Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism


Owens, Patricia. 2010. "Torture, Sex and Military Orientalism." Third World Quarterly 31 (7): 1041-56.

Author: Patricia Owens


This article revisits the debate about recent American torture practices, particularly the use of discredited anthropological texts to validate long-held Orientalist assumptions about the sexual vulnerability of Muslim males. Such practices are placed in an historical context of older imperial constructions of sexually deviant Muslims as well as of more general forms of gendered and sexual subordination required for war. American torturers intended to produce very particular objects of torture—ones willing and able to confess their 'true' orientation in terms of a binary hetero/homo sexual code established in 19th-century Europe. The torturers had the power to confirm through confession and re-enactment their crude assumptions, irrespective of the actual sexualities of those being tortured, with consequences for the transnational and reactionary politics of sexual identity.

Keywords: torture, military, orientalism

Topics: Armed Conflict, Gender, Men, LGBTQ, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Religion, Sexuality, Torture

Year: 2010

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