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the Spinster and her Enemies

June 14, 2007
I am currently reading Sheila Jeffreys’ book, the Spinster and her Enemies. There is a paragraph that deserves to be quoted, over and over and over, and it is just in the Introduction!

Contemporary feminists have detailed the effects upon women of both the fear and the reality of rape, showing that the exercise of male sexuality in the form of rape, functions as a form of social control on women’s lives. Rape as social control has the effect of restricting where women may go, what women may do, and serves to ‘keep us in our place’ which is subordinate to men, thereby helping to maintain male domination over women. Work is now being done by feminists on the damaging effects upon women caused by the exercise of other aspects of male sexuality. The sexual abuse of children, prostitution, pornography, and sexual harassment at work are all now being documented and examined. Feminists are showing that these sexual practices by men are crimes against women though they have consistently been represented as victimless forms of male behavior. Considering that contemporary feminists are having to wage a difficult struggle to get forms of male behavior which are essentially crimes against women taken seriously, it is not at all surprising that women’s campaigns around precisely the same issues in the last wave of feminism are all but invisible to contemporary historians. Much of the feminist theoretical work on male sexual behavioral and its effects on women has been designed to show the ways in which sexual harassment in childhood and in adulthood, at work, on the street and in the home, restricts the lives and opportunities of women and generally undermines our confidence and self-respect. As the impact of men’s sexual violence on all the different areas of women’s lives is documented, it becomes clear that male sexual control is of enormous importance in maintaining women’s subordination. It is clear that we must look at the area of sexuality, not as merely a sphere of personal fulfillment, but as a battleground; an arena of struggle and power relationships between the sexes.

One Comment
  1. Professor Zero permalink
    June 16, 2007 7:44 pm

    Sounds like a great book!

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