In the mid-1970s I read a feminist book with a premise that was something like:

All men are guilty of raping all women.

I would like to re-read this to see if I am remembering it correctly. I tried searching for the premise, but it did not help me find the book. Maybe I am remembering it wrong. I do not think so, because I remember being almost offended. The author strove not to make it sound like an attack. As I remember it, the large majority of the book was an explanation of its premise. It was well-written, but I disagreed (and still do).

Would someone please help me identify the title and author of this book?

  • Do you remember anything about the argument or explanation behind this claim?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 6:34
  • Are you sure it is not the novel The Women's Room by Marilyn French, 1977, where one of the characters make a statement to this effect? But this is one character, not a premise, so unsure.
    – fundagain
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 8:30
  • Val says, "all men are rapists, and that's all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes."
    – fundagain
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 8:45
  • @Randal'Thor I don't remember specifics; I read the book once 44 years ago. I think author was female. My general recollection is her argument was based on how women feel. She was not claiming actual physical rape, just that men disrespect women in ways that constantly degrade them.
    – RichF
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 16:47
  • 1
    @fundagain Thank you, but I'm sure it was not a novel. It was a non-fiction analysis. I half remember the book being on a best-seller list and was somewhat controversial. Since I don't normally read feminist literature, something must have really caught my attention. I was in the Navy at the time, and brought it with me to read on my first mission on my sub in 1975. Normally I read sci-fi/fantasy or science books.
    – RichF
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 16:54

3 Answers 3


Is it Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will?

Man's discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe. From prehistoric times to the present, I believe, rape has played a critical function. It is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.

Susan Brownmiller (1975). Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, pp. 14–15. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

It is certainly a controversial book, as anyone would expect, but well written enough that "[i]n 1995, the New York Public Library selected Against Our Will as one of 100 most important books of the 20th century" (Wikipedia).

  • That seems to be what I was looking for. Thanks. I wonder if I had the first edition, and in later editions she reworded the premise a bit. Either that, or I'm just misrembering (not at all unlikely).
    – RichF
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 19:09
  • @GarethRees Thank you for the link. Since I have lost my copy, I'll likely re-read it there. I think it is unlikely that she changed the wording, and very likely that I just remember it wrong. That said, as a minor point, I don't think the book you linked to is the 1975 edition. The copyright page (4) says "First Ballantine Books Edition: June 1993".
    – RichF
    Commented May 30, 2019 at 14:18

Andrea Dworkin was a feminist activist in the 1970s and later. In her book Intercourse (1987), she wrote:

A woman has a body that is penetrated in intercourse: permeable, its corporeal solideness a lie. The discourse of male truth—literature, science, philosophy, pornography—calls that penetration violation. This it does with some consistency and some confidence. Violation is a synonym for intercourse.

Andrea Dworkin (1987). Intercourse, p. 122. New York: The Free Press.

This passage has been interpreted as saying that "all heterosexual sex is rape," although she has said this a mischaracterization of her work:

Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. But I'm not saying that sex must be rape. What I think is that sex must not put women in a subordinate position. It must be reciprocal and not an act of aggression from a man looking only to satisfy himself. That's my point.

Andrea Dworkin (2000). Quoted in Michael Sheldon, 'I was taught to be too nice to boys', Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2000.

Her work, along with Catharine MacKinnon's work, was often brought up in the anti-pornography movement of the 1980s. I took a women's studies course in college in the late '80s, and they were part of the required reading.

  • Curious that she only categorizes heterosexual sex as rape. Was homosexual sex automatically considered non-rape? Or were the activities of gay men not relevant to 1970s feminists?
    – RichF
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 23:46
  • Great question, RichF. I am no expert on 1970s feminism, but I think Dworkin's positions on various topics were considered extreme rather than mainstream within the feminist movement.
    – Clarissa
    Commented Aug 7, 2019 at 20:21

Also important is Marilyn French:

"All men are rapists... They rape us with their eyes, their laws and their codes.”
The Women’s Room

  • 1
    Against Our Will was the book I was looking for -- a treatise, not a novel. I can see, though, how the thoughts in that quote are relevant to my question. I wonder if quotes like that are a 1970's form of "click bait", with intentional overreach to grab attention.
    – RichF
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 23:52
  • @RichF What French was referring to was males in general--the male gaze, and all of human history filled with laws and codes that suppress womens' rights. Definitely French was being intentionally inflammatory, and this particular quote is widely utilized in radical feminism, which is itself a response.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Aug 5, 2019 at 21:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.