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■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ ■ Afterword Lingering Dilemmas: How Much Do We Want to Know? If feminist scholars do move to reinstitutionalize our work on violence against women, we must be sure to collect the diverse voices of women, harmonious and disharmonious, across races, ethnic groups, classes, disabilities , sexualities, communities, and politics, and, together with activists , create forums in which ideas, nodes of agreement, and fault lines of dissension can be aired, studied, resolved, or worked around. In the absence of such collaboration, feminist scholarship will retreat (if unwittingly ) toward individualism, to be ignored or, perhaps worse, used against those women whose social contexts we seek to transform. —Michelle Fine, “The Politics of Research and Activism” MY AIM IN WRITING THIS BOOK has been to stimulate discussion of hetero-relational nuances often overlooked in both traditional and feminist social science literature. My hope throughout this project has been that in hearing the participants’ stories and considering the contexts in which they took shape, researchers, advocates, activists, educators, policy makers, and perhaps most important, young women themselves would gain insights that might further efforts to confront male aggression and coercion as it plays out in women’s daily lives. As a researcher, an educator , and an advocate for women and girls, I take seriously Fine’s call to “create forums in which ideas, nodes of agreement, and fault lines of dissension can be aired, studied, resolved, or worked around.” I hope that this book will contribute to the development of such forums by stimulating further discussion about how those interested in promoting sexual justice might study, envision, and promote young women as active, entitled sexual subjects who can find both pleasure and safety in their heterorelations . And yet, sitting alongside these hopes are some nagging concerns. Having listened to, theorized, and written about these young women’s perspectives, I am left with residual questions about the implications of conducting and presenting (as well as of not conducting and presenting) this type of research in the politically charged arena of sexuality and violence against women. As I have attempted to “work the hyphen” (Fine, 1994) between activism and research in this project, I have spent countless hours sorting through my hopes and my worries about how these findings might be interpreted and used in debates about male aggression and female victimization. While I hope that this study has made clear the importance of exploring with young women the contradictions and paradoxes woven throughout their hetero-relational subjectivities, I continue to grapple with difficult questions about the relationship of such work to the efforts of anti-violence movements. On the one hand, I anticipate that some might argue that the findings uncovered here should be kept silent—that it is politically dangerous to make public women’s acknowledgment of confusion, ambivalence , or tendency to self-blame. Indeed, it might be argued that highlighting the contradictions in women’s experiences threatens to unravel important statements about violence that the women’s movement has worked so hard to establish. This concern is particularly powerful given the victim-blaming tendencies of the dominant culture and the current political context of enormous right-wing backlash. In a culture that assumes that women “ask for it,” in a culture that asks, “Why don’t women just leave?” rather than “Why do men rape, harass, and batter?” it has been critical to assert that women see aggression, exploitation, and domination as 208 ❙ Afterword neither normal nor desirable. Such assertions have been important not only in raising public consciousness in general, but also in prosecuting men for rape, battering, and harassment and advocating for battered women who have killed or injured their abusive partners in self-defense. In a context of zero-sum guilt (Fine, 1990) and without a discourse of male accountability , such cases require demonstration that women are completely innocent, “true victims” who say and mean “no” and who never confuse sex or love with coercion or domination. Indeed, given the androcentric ideologies that inform public thought, it is difficult enough to persuade judges and juries to take seriously women’s claims of “straightforward” cases of rape, battering, and harassment. It certainly will not help a woman’s case any if her lawyers and advocates encourage her to come forward and name her experience as “just a bad night” or give voice to her perception that “I really only have myself to blame.” In a culture that is often indifferent, if not hostile, toward women’s claims and eager to deny...


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