Against Our Will

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Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
Against Our Will (1975 edition).jpg
The first edition
Author Susan Brownmiller
Country United States
Language English
Genre Sociology
Published Martin Secker & Warburg (1975)
Media type Print
Pages 472 (1986 Pelican Books edition)
ISBN 0-14-022741-5

Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape is a 1975 book by Susan Brownmiller. The book, which is widely credited with changing public outlooks and attitudes about rape, promoting the concept that rape is not the victim's fault. Brownmiller described rape as "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear."[1] In short, Brownmiller asserts that "rape is a crime not of lust, but of violence and power."[2]

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 compared it to the gang lynchings of African Americans by white men.[1] 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.[2] The book 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.[1] Against Our Will was included in the New York Public Library's Books of the Century, which listed 100 books that greatly influenced different aspects of culture.[3]

Brownmiller's conclusions about rapists' motivations have been criticized by Donald Symons in The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979),[4] and by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer in A Natural History of Rape (2000).[5] Camille Paglia called the book well-meaning, but nevertheless dismissed it as an example of "the limitations of white middle-class assumptions in understanding extreme emotional states or acts."[6]

Against Our Will was also revolutionary in its unprecedented citations of the sociological findings that dismantled the popular conception of the image of a rapist as someone exhibiting deviant behavior and inversely correlated frequency of rapists and socioeconomic status. The image of the rapist was not a lonely psychopath, but in fact an average boy.[7]


  1. ^ a b c Kathryn Cullen-DuPont (1 August 2000). Encyclopedia of women's history in America. Infobase Publishing. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-0-8160-4100-8. Retrieved 4 February 2012. 
  2. ^ a b Sally Moore (1975). "'Rape Is a Crime Not of Lust, but Power,' argues Susan Brownmiller". Archive. People. Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  3. ^ New York Public Library Books of the Century
  4. ^ Symons, Donald. The Evolution of Human Sexuality. Oxford University Press, 1979, p. 278.
  5. ^ Thornhill, Randy & Palmer, Craig T. A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. The MIT Press, 2000, pp. 133-135, 138-139.
  6. ^ Paglia, Camille. Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. Penguin Books, 1995, p. 24.
  7. ^ Susan Brownmiller, “Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape,” in Miriam Schneir, ed., Feminism in Our Time (1994), 272-282.

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