Against Our Will  

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"From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." --Against Our Will (1975) by Susan Brownmiller, emphasis in original

"Pornography is the undiluted essence of anti-female propaganda. Yet the very same liberals who were so quick to understand the method and purpose behind the mighty propaganda machine of Hitler’s Third Reich, the consciously spewed-out anti-Semitic caricatures and obscenities that gave an ideological base to the Holocaust and the Final Solution, the very same liberals who, enlightened by blacks, searched their own conscience and came to understand that their tolerance of “nigger” jokes and portrayals of shuffling, rolling-eyed servants in movies perpetuated the degrading myths of black inferiority and gave an ideological base to the continuation of black oppression—these very same liberals now fervidly maintain the hatred and contempt for women that find expression in four-letter words used as expletives and in what are quaintly called “adult” or “erotic” books and movies are a valid extension of freedom of speech that must be preserved as a Constitutional right." --Against Our Will (1975) by Susan Brownmiller

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape is a 1975 book about rape by Susan Brownmiller, in which Brownmiller argues that rape is "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." Brownmiller's book is widely credited with changing public outlooks and attitudes about rape, but many of her arguments have been rejected or criticized by scholars.


Brownmiller describes rape as "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." She asserts that "rape is a crime not of lust, but of violence and power." Brownmiller sought to examine general belief systems that women who were raped deserved it, as discussed by Clinton Duffy and others. Believing that rape was a way for men to instill fear in women, she compares it to the gang lynchings of African Americans by white men. This comparison was used to show how lynching was once considered acceptable by communities, and then attitudes changed, followed by changed laws; Brownmiller hoped the same would happen with rape. Brownmiller writes that to her knowledge, no zoologist has ever observed that animals rape in "their natural habitat, the wild."


Brownmiller's book is widely credited with changing public outlooks and attitudes about rape. It is cited as having influenced changes in law regarding rape, such as state criminal codes that required a corroborating witness to a rape, and that permitted a defendant's lawyer to introduce evidence in court regarding a victim's prior sexual history. The book was included in the New York Public Library's Books of the Century, which listed 100 books that greatly influenced different aspects of culture.

Others have taken a more critical view of the work. Gay scholar John Lauritsen dismissed Against Our Will, calling it "a shoddy piece of work from start to finish: ludicrously inaccurate, reactionary, dishonest, and vulgarly written." Angela Davis argued that Brownmiller disregarded the part that black women played in the anti-lynching movement and that Brownmiller's discussion of rape and race became an "unthinking partnership which borders on racism". Brownmiller's conclusions about rapists' motivations have been criticized by anthropologist Donald Symons in The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979), and by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer in A Natural History of Rape (2000). Historian Peter Gay wrote that Against Our Will "deserves pride of place among (rightly) indignant" feminist discussions of rape, but that Brownmiller's treatment of Sigmund Freud is unfair.

Literary critic Camille Paglia called Against Our Will well-meaning, but nevertheless dismissed it as an example of "the limitations of white middle-class assumptions in understanding extreme emotional states or acts." Behavioral ecologist John Alcock writes that while Brownmiller claimed that no zoologist had ever observed animals raping in their natural habitat, there was already "ample evidence" of forced copulations among animals in 1975, and that further evidence has accumulated since then.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Against Our Will" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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