Rape as a Product of Gender Norms: Synthesizing Brownmiller's Reconceputalization of Sexual Assault With Tenets of Phenomenology

Kimberly Martin, Georgia State University

Susan Brownmiller's seminal 1975 work, Against Our Will, shifted the conceptual landscape of rape theory and forced the criminological discipline to be more sensitive to the role that social factors play in the creation and perpetuation of pro-rape sentiments and behaviors. The present paper presents a historical analysis of the contours of post-Brownmiller rape theory. This is followed by a theoretical exercise aimed at synthesizing Brownmiller's learning-based model with the tenets of phenomenology. Namely, the ideas set forth by Messerschmidt (2000) and Katz (1988) are used to argue that pro-rape ideals and sentiments are firmly grounded in the everyday practices of "doing" masculinity. In short, rape-based learning takes place within the context of normal, everyday masculinity wherein messages of aggressivity coexist with messages of sexuality. Over time, some men distort and combine these seemingly mundane social tests to produce and reinforce rape-based ideas and behaviors.

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Updated 05/20/2006