Coco Fusco at the NYRB:
Vivien Green Fryd’s new book, Against Our Will: Sexual Trauma in American Art Since 1970, arrives at this historical moment to offer an overview of American feminist artists’ treatment of rape. Fryd takes the first part of her title from Susan Brownmiller’s best-selling Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape (1975), which called for a redefinition of rape as a political crime against women. Although some readers criticized the book for its comparisons of rape with lynching, Brownmiller’s argument that rape was an instrument of oppression against all women and that Freudian psychoanalysis had unjustly discredited women’s accounts of rape (by presuming them to be fantasies) helped to change laws relating to sex crimes. Rape shield laws were adopted in the late 1970s to prohibit the admission of evidence of or the questioning of rape complainants about their past sexual behavior.
Similarly, Fryd concentrates on feminist art that foregrounds the pervasiveness of rape, proposing that such art should be valued for its capacity to empower survivors and enhance public awareness. She focuses on how the experience of the survivor rather than the action of the perpetrator is represented in art and how it affects viewers.