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Social Science Media Studies

Defining Sexual Misconduct

Power, Media, and #MeToo

by (author) Stacey Hannem & Christopher J. Schneider

University of Regina Press
Initial publish date
May 2022
Media Studies, Sexual Abuse & Harassment, Gender Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2022
    List Price

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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 dozens 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.

About the authors

Stacey Hannem is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology at the Brantford Campus of Wilfrid Laurier University. She was formerly an instructor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa and held a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council post-doctoral fellowship. She completed her PhD sociology at Carleton University in 2008. Dr. Hannem has pursued research and published in the areas of reintegration for sexual offenders, restorative justice, and families affected by incarceration.

Stacey Hannem's profile page

Christopher J. Schneider is professor of sociology at Brandon University. His research focuses on how developments in media and technology contribute to changes in social interaction and social control. He is the author of Policing and Social Media: Social Control in an Era of New Media (Lexington Books, 2016).

Christopher J. Schneider's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"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

Other titles by Stacey Hannem

Other titles by Christopher J. Schneider