Intimacies of Violence: Conflict, Rape and Sexual Desire

Abstract: The idea that wartime rape is not about sex but about violence and domination is in feminist circles a long-accepted paradigm. As Baaz and Stern (2018) argue in their recent contribution to the debate, ‘Wartime rape, as it is being framed in both the policy and academic world, is decidedly not about sex, sexual desire, pleasure, or sexuality. Very simply put, “the sexual” (sexuality, desire, eroticism, etc.) has been seemingly theorized away as irrelevant, and even dangerously misleading in efforts to explain and redress conflict-related sexual violence.’ In this paper, I respond to Baaz and Stern’s call for re-thinking the sexual in sexual violence by exploring the idea that sexual desire may be imbued with violence. Drawing on an ongoing research project that aims to further our understanding of wartime rape by asking how combatants become and unbecome rapists, this paper re-engages with the sexual in wartime sexual violence by looking at the narratives of Peruvian veterans about their sexual experiences during their service in counterinsurgency forces between 1980 and 2000.

Bio: Dr Jelke Boesten is Reader in Gender and Development at the Department of International Development (DID), King’s College London. Her research focuses on violence against women and the ramifications for policy in Latin America. She has published widely on gender justice in Peru in international journals and books. Her latest book,Sexual Violence During War and Peace. Gender, Power and Post-conflict Justice in Perureceived the Flora Tristan Best Book Award of the Latin America Studies Association-Peru section and was published Spanish translation with the Bibliotéca Nacional del Perú in 2016. In 2010 she published Intersecting Inequalities. Women and Social Policy in Peru, with Penn State University Press, published in Spanish with the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos in 2018. She is currently interested in transformative gender justice, feminism, memory and the arts, as well as veterans’ experiences of violence. A new co-edited book is called Gender and Memorial Arts: from Symbolic Reparations to Protest Movement.