Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape
Cover of the first edition
AuthorSusan Brownmiller
CountryUnited States
PublisherSimon & Schuster
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover and Paperback)
Pages472 (1986 Pelican Books edition)

Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape is a 1975 book about rape by Susan Brownmiller, in which the author argues that rape is "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear." This book is widely credited with changing public outlooks and attitudes about rape. Some commentators, including sociobiologists, criticized the book and rejected its conclusions.


Brownmiller criticizes authors such as Richard von Krafft-Ebing, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Engels for what she considers their oversights on the subject of rape. She defines rape as "a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear". She writes that, to her knowledge, no zoologist has ever observed that animals rape in their natural habitat.[1] Brownmiller sought to examine general belief systems that women who were raped deserved it, as discussed by Clinton Duffy and others. She discusses rape in war, challenges the Freudian concept of women's rape fantasies, and compares it to the gang lynchings of African Americans by white men.[2] This comparison was used to show how lynching was once considered acceptable by communities, and then attitudes changed, followed by changed laws; Brownmiller hoped the same would happen with rape.[3]


Against Our Will is widely credited with changing public outlooks and attitudes about rape.[2] It is cited as having influenced changes in law regarding rape, such as state criminal codes that required a corroborating witness to a rape, and that permitted a defendant's lawyer to introduce evidence in court regarding a victim's prior sexual history.[2] Mary Ellen Gale wrote in The New York Times Book Review that Against Our Will "deserves a place on the shelf next to those rare books about social problems which force us to make connections we have too long evaded, and change the way we feel about what we know."[4] It was included in the "Women Rise" category of the New York Public Library's Books of the Century.[5] The critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt gave the book a mostly positive review in The New York Times, noting that Brownmiller "organized an enormous body of information into a multipurposed tool" that gave a program for modernizing rape laws while considering the treatment of rape in war overly detailed and numbing.[6]

Others have taken a more critical view of the work. Gay scholar John Lauritsen dismissed Against Our Will, calling it "a shoddy piece of work from start to finish: ludicrously inaccurate, reactionary, dishonest, and vulgarly written."[7] Angela Davis argued that Brownmiller disregarded the part that black women played in the anti-lynching movement and that Brownmiller's discussion of rape and race became an "unthinking partnership which borders on racism".[8] Brownmiller's conclusions about rapists' motivations have been criticized by the anthropologist Donald Symons in The Evolution of Human Sexuality (1979),[9] and by Randy Thornhill and Craig T. Palmer in A Natural History of Rape (2000).[10] The historian Peter Gay wrote that Against Our Will "deserves pride of place among (rightly) indignant" feminist discussions of rape, but that Brownmiller's treatment of Sigmund Freud is unfair.[11]

The critic Camille Paglia called Against Our Will well-meaning, but nevertheless dismissed it as an example of "the limitations of white middle-class assumptions in understanding extreme emotional states or acts."[12] The behavioral ecologist John Alcock writes that while Brownmiller claimed that no zoologist had ever observed animals raping in their natural habitat, there was already "ample evidence" of forced copulations among animals in 1975, and that further evidence has accumulated since then.[13]


  1. ^ Brownmiller, Susan (1975). Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape, Simon & Schuster. Pelican Books edition, 1986: pp. 11, 12, 15.
  2. ^ a b c Cullen-DuPont, Kathryn (1 August 2000). Encyclopedia of Women's History in America. Infobase Publishing. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-0-8160-4100-8. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
  3. ^ Moore, Sally (November 10, 1975). "'Rape Is a Crime Not of Lust, but Power,' argues Susan Brownmiller". People. Vol. 4 no. 19. Time Inc. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017.
  4. ^ Gale, Mary Ellen (October 12, 1975). "Rape as the ultimate exercise of man's domination of women". The New York Times Book Review. Archived from the original on 2017-10-16. Retrieved 2017-08-23.
  5. ^ The New York Public Library's Books of the Century. Oxford University Press. 1996. ISBN 978-0-19-511790-5. Retrieved 2013-01-28.
  6. ^ Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher (October 16, 1975). "Books of The Times: Rape as the Combat in a War". The New York Times. p. 37. Archived from the original on 2017-10-16. Retrieved October 16, 2017.
  7. ^ Lauritsen, John (1976). "Rape: Hysteria and Civil Liberties". Archived from the original on July 3, 2017. Retrieved October 16, 2017. Essay initially published in shorter form in The Gay Liberator (Detroit) in 1976 and complete in mimeographed pamphlet that year. Posted online 2001.
  8. ^ Davis, Angela Y. (1981). Women, Race & Class. Random House, Vintage Books. pp. 195, 198. ISBN 0-394-71351-6.
  9. ^ Symons, Donald (1979). The Evolution of Human Sexuality. Oxford University Press. p. 278.
  10. ^ Thornhil, Randy; Palmer, Craig T (2000). A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion. The MIT Press. pp. 133-135, 138–139.
  11. ^ Gay, Peter (1995). The Bourgeois Experience Victoria to Freud. The Cultivation of Hatred. London: FontanaPress. p. 620. ISBN 0-00-638089-1.
  12. ^ Camille, Paglia (1995). Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. Penguin Books. p. 24.
  13. ^ Alcock, John (2001). The Triumph of Sociobiology. Oxford University Press. p. 207.