Added: August 1, 2015 – Last updated: August 1, 2015


Author: Jane Monckton-Smith

Title: Deconstructing the House that Jack Built

Subtitle: An Examination of the Discursive Regime of Sexual Murder

Thesis: Ph.D. Thesis, Cardiff University

Year: July 2006

Pages: vii + 285pp.

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century, 21st Century | English History | Representations: Press


Link: ORCA: Cardiff University's Digital Repository (Free Access)


Author: Jane Monckton-Smith, School of Natural & Social Sciences, University of


»Jack the Ripper has been described as the 'archetypal rapist' (Frayling 1986), a killer who committed what seemed like 'the ultimate rape' (Marriner 1992), yet he raped no-one. The mutilation and disembowelment of his victims is analogised as rape. This violence was murder, not any legally defined form of sexual assault. This is an aspect to these crimes that is given little, if any attention. Rape is a real social problem and the high attrition rate this offence attracts is the subject of much concern and research interest. A key problem highlighted in previous research has been the skewed public and criminal justice perception of what constitutes a 'real rape' (Kelly et al. 2005). To analogise disembowelment as rape creates or indicates a very skewed perception of the offence.
This research proposes that the offences of rape and murder, when they are committed against women by men, have in some contexts become culturally conflated. The key aims are to examine to what extent the discourse of sexual murder produces a conflation, whether the meaning made of the violence in the discourse is used to rationalise other forms of violence against women by men and what the effect of a conflation could be for women and for the criminal justice system.
Multiple methods were used, to extract data across three key institutional sites, under three headings - cultural representation, news reporting and police operational practice and include data obtained from examination of news reports of the rape and/or murder of women, Jack the Ripper film/TV and interviews with police from a serious crime team. All data was analysed using the unifying theoretical framework of Foucauldian discourse analysis.
It was found that in some contexts the conflation exists and has real effect. There are five key findings: firstly that perceptions of what constitutes a 'real rape' are more closely aligned to a potential sexual murder than a legally defined or aggravated rape; secondly it was found that murders of women are routinely gendered and sexualised by both the media and the police which powerfully links fatal or potentially fatal violence with sexual assault and vice versa; thirdly it was found that because of the symbolic value of rape, murders of women can be and are considered, in some circumstances to be 'virtual rapes', which links closely to the fourth observation that indicates that instead of understanding rape as a form of violence, we can understand violence against women as a form of rape; finally, it was found that fear of rape could realistically be associated with fear of death because of the meaning made of rape in sexual murder discourse and this could have significant repercussions for those women experiencing a rape assault, those women who fear rape assaults, those who deal with victims of rape and the prosecution of rape and murder in the criminal justice system.«. (Source: Thesis)


  Summary (p. ii)
  Author's Declaration (p. iii)
  Acknowledgements (p. iv)
  Chapter One: Introduction and Methodology (p. 1)
    Introduction (p. 1)
    Aims (p. 6)
    Multiple Methods (p. 7)
    Theoretical Framework (p. 8)
    Strand One: Cultural Representation (p. 10)
    Strand Two: News Reporting (p. 12)
    Strand Three: Police Operational Practice (p. 12)
    Overview of Thesis (p. 13)
    Ethical Considerations (p. 14)
  Chapter Two: Genealogy of Rape Discourse (p. 15)
    Feminism and Sexual Violence (p. 15)
    Introduction (p. 15)
    Feminist Sexual Violence Discourse (p. 17)
    The First Wave (p. 18)
    The Second Wave (p. 22)
    The Third Wave (p. 31)
    Inter-Related Discourses (p 37)
      Pornography and Prostitution (p. 37)
      Language of Sex (p. 42)
      Femicide and Gynocide (p. 45)
    History, Culture and Sexual Violence (p. 48)
    Introduction (p. 48)
    Biological theories of raping behaviour (p. 48)
    The Prevalence and Meaning of Rape Historically (p. 60)
    Rape in Art and Literature (p. 66)
    Psychology and Freud's theory of the Unconscious (p. 74)
  Chapter Three: Jack the Ripper (p. 79)
    Introduction (p. 79)
    Method (p. 81)
    The Literature (p. 84)
    Identifying the Discourse of Sexual Murder (p. 89)
    Overview of the Events (p. 91)
    The Violence and the Dominant Discourse (p. 93)
    Jack the Ripper in Film (p. 96)
    Discoursive Themes (p. 98)
      Prostitution of the Victims (p. 98)
      Sexual Motivation (p. 110)
    Conclusion (p. 117)
  Chapter Four: News Report Analysis (p. 119)
    Introduction (p. 119)
    Method (p. 119)
    Conceptual Analysis (p. 123)
    News reporting of gendered and sexual violence – Literature overview (p. 126)
    Concept Analysis: Results (p. 132)
      Tables (p. 132)
      Case study of Margaret Muller (p. 132)
      Case study of Louise Beech (p. 132)
      Case study of Hannah Foster (p. 133)
      Case study of Vicky Fletcher (p. 133)
      Case study of Antoni Imiela (p. 134)
      Case study of Spousal Rape (p. 134)
      Graph: Simultaneous Co-Existence of Concepts (p. 135)
      Graph: Terms Rape and Murder appearing together (p. 135)
    Summary (p. 136)
    News Report Analysis (p. 137)
    Discursive Themes (p. 138)
      Gendered Subjectivity (p. 138)
      Domestic Assaults (p. 145)
      Normative Assumptions (p. 151)
      Comparisons and Links (p. 162)
      Evil, Hunters and Prey (p. 166)
      Culpability and Defence (p. 171)
      Phenomena, the Ordinary and the Extraordinary (p. 175)
    Conclusions (p. 177)
  Chapter Five: Police Interviews (p. 179)
    Introduction (p. 179)
    Police Culture and Discourse: Literature Overview (p. 182)
    The Rape and/or Murder of Females: A Police Perspective (p. 187)
      Discussion with police on rape and/or murder of females (p. 188)
    Camilla Petersen (p. 198)
    The Murder of Hannah Foster: A Police Perspective Case Study (p. 202)
    Conclusions (p. 219)
  Chapter Six: Discussion (p. 224)
    The Dominance of the Discourse (p. 224)
    Key Observations (p. 227)
      1. Perceptions of rape and sexual murder (p. 227)
      2. Sexualising of Murder (p. 231)
      3. Virtual Rapes and Murder (p. 234)
      4. Violence as a Form of Rape (p. 237)
      5. Fear of Rape / Fear of Death (p. 241)
    Discourse as Practice (p. 247)
    Conclusions (p. 256)
    Further Research (p. 257)
  Appendices (p. 270)
  Appendix I (p. 271)
    Part One: The classic image of Jack the Ripper (p. 272)
    Plate 2: Jack the Ripper (Baker and Berman 1959) Publicity Poster (p. 273)
  Appendix II (p. 274)
    Film Sample (p. 274)
  References (p. 275)