Thematic Focus: Sex, Gender, and Control

Policing, Sexuality, and Gender. Feminism Between Critique of Power and Punitiveness
by Jenny Künkel

The police remains a hetero-masculine institution. Perpetrators, prisoners, and victims of (police) violence are predominantly male. Sexual violence, however, mostly affects women and trans people, and the “ideal victim” (N. Christie) and fear of crime are regarded as female. Policing and punishment are gendered. Particularly in public spaces, sexual and gender “deviance” is marginalized and controlled. In private life, sexual violence was of little interest until feminist battles changed this. This introduction aims to give an overview over these issues and the categories conveying power structures within policing. Nevertheless, the manner in which they are addressed must be analyzed from a perspective critical of power, since protecting women and children has been used in expansion of control.

Police Violence and Gender
by Hannah Espín Grau

To this day, “warrior masculinity” (Rafael Behr) or “aggressive masculinity” (Kai Seidensticker) are considered hegemonic within the police. The article examines the link between these masculinities and violence. The question is raised how gender constructions are connected to excessive and thus illegal police use of force. For this purpose, a case of homophobic police violence in Cologne is analyzed. Since the police actions were deemed unlawful by a court, we can trace the role of masculinity in excessive use of force by the police and its processing. Taking into account feminist conceptualizations of the state as gendered (Birgit Sauer), and adding to the analyses hitherto focused on “cop culture”, the article maps out how from a feminist approach, constructions of masculinity become visible in the application and judicial processing of excessive police use of force.

Gender and the Police’s Production of Space
by Eva Brauer

Women have been part of the German police force for 40 years. Nonetheless, the significance of masculinity in police culture has been remarkably persistent. An analysis of institutional productions of space provides answers to the question how masculinity is legitimized as one of the police’s constitutive components. The article demonstrates that aggressive masculinity, which collides with current general ideals of maleness, is reproduced in spaces of the “Others”. Spaces of migrant lower classes are considered dangerous, and toughness and strength are deemed necessary in controlling them. Male officers present themselves as protecting their female colleagues from the alleged threat of “uncivilized” migrant masculinity, thereby restoring colonial narratives.

Digital Violence: Everywhere and Nowhere
by Anne Roth

Digital violence against women is increasingly becoming part of violence in relationships. Particularly men are using digital technologies to surveil, expose, or intimidate women. When dealing with police and law enforcement, those affected not only face commonplace trivialization of violence against women, but also digital incompetence. Although often suggested by politicians, the issue does not lie in a lack of criminal laws.

The Neoliberalization of Sexuality
by Daniela Klimke and Rüdiger Lautmann

After New Year’s Eve 2015/16 in Cologne, “groping” was discussed by the public at large, and the laws governing sexual offences was expanded. 2017, the hashtag “meetoo” gained prominence in Germany, as well. Currently, the laws concerning sexualized violence against children are being reformed. The ongoing sexual scandalizations points to a common syndrome: the crisis of male-hegemonial sexuality. Meanwhile, criminal law in this field is being transformed from a fragmented set of rules into a universal remedy against intimate conflict situations, albeit facilitating pacification in the short term only. The article points out the background of the new sexual discourse and its depoliticizing impact: structural conflicts over the balance of gender and power in society appear as subtext at best, conveying themselves to the public in a never ending sequence of individual fates.

Criminal Law for Women’s Rights? Interview with Christina Clemm
(interviewed by Tom Jennissen and Jenny Künkel)

Christina Clemm is a criminal law and family law attorney in Berlin who is active against sexualized and racist violence, and was part of the Interior Ministry’s latest expert commission on the reform of criminal laws on sexual offences. In this interview, she emphasizes the need for intersectional feminist perspectives. She criticizes the lack of scientific expertise in police and criminal justice on sexualized and gendered violence, and explains why combatting these issues (still) requires criminal law and accessory private prosecution in our current society.

Aggressive Police Masculinity
by Kai Seidensticker

As the societal balance of power changes, so does the police. Publicly, diversity and gender inclusion are emphasized. But taking a look at gender in police work, we see that aggressive police masculinity is still a predominant pattern. However, as masculinity can no longer be taken for granted, it is justified in new ways. In a multigendered police, exclusively male spaces no longer exist per se, but must be actively established. This is done by naturalizing qualities associated with maleness, such as toughness and strength, as purported necessity for certain tasks. These qualities are frequently highlighted, e. g., in formally gender-neutral employment ads, heroic stories told within the force, or in athletic competitions. Thereby, hierarchies are (re)produced between men and women as well as among different masculinities.

Non-Thematic Contributions

Racist stigma and “combating organised crime”
by Eric Töpfer

For more than ten years, the topos of “mobile criminal groups” has been at the centre of the police’s combat against allegedly organized property crime. In the context of a persecution strategy that aims to unveil networks of perpetrators, in particular people seen as Roma are at high risk of becoming targets of police investigations.

The AfD as Object of Surveillance
by Heiner Busch and Norbert Pütter

For years, the “Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution” (BfV), the German domestic intelligence service, had no interest in the activities of the right wing “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD). However, in March 2021, the media reported that the BfV had declared the AfD a “case of suspicion” – a classification which would have allowed for the surveillance and infiltration of the party, the largest opposition group in the Bundestag. In a preliminary decision, the administrative court of Cologne prohibited the surveillance because it would inadmissibly interfere with the “equal opportunities of the parties”. While the surveillance of the AfD is thus currently on hold pending a final decision, the intelligence service is urgently trying to demonstrate that it is not turning a blind eye to the right, and has found new objects of interest in the remnants of the “Pegida” movement and the Corona-oriented “Querdenker”.

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