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

By Marianne Hester | Go to book overview

Chapter 9

The conclusion

The maintenance and perpetuation of male domination over women relies on an eroticised construct of inequality between men and women, where male and female sexualities are constructed as both different and unequal. Fundamentally, sex and power are merged. This becomes apparent when we look at the issue of male sexual violence against women, and examine male sexuality and male sexual practice. Within the system of male supremacy men thus have power over women by virtue of being perceived as ‘naturally’ superior to women, but it is a system of social domination rather than natural inequality, and therefore has to be socially maintained through the eroticisation of male-female relations generally, and also by the use, and threat of, male sexual violence against women. What makes male supremacy especially enduring, is the way these mechanisms are eroticised or made ‘sexy’ and acted out in heterosexual relations, thereby appearing both ‘natural’, ‘normal’ and ‘consensual’.

Where the witch-hunts in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England are concerned, this revolutionary feminist framework provides new insights. Largely because it helps to explain why women were the primary targets of the persecutions, but also because it enables us to take into account the many disparate elements involved. For an analysis of the witch-hunts the following points need to be considered: that the accused were nearly all women; that they constituted a particular group of women, tending to be older, unmarried or widowed, and poor; that women tended to accuse and incriminate each other; and that ruling-class intervention was essential for the witch-hunts to become established, as well as for it to eventually decline. In addition, the

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