Friday, 5 September 2008

Friday Feminist - Susan Brownmiller

Cross posted

I am of the opinion that the most perfect rape laws in the land, strictly enforced by the best concerned citizens, will not be enough to stop rape. Obvious offenders will be punished, and that in itself will be a significant change, but the huge gray area of sexual exploitation, of women who are psychologically coerced into acts of intercourse they do not desire because they do not have the wherewithal to physically, or even psychologically, resist, will remain a problem beyond any possible solution of criminal justice. It would be deceitful to claim that the murky gray area of male sexual aggressions and female passivity and submission can ever be made amenable to legal divination - nor should it be, in the final analysis. Nor should a feminist advocate to her sisters that the best option in a threatening, unpleasant situation is to endure the insult and later take her case to the courts.

Unfortunately for strict constructionists and those with neat, orderly minds, the male-female sexual dynamic at this state in our human development lends itself poorly to objective arbitration. A case of rape and a case of unpleasant but not quite criminal sexual extortion in which a passive, egoless woman succumbs because it never occurred to her that she might, with effort, repel the advance (and afterward quite justifiably feels 'had') flow from the same oppressive male ideology, and the demarcation line between the two is far from clear. But these latter cases, of which there are many, reflect not only the male ideology of rape but a female paralysis of will, the result of a deliberate, powerful and destructive 'feminine' conditioning.


Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, 1975

1 comment:

ms poinsettia said...

The last sentence about a conditioned paralysis of will as part of feminity. This really resonates as I just read Helen Garner's The First Stone and she kept wondering about where this paralysis of will comes from in women. Enraging book (Garner's) and it seems like Garner could have done with reading Brownmiller.

I've had that experience of paralysis, tho thankfully just sexual harassment rather than rape, when an elderly man groped my 17-yr old, school uniform clad self in a supermarket. I froze, in large part because I thought *I* would embarass him and would be seen as being disrespectful to an old man and hysterical. I tried to move away while placating him with smiles and noone came to my defence, probably because of the fact that I appeared comfortable. Even as 17yr old, when my friend accused me of kind of 'liking it' based on my reaction I was able to connect the dots that my reaction was to do with maintaining some facade of expected behaviour, despite how I felt. It's amazing to me that people like Garner don't realise that.