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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape

The reality is, if Open Road Media publishes a book, I most likely am dying to read it. So I picked up Susan Brownmiller's seminal Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape now that it is an e-book.

This treatise on the history of rape is mind-blowingly detailed, meticulously researched, and emotionally difficult to come to grips. This encompassing history of our understanding of rape and its uses throughout history in war, the sociology of what it used to mean and what it means today, and the racial and sexual implications that have ignited such passionate ardor amongst so many are explored in this work of deep and profound significance.

I will be upfront with you in saying that this is not a short book, and it's not one for your beach vacation. It is, however, a powerful dissertation on a very contentious subject. I realize that the psychology of rape--as in, it's about power and not about sex--has only been recently accepted. (By recently, I mean the past few decades.) It is a tough subject about which to converse, and it is still very much misunderstood in more circles than it is otherwise. This book was originally published in 1975 at the (arguable) height of the feminist movement, so it is no surprise that many critiqued it as a feminist manifesto. I, for one, don't feel that speaking out about a life-changing event that occurs in 1 of 6 women (1 in 4 on college campuses) should be considered a "feminist issue." I consider this a human issue.

The history of rape in war and the exploration of the psychological and social historical underpinnings of the act are the underpinnings of this astounding book. Brownmiller also explores rape in prisons, race relations in the South in the early to mid-twentieth century, the myth of the heroic rapist, and how authorities have historically viewed rape reports. All of it is the most well-researched, in-depth writing I have seen in some time.

The fact that for generations, women reporting their rapes were (and to be frank, still are) viewed as women who just changed their mind afterward. They were (and still are) judged on how much they fought back--if there are no outward bruises, you must not have fought hard enough. Even as recently as last year, the idea that a woman cannot be "legitimately raped" still exists. Is that not horrifying to you? It certainly is to me. This, my friends, is only a small section of the book.

This book is angering, a call to arms to force us to make a change. It is a little disheartening to me that not much has changed in almost 40 years. Things are, though, beginning to make a breakthrough. Or at least, this is what I hope. Women are speaking out and refusing to be silenced. We are taking to heart Brownmiller's belief that rape shouldn't be confined to the backrooms of the police station. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back. It all has to start, though, with that first step.

Kindle version on the left, hard copy on the right.

1 comment:

  1. I am finishing my memoir Ferocity: A True Crime Memoir, which details my experience fighting the criminal justice system after I was raped. I touch on experiences of the second rape, Rape Stress Syndrome, in-justices, victim-blaming, etc. I would love for you to review my book when it's ready, however I did not see a submission form. Please contact me through my website if you are interested: carriemaylucas.com
    Thank you and happy blogging!