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‘Post Traumatic Web Disorder’: Navigating the Relationship between Humorous Representation of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Digital Spaces

Lamont, Bethany Rose (2018) ‘Post Traumatic Web Disorder’: Navigating the Relationship between Humorous Representation of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Digital Spaces. PhD thesis, University of the Arts London.

Type of Research: Thesis
Creators: Lamont, Bethany Rose

This thesis examines the relationship between cultural representations of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and the internet, focusing on how the subject of CSA is reformed and resituated in humorous ways through digital spaces. Through examples that range from humorous internet characters representing paedophilia to ‘harrowing online firstperson essays’ that unintentionally fall into parody, the thesis aims to problematise our understanding of CSA, and the power struggles between abused and abuser (while considering issues of gender, age, race, queerness and social status) when translated to the transient space of digital media.

The research takes an interdisciplinary approach to analyse how humour has become a primary lens for the discussion and representation of CSA in digital spaces. The thesis argues that the internet can help us reassess the division between an ‘authentic’ traumatic experience and ‘second-hand’ voyeurism. Does CSA fall into parody when retold and reinvented in these online spaces? Does humour necessarily entail a distancing process? What are the consequences of this in terms of changing meanings? Is it a form of coping mechanism, or a fetishisation of a taboo topic? And does this digital mode of storytelling have wider implications for public perceptions of this issue?

CSA is an under-researched area within the digital media studies field, whilst the majority of trauma theory writing is rooted in a pre-digital age. This PhD’s methodology hinges on close textual readings of digital cultural representations of CSA, thus questioning what CSA-themed content means to audiences in a twenty-firstcentury internet age. This is informed by a pre-digital historical context, in which the analysis is located within a wider history of provocative subcultural engagements with taboo themes. It identifies how these cultural redefinitions and reinterpretations create a space for debate, subversion and transgressive humour, and thus provokes a challenge to received narratives of traumatic subjects.

Additional Information (Publicly available):

Access to the text of this thesis has been restricted at the author's request. Please contact UAL Research Online for more information.

Your affiliations with UAL: Colleges > Central Saint Martins
Date: October 2018
Funders: AHRC - techne
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2019 09:49
Last Modified: 01 Apr 2020 18:35
Item ID: 14134
URI: https://ualresearchonline.arts.ac.uk/id/eprint/14134

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