ROCKING THE CRADLE OF SEXUAL POLITICS: What Happened When Women Said Incest by Louise Armstrong


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Armstrong issues a sobering call to repoliticize the issue of incest, which has fallen prey to the mental health field, its cadre of ""experts,"" and an antifeminist backlash. In 1978 Armstrong published Kiss Daddy Goodnight, which presented incest as ""the cradle of sexual politics"" where the rights of women and children collide with male entitlement and abuse of power. The attendant media hype turned Armstrong into ""the World's First Walking, Talking Incest Victim""; and since then she has witnessed the telling of incest stories become an end in itself. The personal is no longer political, she says, just public, as people accept fees to tell of their abuse on TV talk shows. She identifies a trajectory in public attitudes toward incest: first, it was ignored; in the mid 1980s the publication of The Courage to Heal (the incest ""Bible"") encouraged a therapeutic, personal approach to ""recovery"" devoid of any social significance; now, Armstrong argues, the issue is dominated by antifeminist backlash and sensational tales of satanic ritual abuse and of men and their families wrongly accused as a result of false-memory syndrome. Virtually ""every aspect of the social response to the issue of incest,"" she writes, ""has implied a policy of appeasement toward men."" Armstrong documents a decade and a half of evasive responses to the problem of incest during which the number of children being sexually abused continued apace. These responses ranged from viewing incest as a mental illness rather than an abuse of power to abuse prevention ""games"" for children that overlook the fact that the offender is often a parent or trusted adult. An important, incendiary, unapologetic history written in hopes of rekindling the possibility of radical change -- nothing less than a redistribution of gender power.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Addison-Wesley