Thursday, March 31, 2011

'Frape' and homosocial solidarity

This week I have been working on a chapter for my new book.  The topic is inauthenticity in social media, and it contains some discussions of Facebook 'rape'.  At the outset, I want to say that I know the term is really problematic.  When I use the term here I don't want to trivialize debates about rape.  But as a shorthand to describe what happens when a third party accesses and publishes inauthentic material on a private Facebook account, I'm keeping it for the time being.  Here is a short extract from what I have written this morning. I'm not sure it is going to make it in to the book, as I am reaching over the word count, but here goes:

The inauthentic identities projected through ‘frape’ are often not as innocuous as they might claim to be. , ‘Frape’ often involves projecting sexual identities for the victim. This aspect of ‘fraping’ drew the attention of one of my former students who wrote his term paper on the parodic qualities of ‘frape’ as a means of denaturalizing the mechanics of gender performativity (Butler 2008: 187-188). Here I want to suggest that the gaps made apparent through the incongruous tellability of ‘frape’ are a resource used to position the victim, perpetrator and the ‘knowing’ audience within a shared social identity of heteronormativity.


When ‘frapes’ contain sexually explicit material, they often project a sexual identity for the victim that falls outside conventional representations of heteronormativity. This can range from homosexual activity, bestiality, promiscuity to activity with a woman who doesn’t conform to stereotypical, western standards of sexually attractive appearance (see this site on advice for Facebook 'rape' for examples). Because the implicature of ‘frape’ interprets the locutionary content of the update as untrue, this presupposes the ‘authentic’ identity of the victim to be other than if not opposite to that projected in the ‘frape.’ In other words, when the ‘fraped’ projection is queer in some way, this presupposes the sexual identity of the victim to be heteronormative.

The process of ‘fraping’ thus enables the perpetrator and audience to display homosocial solidarity, and to trivialize identities outside heteronormativity as an out-group of ‘others’ who are really the target of the joke, not the victim at all. The potency of ‘fraping’ is all the more significant, if we consider Facebook as a heterosexual market place where performances of identity are embedded in the circulation of social capital. The value of inauthenticity in this context is dislocated from ontological value and its apparent playful creativity to put to serious heteronormative work.

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1 Comments:

Blogger José Angel García Landa said...

Interesting, of course, but - why do you define Facebook as normatively heterosexual? ("a heterosexual marketplace") OK, in the sense (1) that society at large could be described as normative heterosexual, but this formulation might also suggest (2) that there is something intrinsically or specifically heterosexual about Facebook, which I think is not the case. I wonder whether you meant "heterosexual 1" or "heterosexual 2".

4:28 PM  

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