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

By Marianne Hester | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

Towards a revolutionary feminist approach

Male sexual violence against women 1

Throughout the 1970s growing feminist, and also public, awareness about the issue of male violence against women, violence specifically directed at women by men, prompted the need for explanation of this phenomenon. Domestic violence and rape were some of the earliest concerns. Evidence from women made it obvious that these experiences were very widespread (Katyachild et al. 1985; Jeffreys 1976; Hanmer 1978; London Rape Action Group 1985). ‘First wave’ feminists had also taken up the issue of male violence, as did women in even earlier periods, but their knowledge and experience of this had largely been lost. 2 The rediscovery of the issue of male violence against women brought to the fore some very important questions about male-female relations, including the role of male violence and, more recently, sexuality, in the social control of women (Edwards 1987; Kelly 1988; Jeffreys 1990).

Socialist and Marxist feminists have been unable to deal with the issue of male violence (Segal 1987). Their class-based analysis suggests that it is certain socio-economic conditions, such as unemployment, which leads men to be violent against women (Wilson 1983). But this is much too limited, and does not cover the extensive evidence of violence to women, which suggests instead that women from all classes experience violence from men from any class (Russell 1982; Hanmer and Saunders 1984). A class-based analysis also lets the main perpetrators, that is, men, off the hook, as exemplified in some recent literature by anti-sexist men who avoid challenging the reality of men’s violence against women. Tim Carrigan et al., for instance, while recognising that violence ‘helps to make all kinds of masculinity’ (1987:89), places the blame for violence largely on the (intangible and nebulous) state.

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