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Summer 2018, 48.2, pages 119-138

“Tweet Me Your First Assaults”: Writing Shame and the Rhetorical Work of #NotOkay

Abstract: This essay features a study of the #NotOkay Twitter thread, which arose as a response to the Access Hollywood Trump tape and comprises thousands of tweets by women who describe their first experience of sexual assault. I analyze this hashtag as an act of what Elspeth Probyn calls “writing shame.” I first trace the cultural habitus of emotion around sexual assault and harassment, which teaches survivors to internalize shame and normalizes assault. I then examine how #NotOkay contributors—both before and after the election—participate in writing shame, a practice that does the following rhetorical work: serves as an invitational space for women to rewrite assault-related shame; revises the locus of shame from the individual to the culture that shames; and generates calls to transform this emotional and rhetorical sphere.


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