The latest episode of Sexing History, a podcast about how the history of sexuality shapes our present, deals with the complicated legacy of Susan Brownmiller’s Against Our Will (1975).
In the 1960s and early 1970s many Americans believed that rape was a rare and violent act perpetrated by outsiders and sociopaths. Popular culture taught men that women needed to be tricked or coerced into sex, and psychiatrists accused rape victims of secretly inviting their attacks. Susan Brownmiller’s best-selling book Against Our Will shattered these myths about sexual violence. Informed by the broader feminist anti-rape movement, Against Our Will portrayed rape as a systemic, pervasive, and culturally sanctioned act of power and intimidation. Yet even as Brownmiller provided a framework for naming sexual violence as a mechanism of patriarchy, she also minimized the importance of race and denied the ways that rape accusations have long justified the criminalization and murder of men of color. At a moment when #MeToo has brought about yet another national reckoning with sexual violence and male power, Brownmiller’s book, its legacy, and the contexts that produced the anti-rape movement of the 1970s demand re-examination.
Sexing History is a research tool for teaching histories of gender and sexuality and is hosted by historians Gillian Frank and Lauren Gutterman. Sexing History uses oral histories, archival sound clips, commentary and analysis, and interviews with other scholars in the field to tell compelling stories about the past to illuminate our present. You can listen to the latest episode here.
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Isabel Machado - Assistant Producer