WP218 Suggestive chats: Discursive strategies of sexual harassment



In recent years, critical evidence in a number of legal cases has rested on mobile phone and social media records. This paper analyses the WhatsApp chats between a prominent political leader in South Africa and a young woman he employed as a personal assistant, who later accused him of sexual harassment. The politician denied the charges, accusing the young woman of being a ?honey trap?. The data for this paper are their chats from the two days prior to her beginning work for him. They were published in an online newspaper with the permission of the young woman. Using Goffman?s (1967, 1974) seminal theories of face and frame, and Scollon and Scollon?s (2001) concepts of independence and involvement strategies, this paper offers a discourse analysis of the unfolding interaction. It traces how the politician uses his greater power to persistently shift the frame of the chat from ?professional employment? to ?sexual intimacy? by employing a range of involvement strategies, while the young woman performs a delicate negotiation of trying to maintain her new employer?s positive face without acceding to his advances.