The revolution devours its own
Susan Brownmiller, Heretic

As author of the enormously influential book Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape, feminist writer and activist Susan Brownmiller has done more than almost any living person to combat the scourge of sexual violence. So when she critiques the excesses of today’s rape-crisis activists, you might think the activists would listen—that is, if today’s anti-rape movement were actually an open-minded, reality-based effort to combat a very real social problem rather than, as Christina Hoff Sommers memorably described it, “a panic where paranoia, censorship, and false accusations flourish.”

In an interview with New York magazine last week, the 80-year-old Brownmiller suggested that the campus rape movement is narrow, elitist, and “doesn’t accept reality.” Asked what advice she would give activists, Brownmiller said, “extend your focus to the larger percentage of women and girls who are in danger of being raped. They are more important than the college kids.” She also violated the well-known taboo against drawing a connection between sexual assault and the campus culture of binge drinking: “If you drink you lose your sense of judgment. Everybody knows that. You should know that when you are going into a fraternity party, something can happen.”

The rape crisis crusaders contemptuously brushed Brownmiller’s views aside. Downgrading her to a “former feminist hero,” Amanda Marcotte wrote in Slate that Brownmiller is “downright victim-blame-y, sneering at girls today with their booze and their clothes and their asking-for-it,” a line echoed by writers at Salon and elsewhere. Jessica Valenti wrote in the Guardian that “the movement will go on without” outdated thinkers like Brownmiller. According to one feminist writer, Brownmiller’s views “seem to be straight from a 1970s chauvinist.”

Ironically, Brownmiller’s swift exile from the shrinking tent that is third-wave feminism confirmed one of her other critiques of the current movement: that modern activists “think they are the first people to discover rape, and the problem of consent, and they are not.”

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