Virtual Warfare: Masculinity, Sexuality, and Propaganda in the Russo-Ukrainian War

Maryna Romanets


This paper explores the intersection of sexual and political discourses as a particular aspect of the body politics that Russia has employed, among other strategies, in its massive propaganda offensive during the hybrid warfare against Ukraine.While recognizing sexuality as one of the mainstream concepts in political analysis, the paper draws on sexually explicit imagery and idiom used in Russian social media, and public discursive space in general, as propaganda techniques, and maps their “genealogy” within wider sociocultural and political contexts. Being conceptualized in terms of Russian hegemonic masculinity in relation to subordinated femininity and non-hegemonic masculinities of its adversarial others, these setups reveal how sexuality constitutes uneven and contradictory nexuses of power once being co-opted by Putin’s propaganda machine. It is noteworthy that Russia’s neo-imperial discursive tactics of homologizing sexual and political dominance—when supplemented with the official rhetoric of restituting Russia as a great power, Orthodox Christian fundamentalism as an integral part of Russian unique “state-civilization,” state-sanctioned homophobia, and traditional macho gender ideology—contribute quite effectively to sustaining public support in Russia for aggression against Ukraine in the process of Russian reimperialization of the former Soviet space.

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© 2014 East/West: Journal of Ukrainian Studies. Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

ISSN 2292-7956