A Feminist Redefinition of Rape and Sexual Assault: Historical Foundations and Change

Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 48, No. 1. 1992, pp. 9-22
A Feminist Redefinition of Rape and Sexual Assault: Historical Foundations and Change
Patricia L. N. Donat and John D’Emilio
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The meanings of sexual assault and women’s sexuality have changed significantly since the colonial period. At that time, women were valued for their sexual purity and were viewed as the center of the family. Sexual intercourse was acceptable only within marriage for the purpose of procreation. If a woman engaged in sex outside of marriage, even against her will, she was considered a “fallen” woman and was often blamed for her own victimization. With the feminist movement of the 1960s, rape was reconceptualized as a mechanism for maintaining male control and domination, a violent means of inducing fear in women and reinforcing their subordination to men. This reconceptualization has made a clear difference in the way our culture defines and understands sexual assault, but much still needs to change.

The issues of rape and sexual assault have been major concerns of the feminist movement since its revival in the late 1960s. Because of the work of feminists, the contemporary understanding of rape and sexual assault, and the social response to sexual violence, have undergone significant revision. This paper examines the feminist response to traditional conceptualizations of rape and the impact it has had. It begins by presenting some historical background to set a context for understanding more recent events.

The Colonial Era

During the colonial period, settlers in the English colonies were influenced strongly by the church, which prescribed the behavior of its congregation. The family was defined as the central unit in society and sex roles were differentiated rigidly. Men were dominant and women were submissive. The woman was regarded “not as a person , . . but as a sexual ‘type’-an inferior, a receptacle, . . . or a simple answer to his needs” (Koehler, 1980, p. 93). Sexuality was channeled into marriage for the procreation of legitimate offspring. Non-marital sexual intercourse was immoral, an offense against both family and community (D’Emilio & Freedman, 1988).

In order to regulate deviance, the church, courts, and community joined to monitor private sexual behavior and to limit sexual expression to marriage. Colonial society held the entire community responsible for upholding morality, and sexual crimes were punished severely. Women bore the heaviest responsibility for regulating premarital sexual contact. “Church and society dealt more harshly with women . . . [because] female chastity and fidelity assured men of the legitimacy of their children” (D’Emilio & Freedman, 1988). The integrity of the family was critical to the development of community and was guarded with care. For men, the integrity of the family rested on female purity and monogamy. A woman’s value within society was based on her ability to marry and to produce legitimate heirs. The ability to attract a spouse was influenced by the woman’s perceived purity. The rape of a virgin was considered a crime against the father of the raped woman rather than against the woman herself. A raped woman could not expect to marry into a respectable family and might very well remain the economic liability of the father.

During the colonial period, the rape cases most likely to come to court were those in which the perpetrator was from a lower social class than the victim or in which the victim was a married woman who physically resisted. “When men of the lower order raped women of a higher social standing, they threatened the prerogatives of other men” (Lindemann, 1984, p. 81). Women were dependent on the courts and community (i.e., men) for their protection. In order to ensure her safety, a woman who was sexually attacked needed to comply with male standards for her behavior by proving her nonconsent through physical and verbal resistance, and through immediate disclosure of the attack to both family and neighbors. Proof of nonconsent was necessary to verify that the woman had not voluntarily engaged in sexual acts outside of marriage. If a woman could not prove nonconsent, she might be punished for the assault (D’Emilio & Freedman, 1988). Rape was therefore “an expression of male control over women, regulated by law in a way that serves the men who hold political power more than it protects women” (Lindemann, 1984, p. 81).

The 19th Century

Toward the end of the 18th century, sexual meanings began to change. Sexuality no longer was tied so closely to reproductive intentions, and more emphasis was placed on courtship and individual choice rather than on community and family control. The subsequent decline in traditional church and state regulation of morality loosened constraints on nonmarital sex.

During the 19th century, young women from the countryside and from immigrant families began to enter the paid work force and earn their livings outside the family household. Patriarchal controls over women’s time, behavior, and sexuality weakened (Stansell, 1986). With increased freedom, however, also came increased vulnerability. Previously, “courtship was one part of a system of barter between the sexes, in which a woman traded sexual favors for a man’s promise to marry. Premarital intercourse then became a token of betrothal” (Stansell, 1986, p. 87). Women, however, no longer could assume that a pregnancy would lead to marriage.

Female virtue continued to be important for finding a spouse. In the 19th century women were viewed as pure and virtuous by nature, and as disinterested in sex. Women of all classes were expected to use their natural purity and superior morality to control men’s innate lust. The impure woman threatened thedelicate moral balance and suggested the “social disintegration that sexuality symbolized” (Freedman, 1981, p. 20). A woman who engaged in sexual intercourse, even against her will, was considered to be depraved-a “fallen” woman-and was often blamed for the man’s crime and socially stigmatized as a result of the attack. “As woman falls from a higher point of perfection, so she sinks to a profounder depth of misery than man” (Freedman, 198 1, p. 18).

The 20th Century

During the 20th century, the writings of Sigmund Freud and other psychologists and sexologists provided the foundation for reconceptualizing sexual behavior and categorizing sexual deviations. One emerging concern was an interest in understanding the causes of sexual aggression. Many hypotheses were developed, but most theories included the belief that rape was a perversion and that rapists were mentally ill (Amir, 1971).

One theory of sexual aggression suggested that the rapist’s behavior was the result of socialization by a strong maternal figure and a weak paternal figure. Another theory proposed that the rapist’s behavior was the result of a defective superego that left the individual unable to control his sexual and aggressive impulses. Therefore, the rapist was considered to have a “character disorder” and was classified as a “sick” individual. Other theories to explain the rapist’s behavior included castration fears, feelings of sexual inferiority and inadequacy, homosexual tendencies, organic factors, and mental deficiencies (Amir, 1971). All of these theories reduced the rapist’s responsibility for his actions since he was considered unable to control his pathological impulses. In other words, rape was reconceptualized from the perpetrator’s point of view. The focus was on understanding the plight of the man, not the woman. Her victimization was simply a by-producf of his pathology.

During the 1930s, the public increasingly became interested in sex crimes committed by men against women. In 1937, the New Yo& TZneJ- created a new index category of sex crimes, which included 143 articles published that year (Freedman, 1989). Due to the influence of psychoanalytic theories, sex offenders began to be considered more as deviants than as criminals. Between 1935 and 1965, several state commissions to investigate sex crimes were formed; in many places, authority for the treatment and rehabilitation of the sex offender shifted away from the penal system and toward the mental health system (Freedman, 1989). Psychiatrists began to carry more influence concerning treatment of the sex offender. The label “sexual psychopath” was used to describe the violent male offender who was unable to control his sexual impulses and attacked the object of his frustrated desires. Thus rape was conceptualized primarily as an act of sex rather than an act of violence.

As awareness of sex crimes increased, public concern also escalated. Several “sex psychopath laws” were passed that permitted offenders to receive indefinite commitment to state mental hospitals rather than jail sentences. This law reform, initiated by male legislators, was opposed by many women who endorsed stronger criminal penalties for rape and sexual assault. Although sexual psychopath laws were promoted as a measure to protect women, in reality these laws often resulted in White men being labeled as mentally ill and sent to state hospitals, and Black men being found guilty of a crime and sent to jail (Freedman, 1989).

Racial Aspects of Rape

In addition to oppressing women, rape served as a method of racial control. The sexual assault of minority women maintained the supremacy of White men. The experience of the Black female victim was virtually ignored (cf. Wyatt, this issue). White men used women as verbs with which to communicate with one another (rape being a means of communicating defeat to the men of a conquered tribe). . . . Rape sent a message to black men, but more centrally, it expressed male sexual attitudes in a culture both racist and patriarchal. (Hall, 1983, p. 322)

In the post-Reconstruction South, White men used the myth of the Black man as sexually uncontrollable and as a threat to all White women as an excuse for violence toward Black men and as a means to control women through fear. Black men who were accused of sexually attacking White women received the harshest penalties. A Black man convicted of rape often was executed or castrated (D’Emilio & Freedman, 1988; Jordon, 1968; Wyatt, this issue). In the 1930s the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching stated Redefinition of Rape 13 that the traditions of chivalry and lynching were a form of sexual and racial intimidation rather than protection.

Lynching, it proclaimed, far from offering a shield against sexual assault, served as a weapon of both racial and sexual terror, planting fear in women’s minds and dependency in their hearts. It thrust them in the role of personal property or sexual objects, ever threatened by black men’s lust, ever in need of white men’s protection. (Hall, 1983, p.339) The myth of the Black rapist still lingers in more severe sentencing penalties for Black offenders (Hall, 1983). Thus rape and its legal treatment can be seen as the ultimate demonstration of power in a racist and patriarchal society.

Perceptions of the Rape Victim

In addition to changes in the conceptualization of male offenders, society’s perception of the victim’s role in the assault also changed during the 20th century. As female nature became sexualized and female desire for sexuality legitimated, rape became redefined as “not only a male psychological aberration, but also an act in which women . . . contributed to their victimization” (Freedman, 1989, p. 21 I). Many people became skeptical that a woman could be raped if she did not consent. A well-known attorney once began a rape trial by placing a coke bottle on a table, spinning it, and demonstrating to the jury his difficulty in forcing a pencil into the opening (Margolin, 1972). The implication was that a woman would be able to fend off a man attempting to rape her (Schwendinger & Schwendinger, 1983). Therefore, if a woman was raped, she must have “asked for it.”

Laws requiring physical evidence of penetration, the need for corroboration, and allowing testimony about the victim’s sexual history in court trials had the effect of placing the victim on trial. In addition, juries often still received the traditional instruction that an accusation of rape “is one which is easily made and, once made, difficult to defend against, even if the person accused is innocent” (Berger, 1977, p. 10). The jury was cautioned to be suspicious of the victim’s testimony, much more so than in other criminal cases. As a result, prosecution rates for rape remained low.
In 1972, 3,562 rapes were reported in Chicago; 833 arrests were made, 23 defendants pleaded guilty; and 8 were found guilty and sentenced after a trial . . . fewer than 1 percent of rapes resulted in jail sentences. (Deckard, 1983, p. 433)

The Feminist Redefinition of Sexual Assault

During the 1960s, increasing numbers of women were employed. As the decade began, approximately 36% of women worked outside the home; by its end, over 50% of women were in the paid labor force (Deckard, 1983). Although women’s presence in the public sphere was increasing, they rarely held decision and policy-making positions.

With women’s increasing involvement in activities outside the home, the opportunity for a woman to be victimized increased (Gardner, 1980). A few men viewed women’s new-found assertiveness and involvement in the public sphere as an attack on traditional roles and a defiance of chivalry. To such men, the woman who did not conform to traditional roles was relegated to the role of the “loose woman” and was not entitled to protection under the traditional guidelines for male-female relationships (Griffin, 197 1). The following description of rape in the 19th century still applied:

sexual assault could be conceived of . . . as an exploitation of women’s presumed dependence on men. If a woman had herself violated patriarchal norms by straying out of her dependent position-if she had fought off her attacker, asserted her rights alone in court, or behaved in too self-reliant a manner more generally-the term “rape” no longer applied, no matter how forceful the attack visited on her. (Arnold, 1989, p. 49)

Societal definitions of rape demanded adherence to traditionally defined feminine roles and behaviors. The implicit warning to women was to behave (e.g., accept traditional feminine roles) or to suffer the consequence-rape. Women, however, began to resist traditional definitions of appropriate feminine behavior and expressed their dissatisfaction. Betty Friedan (1963), in The Feminine Mystique, and the National Organization for Women (NOW), founded in 1966, expressed women’s changing views and interest in public reform. Women’s liberationists also began to work toward changing social policies. A process called consciousness raising was used in informal women’s groups to begin to empower women and to help them identify sources of sisterhood and oppression. As women began to meet, they realized that individual concerns (e.g., sexual harassment, fear of walking the streets at night) were widely shared. As a result, many women questioned the reasons for their oppression, and they began to recognize that “the personal is political.” The dilemmas women were experiencing were not idiosyncratic, but were constructed socially as a result of the hierarchial gender system in our culture (D’Emilio & Freedman, 1988). Kate Millet (1970) in her landmark book, Sexual Politics, concluded that within our patriarchal system, force takes “a form of violence particularly sexual in nature and realized most completely in the act of rape” (p. 69).

During the 1970s; rape became an important issue within the feminist movement. Sexual assault was redefined from the victim’s perspective. A woman’s victimization was an “experience of helplessness and loss of control, the sense of one’s self as an object of rage” (Hall, 1983, p. 342). The act of rape was seen not as an end in itself, but as a means of enforcing gender roles in society and maintaining the hierarchy in which men retained control. Feminists refuted the long-held belief that rapists were men who were helplessly controlled by their overwhelming sexual impulses. Rape was recognized as an act of violence, not of sex as psychoanalytic theorists had previously held. Rape was a form of domination and control, a weapon used to enforce women’s subordinate role to men.

In 197 1, an article by Susan Griffin described rape as the “All-American crime.” She reported that “forcible rape is the most frequently committed violent crime in America today,” and emphasized that all women are victims even if they are not the direct targets of the attack because “rape and the fear of rape are a daily part of every woman’s consciousness” (p. 27). She held that women’s behavior is shaped by their fear of attack, and as a result, women’s movements are restricted. They fear to live alone, walk outside at night, smile at strangers, and leave their windows open. Psychological research has found that women’s perceptions of their vulnerability to attack and their fear of being a victim of a violent crime are related to the amount of precautionary behaviors in which they engage. Women, especially those unsure of their ability to protect themselves physically, engage in isolating behavior, such as not going out at night or visiting friends (Riger & Gordon, 1981). This limits women’s opportunities to be active participants in the public sphere.

The first rape crisis center was founded in Washington, DC, in 1972, and the number of centers has increased steadily since that time (Deckard, 1983). Now there are more than 550 rape crisis centers across the country, some helping as many as 1100 victims annually (King & Webb, 1981). Rape crisis centers and rape hotlines provide valuable assistance to victims of sexual assault and rape. Victims are provided with information and escorted to the police station and the hospital, and volunteers serve as advocates for the victim after the attack. Many of these centers also have educational programs in the community to help dispel rape myths and change public attitudes about rape (Deckard, 1983). Cuts in governmental funding during the Reagan administration, however, have resulted in the closing of some centers, and in an increased need for volunteers and private funding.

Susan Brownmiller (1975), in her bestselling book, Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, reaffirmed the relationship between sexual aggression and women’s fear, defining rape as “a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear” (p. 5). Her book was crucial in the definition of rape from a feminist perspective. Brownmiller’s analysis formed the foundation for numerous theoretical papers and psychological research. Her book detailed the evolution of rape in our culture and the role it has played throughout history.

Brownmiller began her analysis by considering biology. Women are physiologically vulnerable to sexual attack, and once “men discovered that they could rape, they proceeded to do it” (1975, p. 6). Rape served a critical function of domination and intimidation in primitive societies. “His forcible entry into her body, despite her physical protestations and struggle, became the vehicle of his victorious conquest over her being, the ultimate test of his superior strength, the triumph of his manhood” ( p. 5). Rape, therefore, was a purposeful act of control. In some cases, rape was an act of manhood, a rite of passage, or a form of male bonding. This male bonding, on occasion, is exhibited in the form of gang rape. Examining gang rape, Brownmiller concluded that “ ‘sharing the girl among us fellows’ strengthens the notion of group masculinity and power” (p.28). This bond between men results from their “contempt for women” and thrives in a culture of “forced and exaggerated male/female polarities” (p. 21 1).

The victims of rape often are portrayed as secretly enjoying their victimization-a depiction particularly common in the media. Movie images often present the woman as resisting only initially and eventually becoming overwhelmed by sexual desire despite her original protests. These images reinforce rape myths, and they prompted many feminists to speak out against the way women are portrayed in the media (Jozsa & Jozsa, 1980; Read, 1989). The images themselves represent women as inferior and as victims rather than agents in their own sexuality. Groth and Birnbaum (1979, p. 27) stated that “pornography is a media equivalent to the crime of rape. It is the sexual expression of power and anger.” Women began to speculate about the relationship between the way women were portrayed in the media and the prevalence of rape and sexual assault. As a result, the phrase “pornography is the theory, rape is the practice” became a rallying cry for some radical feminists (Morgan, 1980, p. 134).

The use of coercive authority also is a component of sexual assaults in our culture. Sometimes a mere difference in status provides the necessary tool to force intercourse on an unwilling partner. Date rape, homosexual rape in prisons, and rape by police are just a few examples of this form of manipulation. In reality, however, all rapes involve status differences due to the gender-based distribution of power in our society (Box, 1983, p. 150). A woman’s resistance within a dependent relationship often is weakened and she becomes vulnerable to being victimized. In addition, victimization may be facilitated by the institutional structure, which often places men in positions of authority and power over women. “Rape by an authority figure can befuddle a victim who has been trained to respect authority so that she believes herself complicitous. Authority figures emanate an aura of rightness; their actions cannot be challenged” (Brownmiller, 1975, p. 300). The victim is left with feelings of guilt and powerlessness, while the aggressor’s behavior is left undisputed. For years, many women blamed themselves and did not define their sexual victimization as rape. Since the advent of feminism, and with increased research and public education, women have begun to define unwanted sexual intercourse, even contact between acquaintances, as rape (Warshaw, 1988).

Acquaintance Rape

As public discourse on sexual violence continued, it became increasingly evident that rapists were not only strangers behind bushes, but also might be dates, acquaintances, neighbors, husbands, friends, and relatives. Feminists made the case that every man is a potential rapist and all women are potential victims. Due to this reconceptualization, date rape became an area of concern. In 1972, Ms. magazine discussed the issue of date rape on college campuses across the country. Initial research indicated that rape between acquaintances was much more common than previously believed. Kanin and Parcel1 (1977) found that approximately 83% of college women had experienced male sexual aggression while dating. Research a decade later confirmed this incidence rate. Koss, Gidycz, and Wisniewski (1987) found that 27.5% of college women reported being victims of rape or attempted rape; 53.7% of women, including those who reported being raped, had experienced some form of unwanted sexual contact and/or sexually assaultive behavior. These results suggest that sexually aggressive behavior is experienced by the majority of women in ‘‘normal’’ dating relationships. This high incidence rate gives credence to the feminist conceptualization of rape as being supported by our culture.

Psychological Research on Rape

The views of feminists, in particular the work of Susan Brownmiller, sparked research within psychology to examine the “rape-supportive culture” that provides the context for sexual assault. Researchers made empirical studies of feminist ideas and combined these feminist views into a theoretical framework to understand and predict sexual aggression. Martha Burt (1980) hypothesized that our culture and the status of women within that culture play a significant role in the attitudes toward sexual violence held by persons, particularly rapists. She hypothesized that myths about rape (e.g., “women ask for it”) might act as releasers or facilitators of sexual aggression. These rape myths were proposed as part of a larger attitudinal structure that serves to facilitate sexually aggressive acts in our culture. Attitudinal factors that were found by Burt to predict rape-supportive myths were (a) sex role stereotyping, (b) adversarial sexual beliefs, and (c) acceptance of interpersonal violence.

Sex role stereotyping refers to the appropriateness of familial, work, and social roles being based on the sex of the individual being considered (e.g., “It is acceptable for a woman to have a career, but marriage and family should come first”; Burt, 1980, p. 222). Adversarial sexual beliefs refers to the view that male-female relationships are naturally filled with conflict and competition (e.g., “Most women are sly and manipulating when they are out to attract a man”-p. 222). Acceptance of interpersonal violence refers to the belief that violence is an appropriate way of interacting with others, particularly in male-female relationships (e.g., “Sometimes the only way to get a cold woman turned on is to use force”-p. 222). These attitudes were studied by researchers (Burt & Albin, 1981; Check & Malamuth, 1983; Malamuth, 1983) as a means to understand sexual aggression using a feminist framework.

Koss, Leonard, Beezley, and Oros (1985) developed a theoretical model for characterizing nonstranger sexual aggression that incorporated Burt’s findings and feminist views. They proposed a social control/social conflict model of date rape:

Culturally transmitted assumptions about men, women, violence, sexuality, and myths about rape constitute a rape-supportive belief system. Furthermore. stratified systems such as the American dating situation may legitimate the use of force by those in power and weaken resistance of the less powerful. Finally, acquisition of stereotyped myths about rape may result in a failure to label as rape sexual aggression that occurs in dating situations. (Koss et al., 1985, p. 982)

This view of a culturally based belief system that perpetuates violence against women and oppresses women has been endorsed by several feminist writers (Brownmiller, 1975; Griffin, 1971; Johnson, 1980).

Rape Within the Legal System

In the colonial period, the law conceptualized rape as the violation of a man’s property. It was a man’s personal privilege to have access to a woman’s body. Feminist theorists have rejected traditional legal conceptualizations, which often blame the woman for her own victimization, and have refuted rape myths that women enjoy being raped, and ask and deserve to be raped by dressing provocatively. They refuse to allow women to be blamed for their own victimization. Instead, blame is placed squarely on the attacker.

Feminists have lobbied for changes in rape legislation. Previous laws considered rape an all-or-nothing crime, in which convicted offenders received sentences that ranged from 5 years to life depending on the particular state’s statutes. Maximum sentences of 30-50 years in prison were not uncommon for convicted rapists (Babcock, Freedman, Norton, & Ross, 1975). Prior to the 1972 case of Furman v. Georgia, which “invalidated arbitrary capital punishment laws, sixteen states permitted imposition of death for rape” (Berger, 1977, p. 8). Some writers hypothesized that the severe penalties for rape may have discouraged juries from convicting a defendant because of a “perceived sense of disproportion between culpability and the prescribed sentence” (Andenaes, 1966, p. 970). Now most states have revised their laws to include several levels of sexual assault with a broader range of penalties. A perpetrator may be charged with first-, second-, or third-degree rape, with each charge varying in the maximum sentence following conviction. First degree rape is defined as forced sexual intercourse under aggravated circumstances. Second degree rape is described as forced sexual intercourse. Third degree rape is defined as nonconsensual intercourse or intercourse with threat to self or property. This calibrated system of offenses and penalties has increased conviction rates, and may therefore enhance the effectiveness of prosecution as a deterrent (Andenaes, 1966, p. 970). In addition, the criterion of force was determined in the past by examining the victim’s behavior rather than the offender’s behavior. In the 1970s, women in New York needed the corroboration of a witness who saw or heard the assault to verify that it had indeed been rape, and that the woman had resisted the attack. In addition, some states viewed “no resistance” as consensual intercourse, and required the victim to have verbally said “no” or forcibly resisted or screamed (Margolin, 1972). Unless the woman exhibited these behaviors, the man’s behavior was not considered rape.

In 1974, Michigan passed the first comprehensive rape reform legislation in the country (Loh, 1981). Since that time, most states have enacted similar changes. These reforms have focused on the perpetrator’s behavior (e.g., use of physical force or threat of force) as the legal criterion rather than the victim’s behavior alone. The context of the assault and the interaction between the victim and assailant are becoming increasingly important.

Although rape legislation has changed a great deal, many changes are still sought (see Goldberg-Ambrose, this issue). In about half of the states a man cannot be charged with sexually assaulting his wife unless they are separated legally. In six states, a husband can never be charged with raping his wife (Searles & Berger, 1987). Recently a North Carolina woman was kidnapped and raped by her husband, but since they had been separated less than one year, the separation was not yet legal and she was unable to charge him with rape. In one-fourth of the states, a man cannot be the victim of rape (Searles & Berger, 1987). In states with progressive statutes, sex-neutral terminology is used for both offender and victim. In approximately 70% of states, a victim’s past sexual behavior with persons other than the defendant is admissible for determining consent, while only six states prohibit the introduction of the victim’s sexual history (Searles & Berger, 1987).

Criticism of Radical Feminist Reconceptualizations

Some feminists have criticized Brownmiller’s ( 1975) conceptualization of rape. Rather than placing all the blame on women as in the past, Brownmiller counterblamed, condemning all men for their innate violence (Benjamin, 1983). In addition, radical feminists have ignored the “history of women’s resistance to oppression” and focused on sexuality itself as the enemy- “an unchanging, aggressive male sexuality of which women have been eternally the victims” (Arnold, 1989, p. 36). Brownmiller’s book also has been faulted as “supporting a notion of universal patriarchy and timeless sexual victimization; it leaves no room for understanding the reasons for women’s collaboration, their own sources of power, . . . the class and racial differences in their experience of discrimination and sexual danger” (Hall, 1983, p. 341). The radical feminist view also focuses exclusively on the negative. Some writers believe that in order for feminism to persist, women must use their own strength as an energy source for reform.

Social movements, feminism included, move toward a vision; they cannot operate solely on fear. It is not enough to move women away from danger and oppression; it is necessary to move toward something: toward pleasure, agency, self-definition. Feminism must increase women’s pleasure and joy. not just decrease our misery. (Vance, 1984, p. 24)

Areas of Action and Change: Then and Now

Education is still needed to help change society’s attitudes about rape. In the recent past, women have been the target for increased awareness, but now men also are being included in the process of consciousness raising (Walsh, 1990). “The anti-rape movement must not limit itself to training women to avoid rape or depending on imprisonment as a deterrent, but must aim its attention at changing the behavior and attitudes of men” (Hall, 1983, p. 346). For example, the University of Florida has introduced a program called FARE (Fraternity Acquaintance Rape Education) to educate men in fraternities and on athletic teams (Walsh, 1990).

Education of women also is needed to empower them to action. In our culture, women are socialized to be submissive, but some feminists have challenged this role. “To be submissive is to defer to masculine strength; is to lack muscular development or any interest in defending oneself” (Griffin, 1971, p.33). Women can take courses in self-defense to strengthen their bodies, and to gain the ability and the confidence to defend themselves should they be attacked. Ann Sheldon (1972) felt this solution to rape was inescapable: “there is no other way except resistance to be free” (p. 23).
Feminists clearly have made a major difference in the way sexual assault and rape are understood in our culture. Yet considering the long historical tradition of women bearing the guilt for sexual victimization, it is not surprising that much still needs to change. Over 15 years ago, Brownmiller called for action, saying, “the purpose in this book has been to give rape its history. Now we must deny it a future” (1975, p. 454). That need is still true today.

References

Amir. M. (1971). Palterns in forcible rap. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Andenaes, J. (1966). The general prevention effects of punishment. Pmnsvlvania Law Review. 114,
949-983.

Arnold. M. H. (1989). The life of a citizen in the hands of a woman: Sexual assault in New York City, 1790-1820. In K. Peiss & C. Simmons (Eds.), Passion andpower: Sexualit?, in history (pp.
35-56). Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
Babcock. B.. Freedman. A.. Norton, D., &Ross, S. (1975). Sexdiscriminationandthe law. Boston:
Little. Brown.
Benjamin. J. (1983). Master and slave: The fantasy of erotic domination. In A. Snitow, C. Stansell.
& S. Thompson (Eds.
)* Powrs ofdesire: The polirics ofse-rualit?,
(pp. 280-299). New York:
Monthly Review Press.
Berger. V. (1977). Man’s trial. woman’s tribulation: Rape cases in the courtroom. Columbia Law
Review. 77, 1 – 10 I .
Box, S. (1983). Power, crime. and mystification. London: Tavistock.
Brownmiller, S. (1975). Against our will: Men, women and rape. Toronto: Bantam.
Burt. M. R. (1980). Cultural myths and supports for rape. Journal of Personalit?,
andSocial Psychol-
Burt, M. R., & Albin, R. S. (1981). Rape myths, rape definitions, and probability of conviction,
Journal of Applied Sociul Psychology. I1
I 212-230.
Check, J. V. P., & Malamuth, N. M. (1983). Sex role stereotyping and reactions to depictions of
stranger versus acquaintance rape. Journal of Personalit?, and Social Psychologv, 45, 344-
356.
Deckard. B. S. ( 1983). The woman’s movement: Political, socioeconomic. and psychological issues
(3rd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
D’Emilio, J., & Freedman, E. B. (1988). Intimate matters: A history of sexuality in America. New
York: Harper & Row.
Freedman, E. B. (1981). Their sisters’ keepers: Women’s
prison reform in America, 1893-1930.
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Freedman, E. B. (1989). Uncontrolled desires: The response to the sexual psychopath, 1920-1960.
In K. Peiss & C. Simmons (Eds), Passion and power; Sexualit?, in history (pp. 199-225).
Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press.
ogy. 38, 217-230.
Friedan. B. (1 963). The ,feminine mystique. New York: Dell.
Gardner, T. A. (1980). Racism in pornography and the women’s movement. In L. Lederer (Ed.).
Take buck the night: Women and pornography (pp. 105- 1 14). New York: Morrow.
Griffin. S. (1971). Rape: The all-American crime. Ramparts. 10, 26-35.
Groth, A,, & Bimbaum, H. (1979). Men who rape: The psychology of the offender. New York:
Plenum.
Hall. J. D. (1983). The mind that bums in each body: Women, rape, and racial violence. In A.
Snitow, C. Stansell, & S. Thompson (Eds.), Powers ofdesire: The politics of sexualit?, (pp,
328-349). New York: Monthly Review Press.
Johnson, A. G. (1980). On the prevalence of rape in the United States. Signs; Journal of Women in
Culture and Socieh, 6. 136-146.
Jordon. W. ( 1968). White over Black: American attitudes toward the Negro. Williamsburg, VA:
University of North Carolina Press.
Jozsa, B., & Jozaa, M. (1980). Dirty books, dirty films, and dirty data. In L. Lederer (Ed.). Take
back the night: Women on pornography ( pp. 204-2 17). New York: Morrow.
Kanin, E. J.. & Parcell, S. R. (1977). Sexual aggression: A second look at the offended female.
Archives of Sexual Behavior, 6. 61-16.
King, H. E., & Webb, C. (1981). Rape crisis centers: Progress and problems. Journal of Social
Issues, 37(4). 93-104.
Koehler, L. (1980). A search for power: The “weaker sex” in seventeenth-century New England.
Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Koss, M. P.. Gidycz, C. A., & Wisniewski. N. (1987). The scope of rape: Incidence and prevalence
of sexual aggression and victimization in a national sample of higher education students.
Journal of Consulting arid Clinical Psychology. 55. 162- 170.
Koss. M. P., Leonard, K. E.. Beezley, D. A., & Oros, C. J. (1985). Non-stranger sexual aggression:
A discriminant analysis of the psychological characteristics of undetected offenders. Sex
Roles. 12. 981-992.
Lindemann, B. S. (1984). “To ravish and carnally know”: Rape in eighteenth-century Massachu-
setts. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 10, 63-82.
22 Donat and D’Emilio
Loh, W. D. (1981). Q: What has reform of rape legislation wrought? A: Truth in criminal labelling.
Journal of Social Issues, 37(4), 28-52.
Malaniuth, N. M. (1983). Factors associated with rape as predictors of laboratory aggression against
women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 432-442.
Margolin, D. (1972). Rape: The facts. Women: A Journal of Liberation. 3, 19-22.
Millet, K. (1970). Sexual politics. New York: Avon.
Morgan, R. (1980). Theory and practice: Pornography and rape. In L. Lederer (Ed.), Take back the
nigh[: Women and pornography (pp. 134-140). New York: Morrow.
Read, D. (1989). (De)constructing pornography: Ferninisms in conflict. In K. Peiss & C. Simmons
(Eds.), Passion and power: Sexuality in hislory (pp. 277-292). Philadelphia, PA: Temple
University Press.
Riger, S.. & Gordon, M. T. (1981). The fear of rape: A study in social control. Journal of Social
Issues, 37(4), 71-92.
Schwendinger, J. R., & Schwendinger, H. (1983). Rape and inequality. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Searles. P., & Berger, R. J. (1987). The current status of rape reform legislation: An examination of
Sheldon. A. (1972). Rape: The solution. Women: A Journal of Liberarion, 3, 23.
Stansell, C. (1986). City of women: Sex and class in New York, 1789-1860. New York: Knopf.
Vance. C. S. (1984). Pleasure and danger: Toward a politics of sexuality. In C. Vance (Ed.), Pleasure
und dunger: Exploring female sexuality (pp. 1-27). Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Walsh, C. (1990, April). FARE: Fraternity acquainrance rape education. Paper presented at the
Southeastern Psychological Association meeting, Atlanta.
Warshaw, R. (1988). I never called ir rape. New York: Harper & Row.
state statutes. Women’s Rights Law Reporter, 10, 25-43.
PATRICIA L. N. DONAT is a social research associate at the University of
North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) School of Nursing. She earned her mas-
ter’s degree in clinical psychology at UNCG and is currently a doctoral student in
social psychology. Her research has focused on acquaintance rape and the at-
titudinal accessibility of rape supportive attitudes among college men.
JOHN D’EMILIO is Associate Professor of History at the University of North
Carolina at Greensboro. He is author of Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities:
The Making of a Homosexual Minority, 1940-1970 (1983) and coauthor of
tntimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (1988).

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s