Sexual violence and free speech in popular music

Rosemary Lucy Hill, Heather Savigny

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


This article re-examines the use of arguments in favour of free speech when faced with difficult subjects in music, such as sexual violence against women. We present a new perspective on the 1985 US Senate Hearing on Record Labeling and challenge the orthodoxy that the Hearing was only a matter of free speech. Using critical discourse analysis we argue that the sexist environment of the Hearing, the misogyny of the musicians, plus homosocial bonding resulted in the PMRC’s arguments being unaddressed as attention turned to censorship. Subsequent academic work has continued to focus on censorship, neglecting to investigate how music can propagate dangerous representations. This article indicates the need for a shift in popular music studies towards careful consideration of those aspects which are difficult and dangerous for women. It therefore opens up popular music to important new areas for critical examination and feminist analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)237-251
Number of pages15
JournalPopular Music
Issue number2
Early online date1 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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