 2022


Defining Sexual Misconduct investigates shifts in media coverage of sexual violence and details significant changes in public discourse about sexual harm.

In 2015, the New York Times ran just a single headline with the term “sexual misconduct.” Three years later, it ran scores of such headlines, averaging more than one per week, and expanded coverage across other media organizations followed. This shift in coverage is reflective of significant changes in public discourse about sexual harm helping to hold some perpetrators accountable for their behaviour and paved the path for #MeToo and related movements against sexual abuse and harm to receive national and global attention.
In Defining Sexual Misconduct, Stacey Hannem and Christopher Schneider trace contemporary shifts in power in relation to the increased recognition and censure of sexual misconduct and the ways in which the shifting social landscape is communicated in the coverage of sexual misconduct in media.
Hannem and Schneider also examine the contemporary dynamics of public accusations and their relationship to more formal criminal justice processes, as well as the implications for the stigmatization of alleged abusers and public response to alleged victims. Since behaviours categorized as sexual misconduct may not all be defined as crimes, or punishable through legal means, social censure and cancel culture often stand as proxy forms of punishment, and the authors reflect on what the pursuit of justice might look like in this extra-legal context.


“An incredibly nuanced, essential, and important multidisciplinary analysis of the social, cultural, political, and personal aspects of sexual misconduct . . . I have no doubt that this will be the authoritative text on sexual misconduct for many years to come.” —Susan Fowler, author of Whistleblower

“Defining Sexual Misconduct is essential to understanding the origins of a movement and the many barriers that survivors of sexual violence face when their stories are used as political and media fodder. This book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand how far we have come in recognizing the prevalence of sexual misconduct, and how much work is still left to do in the fight for justice.” —Alyssa Milano, actress, author, producer, and activist

"This book really helps to illuminate and clarify the potential harms that can be done in the absence of sexual consent. By walking us through well-known examples from news reports, the authors make us think about the challenges survivors face when disclosing, how hard it is to hold abusers accountable, and the complexities and ambiguities of sexual consent and sexual agency — and the role played by the media, both social and traditional." —Dan Savage, author of It Gets Better and American Savage

“A serious advance . . . in research. This is the first book I have seen tracing media development of the term, ‘sexual misconduct’ . . . It's timely and important." —Tracy Everbach, co-author of Mediating Misogyny: Gender, Technology and Harassment 
“The analysis of the complexity of agency and responsibilization is brilliant." —Ummni Khan, author of Vicarious Kinks: Sadomasochism in the Socio-Legal Imaginary

"This is a remarkable and fascinating work...By opening up the social media practice of ’sexual misconduct’ discourse, Hannem and Schneider make visible in detail just how the major transformations in women’s traditional forms of sexual subjugation are being transformed. We can learn in and from this book how ‘sexual misconduct’ as a discursive initiative of social media has piece by piece concluded in establishing women’s right to be heard when we speak out of our experience of sexual subjugation. In sum, this book is an exceptionally fine historical study, a model for future explorations of the power of social media." —Dorothy E. Smith, University of Victoria

"Hannem and Schneider point to thorny questions about gendered power, the media, and consent. Among their concerns are the ways that extra-legal accusations continue to stigmatize those who speak out, while legal systems too often fail to deliver justice to victims." —Literary Review of Canada

"Defining Sexual Misconduct: Power, Media, and #MeToo has the potential to be a leading text for those wanting to learn more about the social construct of defining sexual misconduct.” —Canadian Law Library Review