Rape: Hysteria and Civil Liberties
A review of Susan Brownmiller's book,
Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape

Copyright 1976/2001 by John Lauritsen

[This essay-review was written in the spring of 1976, and about half of it was published in the Gay Liberator (Detroit). The entire essay was published in the form of a mimeographed pamphlet in 1976. Despite my discomfort with some of the rhetoric I used a quarter of a century ago (e.g., “bourgeoisie”), I have made no changes in the text. I hereby give permission to print out this document and to photocopy it. However, it may not be published commercially without my permission.

[In the fall of 1976 I gave a talk, “Dangerous Trends in Feminism”, at the Gay Academic Union Conference IV, held in New York City. That talk was also published as a mimeographed pamphlet, and is now available electronically. My current views on Gay Liberation are found in my book, A Freethinker's Primer of Male Love (Provincetown 1998).         — John Lauritsen, 28 September 2001]

Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape. By Susan Brownmiller, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1975.


    Rape, considered one of the most terrifying of major crimes, is unique in several respects: for the complexity of psychological issues involved; for the disproportion between perceived and actual danger; for the great severity of the penalties relative to the concrete consequences of the act; for the real danger of convicting innocent men through false accusations or misidentification, with innumerable documented cases of such injustices; for the use of rape stories in political propaganda, especially during wartime; and finally, for the historic use of rape laws in the oppression of black people in the United States.
    In fact, rape is a comparatively rare event; women face infinitely greater dangers from such things as automobile accidents, accidents in the home, cancer, alcoholism, obesity, and so on. The distinguished criminologist, Marvin E. Wolfgang, puts rape in perspective in his foreword to the book, Patterns in Forcible Rape, by Menachem Amir. Wolfgang writes:

    “Statistically, among all crimes, or even among all major crimes, rape is a relatively infrequent phenomenon. Only about one percent of the FBI's annual number of serious crimes are classified as forcible rape. But what is viewed as important by a society is not judged only by frequency of occurrence....

    “Forcible rape is judged by many as the most serious crime, after murder [1]. Eleven states, all of the South, still retain the death penalty for rape. And perhaps the fear of being raped has a greater disparity with the reality of the probability of victimization than any other offense.... The crime is not common, but the fear is genuine and based on the gravity attributed to its consequences.”  (Emphasis added.)

    Prof. Wolfgang's understated phrase, “the fear is genuine and based on the gravity attributed to its consequences”, gets to the core of the problem, for in a real sense, the phenomenon of rape is less the act itself than the attitudes revolving around it: the central fear of sexuality in a superstitious and sex-negative culture. For historical perspective, we must recall that in Victorian times, being raped was thought to be a “fate worse than death”, and many women literally felt obliged to be prepared to choose “death before dishonor”. We might also remember that the judge who sentenced Oscar Wilde to prison believed that all-male sex was a crime more horrible than murder.
    No doubt much of the fear of rape derives from the popular notion that rape victims are often severely injured or even murdered. This is not the case. In his book, Patterns of Forcible Rape, Amir exposes as a myth the idea that “Rape is always a violent crime in which brutality is inflicted upon the victim.”  Amir found in his study, “In a large number of cases (87 percent), only temptation and verbal coercion were used initially to subdue the victim....”  And as far as rape-murder is concerned, this is so infrequent that the average woman is as likely to die from being struck by lightning.
    I am not defending rape. Let me be clear: I regard it a horrible thing for any person to interfere violently with another's self-determination, sexual or otherwise. I am in favor of human evolution and therefore appalled whenever the force of violence prevails over the force of logic, whenever brute strength and unprincipled savagery prevail over ethics and intelligence, whenever mob passion prevails over reason, and whenever uncouth two-legged atavisms prevail over their natural superiors. I do not discount the suffering of rape victims, which may be real and heart-rending — suffering due, it often seems, as much to the insensitivity and intolerance of family and community as to the experience of the act itself. I only insist that we must scrupulously separate fact from fantasy, and that we must carefully scrutinize the political implications of the current obsession with rape.

The Current Obsession With Rape
    The bourgeoisie is beating the drums for rape-hysteria, for censorship, for Law & Order, for bringing back the death penalty, and for a reversal of the gains made in this century for sexual freedom. According to the New York Times, rape has become the number one issue of the feminist movement, eclipsing such former concerns as legal abortions and equal pay for equal work. “Rape” is everywhere. The Ministry of Propaganda has flooded the marketplace with books, articles, radio and television shows on rape; with pamphlets, posters, badges, special newsletters, and bumper stickers on rape. The Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA), a CIA/FBI type organization, has published a book on rape and made rape a major concern. According to an article in The Nation of 16 August 1975, “In Portland, Oregon a Rape Victim Advocate Program, funded by $124,132 from the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, has contributed to the quadrupling of rape reports in the area.”  All over New York City, the walls and sidewalks are stencil spray-painted with such slogans as, ”CASTRATE RAPISTS!“.
    At one time I should have thought it paranoid to imagine these items as anything more than the work of sincere zealots. No more. I have learned about the deliberate employment of rape-hysteria in wartime — a weapon already highly developed by World War I — and about the psychological campaigns of the various secret police agencies. In his expose, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, Philip Agee describes techniques of a CIA propaganda campaign:

    “ECJOB. A team of Catholic university students directed by ECJOB-1 is used to distribute the station handbills... The team is also used for wall-painting, another major propaganda medium in Ecuador. Usually the team works in the early hours of the morning, painting slogans on instruction by the station or painting out and mutilating the slogans painted by communist or pro-communist groups.”

    And now, riding the crest of the wave, comes Susan Brownmiller with her book on rape. The book's success is amazing, considering that on its merits alone it deserves little more than a toss into the nearest circular file. Against Our Will (hereafter AOW) has received favorable reviews in major publications; it is being promoted to the hilt in the bourgeois media; Brownmiller is appearing on talk shows all over the United States and Canada; the book is being hailed as a feminist classic and the “definitive work on all aspects of rape” (a claim made on the book's jacket); and it has been chosen as a Book of the Month club selection. Even more amazing is the promotion of Brownmiller by two gay papers; her photograph appeared on the front cover of the 21 February 1976 Gay Community News (Boston), which reviewed AOW favorably, and two full pages of interview and review appeared in The Advocate of 10 March 1976. I say, “amazing”, because Brownmiller, as we shall see, is an enemy of gay liberation.

A Shoddy Piece of Work
    AOW is a shoddy piece of work from start to finish: ludicrously inaccurate, reactionary, dishonest, and vulgarly written. On the very first page of Chapter 1, one is impressed by the obnoxiousness of Brownmiller's style — a smart-alecky glibness (“Krafft-Ebing ... turned with relish to the frotteurs and fetishists of normal intelligence who tickled his fancy.”). On the same page, she writes: “Sigmund Freud ... was also struck dumb by the subject of rape.” — a comment as unfair as it is ignorant; Freud was wrong about some things, but he was certainly neither a fool nor an intellectual coward.
    On the second page of the chapter (p. 12), Brownmiller claims that Marx and Engels were “strangely silent about rape, unable to fit it into their economic constructs.”  This is typical of the loaded language and innuendo she uses throughout the book in place of direct statement. One must reply that Marx and Engels did not conspiratorially decide to hide the issue of rape under the rug; that there were many things they did not write about, including transvestitism, stamp-collecting, vivisection, vegetarianism, and lycanthropy. Brownmiller wants to resolve all of history into the single event of rape, and she then finds conspiracy when others do not view life through the same reductionist prism she does.
    Still on the second page, she states: “It was the half-crazed genius, Wilhelm Reich, consumed with rage in equal parts toward Hitler, Marx and Freud, who briefly entertained the vision of a ‘masculine ideology of rape’.”  This is preposterous. In one sentence Brownmiller shows that she understands absolutely nothing about Reich. Far from being “consumed with rage” towards Marx and Freud, Reich considered himself a follower of both of them, and the very basis of his work was the attempt to synthesize their thought. And when Reich wrote The Sexual Revolution, from which the quote is taken, he was in full command of his powers, far saner than the society around him.
    Here we also note Brownmiller's utter lack of scruples when quoting others. The complete sentence of Reich's, from which she excerpted “masculine ideology of rape”, is the very sensible statement:

    “It is part of natural morality not to have sexual intercourse unless both are in full genital readiness; this eliminates the masculine ideology of rape and the attitude of the woman that she has to be seduced or mildly raped.”

Now, Brownmiller's ideology of rape is posited on absolute male guilt and absolute female innocence, so it is understandable that she chose not to quote the full sentence — understandable, but not honest.
    Still on the second page we encounter this absurdity: “No zoologist, as far as I know, has ever observed that animals rape in their natural habitat, the wild.”  Well, Brownmiller is supposed to have spent four years doing research for AOW, so it is difficult to imagine that she did not at least come across the classic and popular Patterns of Sexual Behavior by C.S. Ford and F.A. Beach. If she had, she would have learned that in many species of animals, the male does indeed proceed “against the will” of the female, and with considerable violence and coercion. (It is more likely that Brownmiller simply disregarded the book because its data did not agree with her dogma.)
    So — in merely the first two pages of her book, Brownmiller has shown herself to be not only incompetent, but totally lacking in objectivity and probity. The rest of the chapter is even worse. She claims that rape occurs because of an “accident of biology”, namely, that the penis and the vagina fit together. (Would it be better if they didn't fit?)  She speculates, “When men discovered that they could rape, they proceeded to do it.”
    In her mind's eye comes this primeval scene: “Indeed, one of the earliest forms of male bonding must have been the gang rape of one woman by a band of marauding men.”  Never, never might we imagine that men bond together for the simple reason that they like each other.
    The final paragraph of her unfortunate first chapter is the thesis for her entire book. Here it is:

    “Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. 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.”

    Comment: the “use of fire” indeed!  And if all men conspire with each other to keep all women down by raping them, then it is strange that for so many centuries they have rewarded each other for doing so with the death penalty. Also, if blame is being passed out for keeping “all women in a state of fear”, then Susan Brownmiller should take a helping herself for fostering rape-hysteria through AOW, for fear-mongering.
    The second chapter, “In the Beginning Was the Law”, is as bad a job as the first. Again Brownmiller engages in wild and ridiculous speculation — for example, that women don't care for each other's company because they are unable, helpless and delicate creatures that they are, to protect each other from male rape. Or, in Brownmiller language:

    “Disappointed and disillusioned by the inherent female incapacity to protect, she became estranged in a very real sense from other females, a problem that haunts the social organization of women to this very day.”

    In her review of AOW for The Nation, Helene Schwartz points out several serious errors in Brownmiller's treatment of ancient Hebrew and Babylonian law, and is forced to “wonder about other statements in areas where I have no expertise.”  Well might she wonder.

A “Female Definition of Rape”
    Brownmiller puts forward what she calls a “female definition of rape” (apparently speaking for all females):

    “If a woman chooses not to have intercourse with a specific man and the man chooses to proceed against her will, that is a criminal act of rape.”

This is vague for defining a “criminal act”. What does it mean to choose “to proceed against her will”?  Persistence?  I dare say that if every man just said, “all right then, goodbye”, as soon as a woman said “no” to him, there would be a lot of shocked and frustrated women in the world.
    And what precisely means “against her will”?  Her stated “no”?  Her conscious will?  These are not idle questions, for since the Freudian Revolution we know of the unconscious part of the mind — dynamic, contradictory, and partly hidden. Rape fantasies play an important part in the erotic psychic life of many women, as witness merely the prominence of the rape theme in the “confession” magazines and the “romance” books read by millions of them. There is a reason for this. According to the Victorian sexual outlook (still much alive) a decent woman may not have sexual feelings at all; only the man can take the sexual initiative, which she is to resist to the utmost; only when the woman is properly married may she than offer herself as a passive victim to male assault. In reality, of course, women do have sexual feelings; the problem is that admitting or expressing them causes guilt feelings. And here is where the rape fantasy enters: in rape it is only the man who craves sex, who takes the initiative; the woman just innocently resists until she is overpowered by the brute strength of the man. Banal?  Perhaps, but it sells magazines. And feminist books.
    In the realm of criminal law, there is a viciousness in vagueness. It is necessary for all definitions to be absolutely explicit, clear, and rational. The Nazis demonstrated the evils that could result from such mystical criminal law concepts as “phenomenological justice”, “wholesome popular sentiment”, and “degeneracy”, which directly led to the deaths of tens of thousands of the “men with the pink triangle”, the homosexual men who were sent to the Nazi concentration camps. It simply will not do to criminalize opposing the will of another without concretely defining exactly what is meant.
    A final objection to the “female definition of rape” is that it allows for only male offenders and female victims, whereas in reality there occur other combinations: male on male, female on female, and — yes — female on male. According to John M. Macdonald, in his book, Rape: Offenders and Their Victims:

    “Seduction of young boys by an adult woman probably occurs much more often than crime statistics indicate. Such cases rarely come before the courts.”

It also happens, though rarely, that an adult man is raped by an armed woman. Typically two or more women with weapons act together in such cases. Understandably these cases are almost never reported to the police; the adult man might fear he would look like a fool in complaining, and the parents of the young boy coerced into sexual acts by an older woman would probably not feel he had lost a priceless jewel of chastity, as they might if a girl and an older man had been involved.
    Considering the vagueness of Brownmiller's definition, I find decidedly frightening her attitudes towards the appropriate penalty for the “criminal act of rape”. In reviewing English law, she writes: “The First Statute of Westminster, enacted in 1275, set the Crown's penalty for rape at a paltry two year' imprisonment plus a fine at the king's pleasure....”  If she regards this punishment as “paltry”, I do not (especially considering the state of English prisons in the 13th century). She then goes on to portray as a great advance:

    “An emboldened Second Statute of Westminster amended the timorous first. By a new act of Parliament, any man who ravished ‘a married woman, dame or damsel’ without her consent was guilty of a full blown felony under the law of the Crown, and the penalty was death.”

Atrocity Stories
    In Chapter 3, “War”, Susan Brownmiller gets into her specialty: atrocity stories. Much of AOW's 400-page bulk consists of atrocity stories: gruesome tales, garishly related. Stories to chill the blood and turn the stomach. Stories to titillate the ghouls who gloat over National Enquirer centerspreads.
    At first these tales have a harrowing effect upon the reader, but after awhile he or she begins to tire, and finally becomes cynical. For me this point was reached when the Brownmiller went from a morally indignant recounting of a psychopathic murder spree on page 308 to a morally indignant recounting of the Red Riding Hood story on page 309.
    Questions of ethics are raised by Brownmiller's use of atrocity stories. What was her purpose?  To enlighten us?  give us the facts?  Guide us to a rational course of action?  I'm afraid not — that her intent was scare-mongering, drumming up sexual hysteria. If Brownmiller intended to give us the facts about rape — and facts are the best way to counter hysteria — then she has failed miserably.
    It is significant that she “neglected” even to mention other books on rape, published before AOW and far superior to it. One such is John M. Macdonald's Rape: Offenders and their Victims, which is the most sensible and comprehensive work I have encountered. It should be read as a corrective to the confusion and one-dimensional intolerance of AOW. Unfortunately, Macdonald's book is hard to find outside of libraries; he does not pipe the tune the bourgeoisie wishes to hear piped at the moment. Then there is the serious study, Patterns in Forcible Rape, by Menachem Amir. Brownmiller does cite this book, but only when its findings support the delusional system she is creating; the book as a whole she dismisses for being “annoying obtuse about the culturally conditioned behavior of women in situations involving the threat of force”, whatever that might mean.

Fabricated Sexual Atrocity Stories in War Propaganda
    Brownmiller describes how rape-atrocity stories are fabricated for war propaganda (p. 41 et seq.) and the then goes on to swallow a number of such stories, hook, line, and sinker. Her mind works this way; everything gets jumbled together, and there is no clear line between fact and fantasy. (Indeed, one of her more annoying tricks is to treat trashy movies and avant-garde novels as though they constituted empirical evidence.)  For example, she treats as fact the myth that during the war in the Congo in the 1960s, Lamumba's supporters were conducting mass rapes of Belgian nuns. Brownmiller's main source for the nun-rape stories was a “white paper” commissioned by King Baudouin of Belgium, hardly a nonpartisan in the struggle. Actually, reporters covering the war at the time wrote back that the stories were without factual basis — they were concocted to inspire racial antagonism and to justify the involvement of U.S. forces.
    Brownmiller's treatment of rape in wartime goes wrong in two main ways. First, she uncritically accepts sexual atrocity stories which were only the products of military propaganda or wartime hysteria; for instance, she seems to believe the stories about German sexual atrocities in Belgium in World War I — stories which postwar investigations determined to have been fabricated by the British. Second, her single issue rape obsession blinds her to the far greater atrocities of war.
    These mistakes were not made by Magnus Hirschfeld and his associates in their book, Sexual History of the World War, which was based on reports collected by the Institute for Sexual Science following World War I. They found that, owing to the over-stimulated erotic atmosphere of the war and the suggestive effects of propaganda, “Whenever enemy soldiers appeared there were immediately women and girls who claimed they had been raped.”  In the vast majority of cases, they were found to be either “conscious liars desirous of concealing a sexual dereliction, and to be regarded as martyrs to the enemy rather than fallen women”, or they were subject to hysteria.
    Hirschfeld and his associates in the Institute for Sexual Science found that women derived a certain erotic satisfaction from discussions about rape — a phenomenon which undoubtedly plays a large part in the popular success of AOW. The following account appears in The Sexual History of the World War:

    “Although rape was in most cases not even investigated, much less established, practically all the warring nations engaged in controversies that lasted for years on what was to be done with ‘war children’, the fruits of the acts of rape carried out by enemy soldiers upon native women. It is characteristic that these discussions were incited by women and carried out by them with the greatest enthusiasm. One cannot help harboring the rather ungallant suspicion that this problem, whose practical solution was exercising these ladies so much, must have brought a certain satisfaction, for while they were theorizing about it, they were able to wallow in descriptions of violations that were supposedly carried out.”

    It is odd that in her vaunted four years of research Susan Brownmiller did not discover Hirschfeld's Sexual History of the World War, possibly the most important study of wartime sexual behavior done to date.

    In reviewing AOW, Helene Schwartz comments, “At one point I wrote in the margin of the book, 'Doesn't she ever think of men as sources of pleasure?'”  Good point. I don't remember a single passage in all of AOW that even hinted that human beings might be sources of pleasure to each other — pleasure of any kind.
    Victorianism well characterizes the Brownmiller outlook: all men are brutes; all women, hapless victims. Whatever enjoyment men are capable of experiencing comes from bullying women into submission. Women are helpless, passive, brittle creatures into whose pure and innocent minds comes never a suggestion of anything so dirty as sex.
    In the chapter, “Women Fight Back”, Brownmiller goes into page after page of diatribes against the evils of prostitution, pornography, and by implication, the erotic in toto. Sample: “There can be no ‘equality’ in porn, no female equivalent, no turning of the tables in the name of bawdy fun.... the staple of porn will always be the naked female body, breasts and genitals exposed....”
    Brownmiller heatedly attacks those “critics of the women's movement” who “often profess to see a certain inexplicable victorian primness and anti-sexual prudery in our attitudes and responses.”  I can only say that such critics, whoever they are, have hit the nail on the head. Susan Brownmiller may protest, but her true soul mates are Anthony Comstock, Carrie Nation, Mary Whitehouse, and the members of the Legion of Decency and the Society for the Suppression of Vice.
    The Brownmiller's true colors emerge only too clearly in the numerous cheap potshots she takes at Freud and Kinsey, such as: “I believe she [Helene Deutch] has caused real — and incalculable — damage to the female sex, as has, it goes without saying, Freud.”  Well, not only does this not “go without saying”, but it is viciously untrue. One wonders if Brownmiller has any notion of what Freud's contributions to modern thought were, or what were the pre-Freudian and anti-Freudian attitudes towards women. Though Freud and Kinsey may be enemies to some feminists, they are heroes to us in the gay liberation movement; they are among the handful of people who have done most to rid the world of sexual superstition and prudery.

The Horror of Prison: Homosexuality = Rape!
    A portion of Chapter 8, “Power: Institution and Authority”, deals with “Prison Rape: The Homosexual Experience”. Brownmiller might well have made the last colon an equals sign, for there is no clear distinction in her mind between consensual homosexual acts and homosexual rape; both seem to be equally horrible. I believe that the current surfeit of prison rape stories, being spewed out in the mass media, derives from the myth: Homosexuality is so unnatural and disgusting that no normal man would engage in it unless coerced by violence and threat of death.
    With her characteristic vagueness, Brownmiller uses such phrases as “sexual approach” and “sexual ‘abuse’” in such a way that one is never sure whether rape or consensual homosexuality is meant — the two begin to blur into each other. This section is distorted and inaccurate; it is profoundly antigay; it is based on the most dubious sources, at the same time that the classic works on sex in prison are not even mentioned. As before, one must ask whether Brownmiller is her four years of “research” simply failed to discover the most relevant and important works, or whether she disregarded them because she didn't like their evidence. One suspects the latter. Such works would include Alexander Berkman's Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, Donald Cressey's The Prison, Donald Clemmer's The Prison Community, and Joseph Fishman's Sex in Prison. The last two authors are extremely antigay, but it doesn't matter: Clemmer and Fishman provide facts, which speak for themselves.
    Susan Brownmiller begins her prison section with a synopsis of a trashy movie, Fortune and Men's Eyes, and even this she can't do accurately. She writes, “there are certain advantages to being the girl of a punk like Rocky....”  This is wrong: in prison argot, “punk” refers to a “passive” partner, and is a synonym of sorts for “girl”, though without the connotations of effeminacy. She should have written, “wolf”, or “top-man”, or just “man”.
    The conclusion of her synopsis of Fortune provides a typical example of her anti-sexual confusion. She writes:

    “Smitty's first act as victor is to command his gentle friend and cellmate, Jan-Mona, to smear himself with the Vaseline. Jan-Mona pleads, ‘You have power now, Smitty — do you need sex, too?’ But Smitty does ‘need sex’. How else within the confines of prison can he exercise his hard-won power?”

This is as good a place as any to ask it: All right, Susan Brownmiller, do you or do you not think that men “need sex”?  What is your answer?  Here's the situation. There are two healthy, good-looking, and sexually experienced young men in a cell together. Just the two of them. Alone. Now, what are they supposed to do for month after month? Sublimate? Masturbate? Nothing?
    Brownmiller's antihomosexual bigotry surfaces in no uncertain terms when she writes:

    “Homosexual rape in prison could not be primarily motivated by the need for sexual release, Davis observed, since autoerotic masturbation to orgasm is ‘much easier and more normal’.”

Comment: The hell it is!
    Brownmiller's warped vision completely blanks out the erotic in prison life. Normal men simply couldn't have real sexual desires towards each other. Therefore, all homosexual acts in prison are really rape, and rape is not really a form of sex, just the bully hierarchy of the strong over the weak.
    To the contrary, the prison world revolves around the homoerotic: courtships; intrigues; pathetic little presents; favors; letters; thousands of lines of love poetry; and sex, when possible.
    I myself have done work in a maximum security prison as part of a psychology project in college, and my impression was that the younger, better-looking prisoners — far from being the hapless prey to sexual assault that Brownmiller portrays — were in complete command of the situation. They made no effort to hide their attractiveness, but confidently flaunted it, basking in the admiration of the older prisoners and enjoying the perquisites of the sexual desirable.
    Donald Clemmer's chapter, “Sexual Patterns in the Prison Culture”, in his book, The Prison Community, is still regarded as the classic treatment of the subject. Though Clemmer is quite antigay, the picture of prison eros emerges clearly enough from the prisoners' testimony and letters. The following passage, from an “advisor” who had spent eleven years in prison, describes some of the details of prison courtship:

    “From the time he starts to speculate as to what pleasures are in store for him once he ‘snares’ the kid, your homosexualist-in-the-making finds himself going about making a conquest with the same glib-tongued tactics he would employ with a woman. If the kid works in some other shop than his own, the would-be ‘jocker’ begins writing ‘kites’ to his new-found love. These kites, when there are signs that the kid is ‘susceptible’, sometimes attain a passionate tone that really puts them on an equal with the “scorching” letters received by a woman from some Don Juan type of suitor. Once the kid has been won over, nothing, whether it be rare tidbits of food, money, or tailor-made prison clothes, is too good for him.”

    According to Brownmiller, young men in prison yield their favors only because the “threat of rape, expressed or implied, would prompt an already fearful young man to submit.”  She got that quote from Alan J. Davis, the same fool who thought masturbation was “much easier and more natural” than sex with another male. And if the young men yield their favors without coercion?  Well, concluded Davis, whom she quotes approvingly, “Prison officials were too quick to label such activities 'consensual'.”
    Of course rape does occur in prisons, as do robbery, assault, murder, drug abuse, and prostitution. The question is whether it is the rule, or rather an atypical aspect of prison sex life. I believe the evidence favors the latter. The following excerpt is also from Clemmer's The Prison Community:

    “To say that this lad was handsome, judged by masculine standards of beauty, would be putting it mildly. His was a sort of full-blown effeminate beauty, which made not a few cons just stare and stare in wonder. He stood about five feet nine. His eyes, large, clear, and expressive, radiating a glow that had a womanly appeal, made those staring cons just a bit dizzy. And it didn't take the more curious cons very long to find out ‘how he stripped down’. They made the most of the opportunity presented on bath day. One look was enough. they stared and stared at the nude figure of this lad and raved about him from that time on....

    “Cons who consummated their sexual desires with this boy usually went into ecstacies whenever they launched into a glowing account of his woman-like qualities.... It is doubtful if any woman, regardless of the degree to which she had refined the art of eroticism, was raved over as much as he. they were indeed bewitched by the prison siren's charms.”

Rape Penalties, Due Process, and the Rights of Defendants
    Brownmiller considers present rape laws to be too lenient, in spite of the fact that they are second in severity only to those for murder in most states. She believes the evidentiary requirements for conviction should be lessened virtually to the point where a woman's unsubstantiated testimony alone, not subject to cross-examination, would suffice for conviction. This in spite of the fact that many men, now known to have been innocent, paid with their lives after having been falsely accused and convicted of rape.
    She recounts the case of Willie McGee, a black man falsely accused of rape, convicted, and electrocuted, and she almost sneers at his defence. Not a hint of outrage at the injustice of the case. She tells the story of Emmett Till, a 14 year old black youth murdered for the crime of whistling at a white woman, and then says in effect that he had it coming to him. Brownmiller is so totally lacking in ordinary human qualities of compassion and fairness, that she qualifies for the 19th century term, “moral insanity”.

    Ms. Brownmiller probably felt she was being terribly clever when she wrote this about Caryl Chessman:

    “The appeal of the sexual outlaw has always been profound. I am certain that part of the mystique attached to Caryl Chessman, and why he became an international rallying point for the fight against capital punishment in 1959-1960, had to do with his legend as the Red Light Bandit, who preyed on women in lovers' lanes.”

To those of us who demonstrated to save the life of Caryl Chessman, and who remember his execution, the cynicism and intolerance of the above passage truly qualify as obscene.

Pornography, Censorship, and Civil Liberties
    Towards the end of AOW, Susan Brownmiller goes into a several-page diatribe against pornography. She is calling for censorship, though as usual she employs innuendo, rather than straightforwardly saying what should be censored, or who should do the censoring, or what the standards should be. Apparently she does not feel only the kinkier stuff should be suppressed, for she writes: “The graphic depictions, the meat and potatoes of porn, are of the naked female body and of the multiplicity of acts done to that body.”
    If one can make sense out of hysterical nonsense, she seems to believe that if men are allowed to look at pictures of naked women, they will feel they have a right of access to female bodies, and will be inspired to commit rape upon such bodies.
    There is not an iota of evidence for such a belief, and there is considerable evidence against it. The President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography concluded, to Nixon's chagrin, that there was not the slightest evidence to suggest that pornographic material is a causative factor in crimes of sexual violence. Many psychologists believe that pornography actually acts as a safety valve to potential sex offenders, a hypothesis which agrees with the fact that there was a dramatic drop in the sex crime rate in Denmark immediately following the full legalization of pornography in that country.

    Brownmiller must realize her case is weak, for she writes:

    “But does one need scientific methodology in order to conclude that the anti-female propaganda [i.e., pornography] that permeates our nation's cultural output promotes a climate in which acts of sexual hostility directed against women are not only tolerated but ideologically encouraged?”

    One must reply that, yes, one does need scientific methodology. One does need to base the determination of truth on evidence, not on papal authority, rumor, revelation, or hysterical emotion.
    In her ravings Brownmiller raises the spectre of Hitler's Third Reich, lumping together anti-Semitic caricatures, “nigger” jokes, and of course, erotic books and movies, so she can insinuate that there are some things that do not fall under the protection of the Constitution. But here she is dead wrong, for it is she who is in the camp of the Nazis with regard to pornography. It is Susan Brownmiller who has the fascist sexual outlook, with its extreme sex-negativism, its demand for “sexual purity” (an official Nazi slogan), its intolerance of sexual nonconformity, its use of rape hysteria as a justification for political repression.
    On 23 February 1933, as one of the first acts of the Nazi government, a decree banned pornographic literature of every description. At the same time, the Nazis banned all public activity of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the most important homosexual rights organization in the world. And on 6 May 1933, young Nazis, intending to cleanse Germany's libraries of “filthy” and “un-German” books, raided the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin, headquarters of the world sexual reform movement; they confiscated more than 10,000 volumes from the Institute's special library, and publicly burned these volumes in Opera Square.
    Once censorship gets going, it will tend to attach the most progressive ideas, because these are the most threatening to the people in power. John Milton made this point in 1644 in this Areopagitica: A Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, as true now as it was then:

    “There is not aught more likely to be prohibited that truth itself; whose first appearance to our eyes bleared and dimmed with prejudice and custom, is more unsightly and implausible than many errors.... And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falsehood grapple.”

    When pornography is demystified, it is hard to find anything wrong with it, much less any grounds for abolishing the Bill of Rights in order to do away with it. The distinguished British writer, Brigid Brophy, gets to the heart of the matter:

    “If pornography influences you, it will influence you to masturbate. I think it might sway your brand-loyalty about the type of fantasy you use as an accompaniment: it might persuade you to try the effect of a cast of thousands in oriental slave costume, rather than whatever your usual stand-by may be. I think it might persuade you to masturbate this week rather than next week. But because the act to which it tends to influence people is masturbation, there are very reasonable grounds for saying that pornography is the least harmful of all types of reading-matter. Masturbation is one of the very few human activities that absolutely cannot do any harm to anyone. By comparison, buying chocolate is perilous.”  (From “The Longford Threat to Freedom”, a pamphlet put out by the National Secular Society of Great Britain.)

    From the very beginning, sex reformers have had to fight an uphill battle against censorship, and we in the gay liberation movement had better believe that we will need all the civil liberties we can get.

    A serious threat to the gay liberation movement, and to other progressive movements, is posed by the current wave of rape-hysteria, with the concomitant demands for censorship and denial of due process and civil liberties. Some of our worst enemies are posing as gay liberationists or feminists, and we have got to unmask and repudiate them.

    Susan Brownmiller is exactly such an enemy.

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I write books and am proprietor of Pagan Press, a small book publisher.  Each of our books is unique and well produced.  Please check out the Pagan Press BOOKLIST  — John Lauritsen

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