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Colin Barker

Against Our Will

(March 1977)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.96, March 1973, pp.28-29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
Susan Brownmiller
Penguin 95p

A MOST impressive, important and frightening book, this. Susan Brownmiller has written a most readable and terrifying account of the least-researched, least understood crime.

Rape, she insists, is a political crime, a crime committed by men against women, and a product of a society in which men and women’s roles and relationships are grossly perverted. Rape, she argues, is not primarily a sexual act, in the sense that the term is normally used. It is an act of aggression against the person of a woman, and an act that reveals—in its long history and its contemporary prevalence—the real character of the relationships between men and women that predominate in our society. A whole number of feminist writers have pointed to the way that men are taught to regard women not as persons but as things. Brown-miller adds—as hated things. Rape is an expression, not of sexual desire, but of hatred. It is, predominantly, an act of humiliation, a violent expression of antagonism.

Brownmiller’s book is a major contribution to the discussion of the situation of women and men in society. As a man, I found it agonising reading. I expect that women readers will find it even more agonising. It is difficult, in practice, for men to imagine the reality of a rapist’s assault on their bodies, to comprehend fully the experience of being ‘gang-banged’. Perhaps men should begin with Brownmiller’s account, in Chapter 8, of homosexual rape in American prisons.

The book is in no way sensationalist. Anyone looking for sexual fantasy material in this book will not (I hope!) find it. The book is horribly detailed, precise, cool. It deserves the widest possible readership.

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