Lewd Women and Wicked Witches: A Study of the Dynamics of Male Domination

By Marianne Hester | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

The introduction

The dynamics of male domination

In this book I set out to do two things. Firstly, to explore the specifically sexual, and dynamic, process whereby men have, and maintain, dominance over women. Secondly, in the light of this, to re-examine the early modern witch-hunts in England. I use what may be called a revolutionary feminist approach.

Men have, and maintain, power over women in many different ways and at many different levels: at work, in the home, through legislation, and so on. But the most crucial aspect of an explanation of women’s oppression and male dominance is the analysis of sexuality, because it is within the constructs of male and female sexualities that we may observe the central dynamic of male domination over women. In the context of male supremacy, male and female sexualities are constructed as specifically different and unequal. This has led MacKinnon, for instance, to argue that ‘male and female are created through the eroticization of submission and dominance’ (1987b:136). In other words, men’s power and women’s social inferiority are made ‘sexy’. The process of constructing women as erotic or ‘sexy’ objectifies them, positioning women as subordinate and men as dominant. We can see this process especially clearly within pornography, and it is acted out within heterosexual relations: where male sexuality objectifies the female object of desire, while female sexuality is objectified by the desired male subject. But this process is more generalised than even these examples suggest, it is integral to all male-female relations within male supremacy. Moreover, it is what makes male supremacy unique and especially enduring.

Male domination over women may be appear to be natural, but this is not the case. Men have to actively maintain and perpetuate their power over women. This takes place, as in the maintenance

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