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“You want them pretty, but not too intelligent!”: Everyday talk and the continuum of men’s violence against women in forensic institutional care

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Emma Joyes



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The forensic setting houses persons with offence convictions who are also in receipt of ongoing mental healthcare – a criminal justice system and healthcare meeting-point. Extant literature highlights how this context is laden with interpersonal and institutional difficulties unique to a secure context that must provide care and custody concurrently. Our central argument is that the intertwining and interdependent cultural and custodial elements of forensic healthcare environments are integral and influential to care, culture, and conduct within such institutions – including concerning misogynistic everyday talk and the continuum of men’s violence against women therein. We argue that the institution is a continuation of contemporary social issues experienced within community life (e.g., misogyny), as the boundaries of such institutions are porous – polis values traverse physical brickwork. This paper analyses ethnographic data from two male wards that are situated within a UK inpatient forensic mental health hospital. Ethnographic fieldwork occurred over 300 hours – overtly participating in, exploring, and recording the daily life of the community. Five excerpts of ethnographic data are presented, which evidence the gendered ward environment and highlight a series of encounters pertaining to problematic social life, which are the upholding of heteronormative gender roles, hegemonic masculinity, and misogyny. These views are problematised within the sexual offending rehabilitative context by considering the clinical risk associated. Further, we argue that to only focus on the end of the continuum often viewed as most serious (e.g., rape) ignores a pervasive cultural landscape of the polis in wider community, beyond the institution, that facilitates the more commonly experienced end of the continuum related to misogynistic values, encounters, and talk. We evidence how social norms and habitualised gendered actions permeate the institution, which bring into question the rehabilitative efficacy of the hospital. This paper embraces a feminist lens to explore everyday social interactions and the embodied experience of the female ethnographer within a male-dominated forensic setting. We contribute to the literature by newly theorising the influences of hierarchical heterosexual gender roles, violent language in forensic settings, and misogynistic attitudes and practice, on the care for, and rehabilitation of, patients.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Joyes EC, Jordan M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Frontiers in Psychiatry

Year: 2022

Volume: 13

Online publication date: 06/06/2022

Acceptance date: 09/05/2022

Date deposited: 28/03/2022

ISSN (electronic): 1664-0640

Publisher: Frontiers Research Foundation


DOI: 10.3389/fpsyt.2022.886444


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