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Book Review: Against Rape, A Survival Manual for Women (Medea, Thompson)
Reviewed by Deb Friedman
Feminist Alliance Against Rape Newsletter Sep/Oct 1974

Aqainst Rape, A Survival Manual for Women; How to Avoid Entrapment and How to Cope With Rape Physically and Emotionally by Andra Medea and Kathleen Thompson

Against Rape is the first book on rape to come directly out of the experience of women who are active participants in the fight against rape. And it shows. Against Rape stands out among the recent flood of popular books on the subject as the most valid from a feminist viewpoint. This is true for a variety of reasons. First, it is written for women. While other books deal .with presenting the facts about rape, creating consciousness and revealing the sexist nature of institutional responses to rape, Against Rape is clearly written to provide women with the means to actually begin dealing with rape. This perspective comes from the authors' awareness that rape will be eliminated only through the efforts of women themselves. And they are positive that "Women can do something to stop rapists."

In addition, Against Rape goes further than merely showing how attitudes about rape reveal sexism. "Rape is all the hatred, contempt and oppression of women in this society concentrated in one act," say the authors. To any woman who is organizing against rape, it is clear that sexism is the very cause of rape and that an end to rape would of necessity mean an end to sexism.

The authors go to a lot of trouble to explain why it is important to consider rape to be "any sexual intimacy forced on one person by another." Not only does it matter how the courts define rape, but also how society, and even more important, how women themselves determine what constitutes rape. The ambivalence of society in defining rape as only those acts that are legally prosecutable as rape is explained by the authors as reflecting the attitude that rape is a crime against some man's property. If rape were defined as a crime against a woman's sexual self-determination, they argue, then all such crimes would be viewed as rape, regardless of the legal status of the crime. Also, if more women viewed rape in this way, they would stop internalizing the responsibility for rape and begin to deal with putting an end to rape.

One chapter of the book is devoted to social patterns which perpetuate rape. It dwells on situations where rape is a logical extension of the "courtship ritual in which a woman possesses and guards a prize which the man attempts to win from her." The authors emphasize sexual objectification of women in their explanation of why men rape. Hostility towards women is also mentioned as a reason for rape, but it is not developed as thoroughly. The need to control another human being is not mentioned at all.

Although Against Rape makes a strong case for sexism being the cause of rape, it does not deal with how rape is used to perpetuate sexism and how it relates to other oppressive conditions in society. The authors state that the rapist "sees women a~ the victims authorized by society" but don't explain why society needs to have "authorized victims."

A large section of Against Rape is devoted to specific information about rape prevention, self-defense and being prepared for rape, if it happens. There won't be anything in Against Rape which is new to women who are actively organizing against rape. However, it is an extremely valuable book with broad appeal to the general public. It not only explains rape in feminist terms but also sums up much of the experience of the anti-rape movement to date.

(Against Rape is available in paperback from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.)