Cover Image: Defining Sexual Misconduct

Defining Sexual Misconduct

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Member Reviews

Let me just start by saying I enjoyed this book but it was more academic as opposed to entertaining and interesting. Non-fiction is one of my favorite genres and social nonfiction would have to be my absolute favorite and so when I got this book I thought it would be very interesting to read commentary on the me too movement and how sexual misconduct claims have changed, but 20% of the beginning of the book is about the fourth coming chapters as opposed to just getting on with the book they first explain what you’re going to read. I also wish they had more on cancel culture and false claims but having said that I didn’t joy the book once I got to it. I received this book from netGally and the author and I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review but all opinions are definitely my own.
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COPIED FROM BLOG POST (linked below)- 

Review - Defining Sexual Misconduct: Power, Media, and #MeToo Stacey Hannem & Christopher Schneider
Title: Defining Sexual Misconduct: Power, Media, and #MeToo*

Author: Stacey Hannem & Christopher J. Schneider

Rating: 3.5 stars / 5 stars

*This post contains affiliate links. If you make purchases after using these links, I will earn a percentage of your purchase without any further cost to you.

Favorite Quote: “The broadening of the definition of sexual misconduct to include a wide array of behaviors that women experience as inappropriate or violating, and men’s subsequent confusion about what now constitutes ‘sexual misconduct,’ suggests that men are no longer in control of the definition of the situation.” Stacey Hannem & Christopher J. Schneider. Defining Sexual Misconduct: Power, Media, and #MeToo. University of Regina Press, 2022.


	Thank you to the publisher, University of Regina Press, and the Netgalley platform for the free e-ARC I received in exchange for an honest review of this book.

	Defining Sexual Misconduct: Power, Media, and #MeToo is an academic text that tackles the evolution of the concept of “sexual misconduct,” outside of more strictly defined “sexual assault” (a legal term) and “sexual harassment” (often a term employed in the employment sphere). Their methodology of searching for the term in various publications over years as well as Twitter and other social media sites, proved to be an interesting, and seemingly effective, way of tracking the development of that concept, ultimately arguing that “sexual misconduct,” unlike some related terms, developed as a byproduct of media influence. 

	Furthermore, the case studies they used were topical and timely, ranging from Bill Cosby to Donald Trump to Harvey Weinstein and others. Thus, overall, this book did a good job of looking at the concept of “sexual misconduct” from a historical lens, a pop cultural lens, and a social media/traditional media lens. It’s the legal lens that the book attempts to explore that is the source of most of my criticism. 

	As such, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on a particular passage in this book that (perhaps inadvertently) reflects a sentiment that is not unique to this book, but one I feel like I’m qualified to address. 

			In each case, defence attorneys for the accused man used discrepancies in 

			the victims’ various retellings of their stories in order to discredit the women 

			and call their stories into questions . . . In each case, defence attorneys played

			on rape myths to suggest that the women must be lying about the alleged 

			assaults because they continued to have and seek contact with the accused.

Stacey Hannem & Christopher J. Schneider. Defining Sexual Misconduct: Power, Media, and #MeToo. University of Regina Press, 2022. The authors later state, “The law and the criminal justice system fundamentally prioritize the rational pursuit of “justice” over all other matters.”

	The above quotes create a dichotomized adversarial system, where there is one clear right side and one clear wrong side, in regards to how the criminal injustice system operates. I am both a public defender and a strident feminist, and so it is often my job to represent folks accused of violence against women and intimate partners. And I don’t have a problem with that, specifically because this system is not at all as clear as the dichotomy suggests. Nor do I believe that the criminal processing system (certainly more accurate than the criminal justice system), as this book refers to it as, adequately serves the needs of victims or the accused…especially when the accused are individuals who don’t have the same privileges as the accused men this book examines. 

	I am passionate about my work for a myriad of reasons that don’t necessarily add to this review, but one in particular that I think is important to highlight is that I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that no person accused of a criminal act should be judged solely based on the worst thing they’ve done or are accused of doing. It’s also not my place to judge that person at all, especially when that person is my client. And I found sections of this book - not all of them, to be sure, but sections - a bit too dismissive of how the court system operates. The point I think the authors were trying to make, and one I wholeheartedly agree with, is that this system is failing. But the method by which the authors made this point was to, at times, demonize folks like defense attorneys, whose jobs, while perhaps distasteful to some, are integral to ensuring that the system doesn’t bulldoze over the rights and liberties that this country deems to be necessary and vital. 

	The latter of these quotes goes even further astray of what I, as a public defender, know to be the truth. Neither the law nor the criminal justice system prioritizes the pursuit of justice, rational or otherwise. Our systems are grounded in power imbalances, discrimination, and violence, and with each passing year we seem to be teetering more and more on the side of the institutional aggressors than the disenfranchised victims. And this is true both within the realm of sexual crimes and without. This is perhaps where the book falls most short in its analysis - perhaps because it limits its legal analysis to wealthy, successful, powerful, men accused of criminal acts, or because the authors simply failed to appreciate the nuances of such a flawed legal system, but the legal systems in place, especially in the United States, are not now nor have they ever been designed to ensure justice. Ask me sometime about the “Walmart burglary” phenomenon in Tennessee or, for a more subject-matter related topic, look into prosecutors who threaten to arrest victims if they don’t come to court when subpoenaed. These are systems of power and are microcosms of our society that demonstrate the damage done when abuses of that power run rampant. 

	Finally, the book probably could have been a bit more effective in addressing issues of race and issues involving queer identities as both include instances of “sexual misconduct” though it does appear as if the authors attempted to include these discussions.

About that Quote: While perhaps a bit too dichotomized as it relates to gender (see final criticism from above), this quote nicely sums up the power that shifting social norms and the language underlining and propelling those shifting norms has to alter gendered dynamics.
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Downplaying very serious topics, ignoring the protests of half of the population, and educating girls to be silent, obedient, and submissive possibly isn´t what so called emancipated democracies should stand for in the 21st century. This is a brave book - no doubt. This is a timely book aptly extended to the public. It certainly inspires the readers by letting them learn that how breaking the silence and pointing the finger at a pervert can be the best thing to do - when there is nothing else to be done.
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It’s interesting and informative book about an important topic. However, I did lose interest at times.
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This is an incredibly important book to read and I highly recommend it to everyone. Sexual misconduct is something that gets overlooked all too often so I appreciate the authors shining a light onto it.
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