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Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  3,865 ratings  ·  120 reviews
As powerful and timely now as when it was first published, AGAINST OUR WILL stands as a unique document of the history of politics, the sociology of rape and the inherent and ingrained inequality of men and women under the law. In lucid, persuasive prose, Brownmiller has created a definitive, devastating work of lasting social importance.

Paperback, 472 pages
Published May 11th 1993 by Ballantine Books (first published 1975)
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Start your review of Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
I’ve been asked why I wasn’t a fan of Torchwood. You’d think I would be. Who doesn’t like Captain Jack? I turned on the first episode and that ruined it for me. In the premiere, one of the Torchwood crew smuggles home an alien something or other, like a roofie. He goes to a bar, a woman rejects him, he uses the alien thing, and then she is really, willing, and able. They leave the bar, and outside the woman’s boyfriend stops them. Our “hero” uses the magic roofie on the boyfriend, who is now rea ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
From Wikipedia:

The 2012 Delhi gang rape case involved a rape and fatal assault that occurred on 16 December 2012 in Munirka, a neighbourhood in South Delhi, when a 23-year-old female physiotherapy intern,[2] was beaten and gang raped in a private bus in which she was travelling with a male friend. There were six others in the bus, including the driver, all of whom raped the woman and beat her friend. The woman died from her injuries thirteen days later while undergoing emergency treatment in
This book has all of the problems of second wave feminism. It's a very white, middle to upper class look at rape, seeing it as a male-female inequality without a big look into bigger institutional issues. (And by bigger I don't mean the criminal justice system. I mean capitalism, classism, racism, etc.)

I particularly dislike Brownmiller's take on interracial rape as a burden of white women, which stood out as a starkly racist stance to take on the issue. I also dislike Brownmiller's thoughts th
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I wanted to challenge myself and venture out. I wanted a new perspective and outlook. Me being a heterosexual African American man with no prior knowledge (at the time) of feminism, I wanted to learn and understand. This is the first book to introduce me to the culture. I, myself, took a bit of a drive to get the last available copy at a Barnes and Nobles located quite a distance from me. But a drive years later that still resonates me. A drive for a book that put me through discomfort learning ...more
Jon Trott
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Taking into account the book was published in 1975, Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape remains one of those books any serious feminist or pro-feminist has to read. It is a book I wish every man would read. Brownmiller's journalistic background and systematic historic overview of rape's place in male-dominant cultures make her work earth-shaking. The majority of men do not understand feminism even today; this book's intensity and clarity makes it far easier to understand. ...more
Melissa Yael Winston
Reading Against our Will is a little like watching a John Wayne movie. When one sees the familiar swagger of the all-American hero, the oddly familiar, maybe even hackneyed, ring to it makes one ask, "Haven't we seen this before?" So, too, does Brownmiller's book feel like ideas that have been repeated frequently, especially to readers who have tastes similar to mine. But then, when reading Brownmiller's work (or watching Wayne's movies), I have to remember--this stuff is not hackneyed. I like t ...more
Apr 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
While this work has been expanded upon and explored further in later feminist works, the voice in this book's intensity and clarity make it a good introduction to feminist critique. This is less useful for someone familiar with modern feminism.

Brownmiller never conceptualizes "interracial rape as a burden of white women" as another reviewer has claimed. In fact the institutionalized rape that came with slavery gets a chapter all its own (whereas interracial rape does not).

Actually, she doesn't
Oct 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Before reading this book, I was already familiar with the famous quote from Against Our Will. It’s one of those that pops up in social justice paradise (or purgatory, depending on the day of the week), Tumblr, on a regular basis:
“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.”

Stirring stuff, indeed – but, out of context, it seems a little
Steven Peterson
Feb 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
The heart of this book is a statement early on (Page 15): "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.

This book traces the thesis from ancient civilization to the present. Early (Pages 18-19), she refers to the Code of Hammurabi as well as Scripture. In turn, the book unfolds as follows: rape and war; rape and revolution; Indians and s
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Against Our Will is a feminist landmark.

It is painstakingly researched, which makes it a great reference work - I first picked it up some years ago when I was writing my law school monograph on sexual violence against women during armed conflicts. The huge amount of historical information and testimonies that Brownmiller brings also serves the purpose of showing how rape has been, and is, everywhere - part of history, part of all women's lives as a fact or a possibility - something that is, fran
Jul 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
I can't come up with a better review than Steven Pinker in The Blank Slate: the modern denial of human nature:
"I believe that the rape-is-not-about-sex doctrine will go down in history as an example of extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds. It is preposterous on the face of it, does not deserve its sanctity, is contradicted by a mass of evidence, and is getting in the way of the only morally relevant goal surrounding rape, the effort to stamp it out."
Jun 07, 2016 rated it it was ok
It's not that Against Our Will is particularly bad. It's a monumental classic that opened a lot of doors. So my rating is misleading on that front; I just don't know if it's as functional as a readable classic decades on. It's dated enough that reading *about* it is probably a wiser way to utilize your time than to read it. Brownmiller, as one can tell from the reviews above and below this one, does get her intersectionality wrong: her treatises on interracial rape are compelling at best, but I ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
I thought I was going to like this book but the way she treats rape and race is so upsetting! The rape of American Indian and black women receives only a few pages... and I had to put the book down when she reaches the topic of Emmett Till. According to Brownmiller, Till's whistling to a white woman was "a deliberate insult just short of physical assault" ... The chapter on interracial rape was incredible. She manages to turn this topic into how white women have been sacrificed (this continues t ...more
All acts of sex forced on unwilling victims deserve to be treated in concept as equally grave offenses in the eyes of the law, for the avenue of penetration is less significant than the intent to degrade. Similarly , the gravity of the offense ought not to be bound by the victim's gender.

The real reason for the law's everlasting confusion as to what constitutes an act of rape and what constitutes an act of mutual intercourse is the underlying cultural assumption that it is the natural masculi
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
It changed my life when I read it many years ago. Recently I was cleaning out old books to give away and i almost gave this one away. Was it still relevant? Then I met a beautiful young woman from India, a militant feminist poet in her twenties, who named this as one of her most treasured books. It struck me that half-way around the world,and across at least a generation, a young woman in a feminist-unfriendly country, became who she is because her father saved this, and other books, for his dau ...more
Karen Witzler
Nov 30, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: social-sciences
I read this in 1980 or thereabouts. I recall the general ideas, if not the particulars. It seems to me that I saw Brownmiller on an episode of the Phil Donahue Show (with Andrea Dworkin?) causing an uproar by saying that the worst thing about the Larry Flynt (Hustler magazine) shooting was that he wasn't dead. I would like to revisit this work in tandem with the widely reviled _A Natural History of Rape - by Randy Thornhill (recommended by Steven Pinker) and see what I think and how it may relat ...more
Nov 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: feminism
Certainly ambitious but her analysis is almost completely flawed in my opinion. She's racist and homophobic and (it goes without saying) cissexist, and her analysis of the origins of patriarchy is pretty structuralist, teleological, speculative, and lacking in nuance. Idk this book probably brought rape to a lot of people's attention as a feminist issue but the things it has to say about rape and the (mostly carceral) solutions it offers are ..... not too good. ...more
vi macdonald
Jan 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
I don't even know where to begin with this. It's such an important and sensitive topic and Brownmiller discussed with none of the nuance and sensitivity required. Reinforces harmful beliefs about men of colour in ways that are by turns stomach churning and viscerally upsetting.

I get and respect that this was an important stepping stone in shifting the conversation and attitudes towards rape in society (there was some good to come from this), but there's some genuinely harmful stuff in here.
Sep 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
Difficult to read more than 20-30 pages at a time, but it's really just staggering. It makes me want to yell at every history teacher I've ever had for not telling me about rape throughout the history of the world. This book makes it clear that rape is not a personal problem but a sociological tool. Read it and weep (literally). ...more
Oct 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Not always accurate, in its own time or ours, but historically relevant. I can't recommend this at all, however, without also recommending Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis and Frantz Fanon: Conflicts and Feminisms by T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting, each for brief but important remarks on racism in Against Our Will. ...more
Oct 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Hey remember when feminism was all about white women, demonised non white men, sex positivity didn't exist and every cherry picked statistic was emotionally charged to induce fear among women?

What a trip, that nazi comparison at the end was the cherry on top.
Aug 08, 2007 rated it did not like it
Terrible; I couldn't even finish this book. ...more
Renee Kahl
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Much of what is said in this long, exhausting 1975 book seems like such common sense today that it is easy to forget how radical it was in its time. The extra degree of stridency of many of her points, rhetorically necessary then to break through the myths about rape, now sounds sometimes dated. But it is wrong to hold this against the book just because intense first-generation feminism is now out of fashion. Most of the improvements in societal attitudes and law enforcement concerning rape accr ...more
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it
This book easily falls under the genre of "retro classic feminist text," if that even exists as a genre.

This book is pretty straightforwardly about rape. All kinds of rape, throughout history. In the first several chapters, she documents cases of mass rape: The German Army's rapes of Belgium women in World War I, Nazis rapes of Jewish women during World War II, rape in Bangladesh, American soldiers' rapes of Vietnamese women during the war (and commanders' horrifyingly misguided attempts to off
Apr 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
I've been trying to get more reading done lately, grabbing the books I've collected off my shelves and actually looking at what's inside. The latest book I began to read was Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape.

It's a famous feminist book, but what struck me about it is how little it bothers to actually try and persuade anyone at the beginning. First there's an interesting intro in which Brownmiller says she herself once didn't take rape too seriously. That's a nice, disarmi
I found a used copy of the original printing at a library book sale and I'm so glad I did. Even though the edition I read was published in 1975, it is just as relevant today.

The book traces the history of "rape" from it's original conception as a property rights violation of one man against another all the way to the more modern concept as an assault. It's a hard read in many places and harder still for anyone who has had to face a rape situation, but it is and incredibly important read. Still.

You see, as someone who thinks a lot about creating a world without sexual violence, I expected to devour this book. But I started reading it in September (of course), and while I was highlighting stuff while reading, I didn't want to pick it back up when I put it down, and it was also far too depressing. It was interesting in parts, ja, but I expect this will be one of the books I'll keep on hand as a reference source when writing, but not reading from cover to cover. (Also, back when it was wr ...more
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Fantastic book. Not just a polemic against the evils of the patriarchy, an objective and scholarly look at a subject that it is almost impossible to take too seriously. Personally, my biggest complaint is with some of the speculative history in the first chapter, but that is quickly passed, and probably just part and parcel of the books original milieu, I believe they were common beliefs at that time. What may be considered this books greatest weakness, it's being out-of-date, may be it's most i ...more
May 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: have-e-book
This book is an example of the kind of feminism that sometimes writes 'Woman' with a capital. Most of the book consists of transcriptions of rapes - hardly easy reading material - intersected with extreme feminist theories. Her argumentation, most of the time, is not clearly stated and farfetched. However, if the laws in America in her time are what she says they are - not to mention the attitude of the police towards rape and rape victims - I understand her extremism. A lot has changed, for the ...more
Sep 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
I think every woman should read this book. It's really the first book to address rape in a thorough, historical way (it was written in the 1970s but is still very relevant). It's interesting the way she frames the issue. Something along the lines of "In the beginning there was man and there was woman. Man raped woman, and so began the oppression and subjugation of women by men.... etc."

My only caveat is the long chapter on rape in war. It's important from a historical standpoint, but it drags an
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Susan Brownmiller is an American feminist journalist, author, and activist best known for her 1975 book Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.

Brownmiller also participated in civil rights activism, joining CORE and SNCC during the sit-in movement and volunteering for Freedom Summer in 1964, wherein she worked on voter registration in Meridian, Mississippi. Returning to New York, she began writing

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54 likes · 9 comments
“[Rape is] nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” 12 likes
“ALL RAPE IS AN exercise in power, but some rapists have an edge that is more than physical. They operate within an institutionalized setting that works to their advantage and in which a victim has little chance to redress her grievance. Rape in slavery and rape in wartime are two such examples. But rapists may also operate within an emotional setting or within a dependent relationship that provides a hierarchical, authoritarian structure of its own that weakens a victim’s resistance, distorts her perspective and confounds her will.” 2 likes
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