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OUR BODIES, OURSELVES READING ROOM
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

TOWARD AN UNDERSTANDING OF MALE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

One man's violence against one woman may seem to result from his individual psychological problems, sexual frustration, unbearable life pressures, or some innate urge toward aggression. Though each of these "reasons" has been used to explain and even justify male violence, they oversimplify a complex reality: men have been taught to relate to the world in terms of dominance and control, and they have been taught that violence is an acceptable method of maintaining control, resolving conflicts, and expressing anger. When a boss sexually harasses an employee, he exerts his power to restrict her freedom to work and improve her position. When a battering husband uses beatings to confine his wife to the home and to prevent her from seeing friends and family or from pursuing outside work, he exerts dominance and control. When men rape women, they act out of a wish to dominate or punish.

Whether or not an individual man who commits an act of violence views it as an expression of power is not the point. The fact that so many individual men feel entitled to express their frustration or anger by being violent to so many individual women shows how deeply these lessons of dominance and violence have been learned.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Toward an Understanding of Male Violence Against Women

Race, Class, and Violence Against Women

Blaming the Victim

Sexual Harassment

Domestic Violence

Sexual Assault

Incest and Sexual Abuse of Children

The Sex Industry

Defending Ourselves Against Violence

Ending Violence Against Women

Notes

Resources

Countless daily acts of violence create a climate of fear and powerlessness that limits women's freedom of action and controls many of the movements of our lives. The threat of male violence continues to keep us from stepping out from behind the traditional roles that we, as women, have been taught. Violence and the threat of violence keep us "in our place."

Now that I am on my own and living free of my abuser, I can see how my life was altered when I was being battered. Little by little, he isolated me from my friends, he convinced me to quit working, he complained about how I kept the house, he kept track of the mileage on the car to make sure that I wasn't going anywhere. Eventually, when the beatings were regular and severe, I had no one to turn to and I felt completely alone.

On the surface, it seems that men benefit from sexism--from this system of male dominance, control, and violence. On a deeper level, we know that sexism harms men as well as women. Sexism, and more specifically violence against women, harms men because it harms the women and girls in their lives and because it keeps them from having positive and loving relationships with women. In recent years, some men have begun to recognize and acknowledge the ways in which relating violently toward women (and other men) harms them. Groups like "Real Men" and "Men to End Sexism" have been working to raise consciousness among other men and to teach men how to be allies of women in the effort to bring an end to violence against women. 

 

Copyright 1984, 1992, 1998 by the Boston Women's Health Book Collective. All rights reserved. Published by Touchstone, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc.

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