I don’t like being in either the position of being feared, or in the position of being depended on for protection, either.
I don’t mean to suggest that male supremacy is all a bed of roses for men. Patriarchy Hurts Men Too ™, and all that. But the reason I’m willing to endorse Brownmiller’s claim, that the threat of rape redounds to the benefit of men as a class, including (especially) those who don’t actually commit rape, isn’t because playing the role of a “protector” is supposed to be pleasant in itself. Truth be told, it is pleasant for many men, or at least ego-stroking, and a lot of men have historically been quite explicit in expressing how much emotional satisfaction they get from providing for and protecting their wife and children. But that’s not the main point here.
The more important point has to do with ripple effects, and (1) the indirect payoffs that come from assuming the social role that men, as men, assume, as well as (2) the disadvantages that restricted mobility in physical space imposes on women, as women, vis-a-vis men.
Taking (2) first, living with certain spaces or times closed off to you by the threat of physical violence, without being able to safely and comfortably walk through many public spaces in a big city, or in certain male-dominated spaces (certain kinds of workplaces, certain kinds of clubs and bars), or much of anywhere at night has direct effects on what you can and cannot realistically do with your time. The lack of freedom that comes from the realistic fear of rape, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual aggression directly effects women’s ability to participate in civic life, in politics, and in certain kinds of work. It has direct effects on women’s prospects for business, on women’s prospects for work, on where and when and with whom they can socialize, and in any number of other ways on their economic, social, and political participation. It also has indirect ripple effects: the effects of living with constant warnings and a constant feeling of confinement, as well as the effects of having to find, please, and satisfy the Right Man in order to safely navigate everyday situations that most men have no worries about navigating. (It’s worth considering how much of stereotypical American femininity is linked, either directly or indirectly, with the threat of rape and with the need for male “protectors.”) That works to the systematic disadvantage of women, which means that it works to the systematic advantage of certain men who are, or would otherwise be, in competition for jobs, promotions, socio-political status, etc. (The connection between the traditional “protector” role and the traditional “provider” role for the male “head of household” is not accidental.)
As for (1), those indirect payoffs have largely to do with the way in which women are socially expected to defer to men, both in public forums and in interpersonal relationships, and to focus on finding, pleasing and satisfying the Right Man. How women are expected act as sexual “gatekeepers” and not to be assertive about their own sexual desires, and to have a sexual experience more or less on the man’s terms. Also with corresponding, often subconscious entitlement that men have acted on and continue to act on. Expectations used to be very strong, and quite explicit in social norms; in these days — by which I mean the last 40 years or so; the change was very dramatic and quite recent, in the grand scheme of things — we have largely shifted towards unspoken, or covert versions of the same thing. But they are still there. If you see more or less what I’m talking about in your own life and the lives of people you know, then that’s what I’m trying to point out when I endorse Brownmiller’s claim that stranger-rape serves to promote male power and male privileges over women — even, or especially, the power and privileges of men who do not themselves commit rape. If you don’t see it, then I’ll just plead that I don’t have the talent or the space to really get you to see it within the space allowed by a blog post or a comments thread. What I’d want you to take away is an some idea, even if only in rough outline, of the kind of stuff I mean when I say that non-rapist men get concrete privileges out of the violent undesigned order that arises from the violence of male rapists against women. For a fuller and more convincing elaboration of the specifics, I’d just have to point you to extended treatments in the feminist literature, starting with Brownmiller’s book itself–which, after all, only had a few short summary paragraphs quoted and discussed in the course of my post–and with other work that discusses sexism in contemporary language, media, culture, sexuality, etc. My post wasn’t really intended to give you a full panoramic view of Brownmiller’s theory of rape, let alone her whole theory of patriarchy; my aim was just to help point certain of my readers towards the right lens to use when you try to get the view.
I don’t know why this would be any more beneficial for males in general than would the negative actions of some blacks be beneficial to all blacks.
This is really a separate issue. The reason that white stereotyping of black people as violent or criminal — and the fear that results — is harmful to black people is that that fear is projected onto all black people, and then used by politically and socially well-connected white people to justify individual practices and large-scale policies that hurt black people (e.g. economically deserting certain neighborhoods, or the racist War on Drug Users, or increasingly violent policing and punitive imprisonment). There’s no real equivalent in the situation between men and women as depicted by Brownmiller. Firstly because the fear is not universally projected onto all men, or at least not equally onto all men. (The key move in her theory has to do with men who are seen primarily as protectors, rather than as rapists.) Secondly, because the fear of rape is not usually used to justify increased violence against men as such. (After all, it’s men, not women, who have the advantage in terms of access to economic and political resources; so women’s response, by necessity, is to depend more upon the “good” men as a defense against the bad, rather than to push through policies and practices that punish the “good” men along with the bad.)
Hope this helps.