Books by Martha Roth

AROUSAL by Martha Roth
Released: May 22, 1998

A feminist writer teases, raising some provocative questions about power and pleasure, then pulling out of the discussion too quickly. Why must sexual pleasure be so intertwined with rage and cruelty, submission and dominance, punishment and shame? Can we envision a world in which sex would be "a spiritual path on which we can express our best selves?" In this thin, largely unsatisfying book, Roth (editor of Transforming a Rape Culture, not reviewed) asks such questions. She believes that transforming sexuality, freeing it of the brutality that can turn some people on, will transform the world. Yet she offers no suggestions on how to do that. And she doesn't really make it clear why we should change sexuality per se. It's hard to see what harm many fantasies are doing. Wouldn—t it be better to crack down on real violence: rape, child abuse, and sexism? And Roth is on even shakier ground when she gets more concrete. She writes, for example: "Following the work of Marija Gimbutas, most scholars now agree that early human societies worshiped female fertility, probably in the form of an earth goddess." That's far from the case; many scholars in Gimbutas's own field, archaeology, dispute her interpretations. Too abstract for the general reader, and too shallow and unsupported for those who have a serious interest in these issues. (Author tour) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 6, 1993

Well-edited, worthy compendium of writings about sex and violence in our culture. In 34 essays—some reprinted, many published here first—well- known feminist activists, university professors, theologians, novelists, editors, and politicians diagnose and prescribe remedies for a society that daily demeans and circumscribes women with the threat of rape. Andrea Dworkin's famous ``I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce'' opens the collection: It's a 1983 speech to a ``men's movement'' seminar in which Dworkin passionately challenges men to begin to shun and punish each other for the act of rape. In ``Erotica vs. Pornography,'' Gloria Steinem makes an early (1977) version of the now-familiar argument for banning pornography as tool of male dominance. In ``Radical Heterosexuality,'' reprinted from Ms., Naomi Wolf analyzes ``relationships'' in light (or gloom) of rape. More positively, in ``What Women Want,'' Milkweed's editor-in-chief Buchwald proposes specific principles that women impart to their daughters as a means to avoid but not fear rape; and in ``How Rape is Encouraged in American Boys,'' sociologist Myriam Miedzian prescribes a curriculum to train boys not to attain gender identity through misogyny and rape. Other essays offer first-person accounts of sexual harassment, enforced subordination, and rape; explore the psychology of gender cruelty; report on sexual intimidation and violence within American churches and on college campuses; and devise new tactics for changing laws and language that normalize sexual aggression. The book closes with a section of ``visions'' of a better world, including Louise Erdrich's a beautiful meditation on women's spiritual liberation from ``The Veils.'' An impressive collection on a subject that should be of wider interest and concern. Read full book review >