Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors




On the morning of June 23rd, 1993, Lorena Bobbitt severed her husband's penis with a kitchen carving knife, literally enacting the old myth of women as castrators. America reacted to Lorena's and her husband John's situation first with horror and then with humor. Soon after the attack was made public, jokes and commentaries proliferated on television and in magazines, journals, and newspapers. Because Americans were so shocked by Lorena's action, they scrambled to represent and explain it in a manner that made the act morally comprehensible. Looking at interviews, jokes, commentaries, and John's subsequent career in pornography reveals the specific ideological beliefs America relied upon as it reacted to and managed the situation presented by Lorena and John Bobbitt. Although Lorena's action was unusual and brutal, the gender ideology employed to make sense of the Bobbitts' situation was surprisingly traditional. To understand Americans' reaction to Lorena's and John's situations, we must understand the ideological perspective from which America's reaction sprung.



Faculty Mentor

Kirst A. Muller

Departmental Honors Advisor

Kirst A. Muller