Absolutely fascinating look at the politics of rape. This doesn't focus on the psychology behind why men rape, but rather the cultural allowances that encourage rape, and how women are blamed for their own rapes.
It talks about how the double standards where men are allowed to be promiscuous, and women are not, also make it allowable to hold a woman's sexual past against her when attempting to prosecute her rapist, while allowing the men to be spared the interrogation of if they've raped before.
I'm pretty sure at least some of this has changed, because this was written, as far as I can see, in 1979. I picked it up as a freebie during the Open Road Media giveaway - 5,000 books, this amongst them - and thought this would be too depressing to get through in one go.
Instead, I find myself fascinated because of the way the author writes: she's frank, even when talking about what she imagined rapists looked and sounded like before she'd had a boy a couple years older try to rape her. She's very factual, describing what has happened to women - using details when they're relevant to the point she's making - but not so much so that this is dry, or worse that it lacks compassion for the women. It is slightly depressing that so many things are the same, but I find myself bolstered by the community of women the internet has created, where we're allowed to talk about these double standards. (Although these double standards leak to the internet: men are allowed to 'troll' with a 'boys will be boys' attitude. Primus forbid we speak out against this, or are snarky about works of arts and literature, because then we're bitches, though. However, as the author described with passivity, women were once both preyed upon by men, and also forced to go to them for protection. It heartens me to see women encouraging and bolstering other women, especially online where this same double standard is being trotted out in a different form.)
I can't help but think about a certain man who white-knighted for women, while trashing them if they dared criticize him, or anyone he liked, or was rude. We were either 'good' girls to be protected or 'bad' girls to be punished. If we were bad, well, we got what we deserved in the end, with a little winky face. (The author talks about 'bad' girls and 'bad' victims and how if you're not a virgin, you can't be defiled and you deserve what you get. No, it's not exactly the same, but a lot of the same mindset comes into play. And proves that the double standards for women are alive and well. Boys will be boys, but women are either nice or bitches. They must just have some bigger *replace sexual with mean-spirited* need/urges/whatever word you use for it, amiright?)
I haven't been sexually assaulted. I haven't even had a man really attempt to sexually assault me, although I haven't been spared sexual harassment. Not at all, guys. I'm still incredibly lucky and this book makes me realize how lucky I am with a sharpness I haven't felt. And it makes me angry, too, that our culture allows this kind of mindset to continue on and on and on. And to show it's about culture, the author uses an example from another woman's work, where she talks about a culture in which rape is mystifying because they don't raise their boys to be men who will think that they need that kind of violence to show power. It's almost inconceivable because so much of our culture glorifies this attitude, but dammit, it makes me angry.
And, you know what? Men who use aggressive, sexual language, who joke about wanting people to be raped, who describe how they want women to suffer physically because of something they've done? You're encouraging this. You're telling people it's okay, because the thought of a woman's physical torment is less important than your freedom to terrify and humiliate her. I think 'you disgust me' is not strong enough here.
It's all tied into the ideas of masculinity - strong, aggressive, and also protectors of those they commit those aggressions against - and femininity which is passive. And which the author also talks about a great deal.