Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape

Simon and Schuster, $10.95

Rape, according to Susan Brownmiller, is “a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” If you can buy that, you will find a lot to agree with in Against Our Will. However, if you resist the political definition of rape, you may feel that there is something wrong with the book, with its assumption and with its sense of balance.
Susan Brownmiller has assiduously researched the history, literature, and law of rape. She has become a scholar of sexual abuse, and she writes about it with energy, style, and unflagging indignation. This is an intelligent book and an ambitious one, so it is discouraging to think that its audience is likely to fall out along ideological lines. The author offers some interesting and provocative arguments which are well worth our attention. But in the end, the dogma and the relentless documentation combine to produce a kind of feminist pornography that overwhelms the book’s more thoughtful passages. Persuasion is abandoned here in favor of force.
—Amanda Heller