In the discursive regime of sexual abuse, the operative silence is the victim’s. This silence stems from shame and intimidation. The speech that would overcome it is courageous, a precious gift that provides access to truth. This account of silence assumes a theory of power as repressive: abusers—who have power—silence their victims by exercising power over them; victims reclaim power through speech. As Michel Foucault reminds us, when critiquing such unidirectional conceptions of power and such optimistic assessments of speech, “There is not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.” I want to consider—briefly and provisionally—the silences operating in the public discourse concerning Paul Richard Shanley. I am particularly interested in how “sex abuse” discourses intertwine with and occlude “gay” discourses. Or, to state it more forcefully, I want to use Shanley’s case to suggest that any account of religion or gay politics in America that fails to provide a rich, nuanced description of both is an inadequate examination of either.Read the rest of The curious case of Paul Richard Shanley.
Kent L. Brintnall is an associate professor of religion in the Department of Religious Studies and an affiliate faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His first book, Ecce Homo: The Male-Body-in-Pain as Redemptive Figure, was published by University of Chicago Press in fall 2011. He is currently working on a book project that places Georges Bataille in conversation with queer theory and is co-editing an anthology, with Jeremy Biles, on Bataille and the academic study of religion.