Dystopian geographies of sex and diversity: racialised representations of sexual abuse in northern England

Authors: Richard Phillips*, University of Sheffield
Topics: Social Geography, Sexuality, Migration
Keywords: Sex, Diversity, Multiculturalism, Muslim, Pakistani, Asian
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Marriott Ballroom Salon 3, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

When British Home Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted about the conviction of 20 members of a sexual grooming gang in the Yorkshire town of Huddersfield in October 2018, he drew attention to the ethnicity of those convicted. ‘These sick Asian paedophiles are finally facing justice. I want to commend the bravery of the victims. For too long, they were ignored. Not on my watch. There will be no no-go areas.’

Many of those who commented on this controversial tweet took Javid literally, pointing to racialized, geographical no-go areas, in which white girls are said to be threatened by non-white men. Britain’s first Asian Home Secretary was also referring to a metaphorical no-go area: an alleged taboo in which mainstream commentators claim to be afraid to confront the culpability of minorities in sexual crimes. In fact, there is no such taboo: British journalists and politicians do increasingly accuse minorities – overlapping groups identified as Asian, Pakistani, Muslim – of sexual crimes.

This paper begins by reading Javid’s dystopian geography of diversity in crisis, situating this within wider geographies and histories of sexualised colonial discourse. The paper goes on to examine counter-representations, which draw upon the voices and stories of Asian, Pakistani and/or Muslim men in and around Huddersfield (where the recent events took place). Rather than concentrating upon the serious but exceptional cases, which Javid highlighted, this paper hears from more ‘ordinary’ men about their sexual lives and the places in which they are lived.

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