Reduced to Bad Sex: Narratives of Violent Women from the Bible to the War on Terror

Laura Sjoberg, Caron Gentry

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Whenever stories of women’s violence in global politics are presented in mainstream media, their authors explain away the possibility that women make a conscious choice to kill or injure. Violent women interrupt gender stereotypes: they are not the helpless and peaceful women that soldiers need to protect from enemies in traditional war tales. Instead of acknowledging the falseness of the underlying gender assumptions, public and publicized stories emphasize the singularity and sexual depravity of violent women, an account we call the “whore” narrative. This article considers two types of whore narrative: stories of violent women’s erotomania, and of violent women as sexually dysfunctional. Though the whore narrative has been consistently employed historically and cross-culturally, this article identifies a culture-based dimension unique to the war on terror. It argues that analysis of these narratives have important implications for the study of gender in global politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Relations
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2008


  • gender
  • sexuality
  • terrorism
  • women's violence
  • agency
  • feminist IR
  • security studies
  • feminist security studies

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