Views & Reviews Medical Classics

Against Our Will

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.d5173 (Published 17 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5173
  1. Susan Bewley, professor of obstetrics, King’s College London
  1. susan.bewley{at}kcl.ac.uk

As a medical student I thought rape was an individual sex crime that happened to so called “bad girls” who “asked for it”—a crime committed on dark nights by impulsive strangers. Then I read Against Our Will, with its explosive challenge: “Rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.”

The author, Susan Brownmiller, had not been raped, nor was she an embittered feminist, but a journalist who had researched the subject meticulously. She changed her mind about rape and would wish to change yours. Painfully and painstakingly, she recounts testimonials of rape and historical distortions and dismissals of women’s experiences. She explains how rape is used as a calculated weapon of aggression and humiliation on women directly and on women as …

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