Instrumentalities of the Settler State 3g - ‘Throwaway sexuality’ and the rapeable subject


‘Throwaway sexuality’ and the rapeable subject

‘Aboriginal women are still trapped by the[se] frontier constructs and assumptions of the availability of their sexuality.’

Larissa Behrendt (2000)

‘Because Aboriginal women’s bodies are [seen as] “less than”, we are much more “rapeable”, in the sense that our bodies mean less and our consent means less…Because we are dehumanised and we’re seen as less than, its easier to perpetrate violence against us.’

Tarneen Onus Williams (2018)


The differential and sexualised categorizations of Aboriginal women from the outset are embodied most clearly in the typologies such as ‘the squaw’ or ‘the gin‘. These in turn render Indigenous women and girls more vulnerable to violence: positioned as commodities or objects of currency on the land, or  positioned as surrogates for the land; positioned as sexually available (‘highly rapeable’) or able to be sexually violated with impunity (‘unrapeable’). As Indigenous women are criminalised, rendered deviant or less than human, violence perpetrated against them ceases to be visible as violence. Works such as Mer/Palm Island artist Boneta-Marie Mabo’s Black Velvet: Your Label respond to this history as they reclaim the present.

Eualeyai/Kamillaroi scholar Larissa Behrendt argues that the ‘throwaway sexuality’ or casual sexual availability of Indigenous women is taken for granted even by seemingly progressive authors such as Thomas Keneally in The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith. While consensual sexual relations between Indigenous women and colonisers did occur on the frontier, they did so ‘against a background of continual frontier and sexual violence’ (Behrendt 2000, 354-5).


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