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3 Wis. Women's L.J. 81 (1987)
The Difference in Women's Hedonic Lives: A Phenomenological Critique of Feminist Legal Theory

handle is hein.journals/wiswo3 and id is 87 raw text is: THE DIFFERENCE IN WOMEN'S HEDONIC LIVES: A
Robin L. West*
Women's subjective, hedonic lives are different from men's. The
quality of our suffering is different from that of men's, as is the nature of
our joy. Furthermore, and of more direct concern to feminist lawyers, the
quantity of pain and pleasure enjoyed or suffered by the two genders is
different: women suffer more than men. The two points are related. One
reason that women suffer more than men is that women often find painful
the same objective event or condition that men find pleasurable. The in-
troduction of oxymorons in our vocabulary, wrought by feminist victories,
evidences this difference in women's and men's hedonic lives. The phrases
date-rape, for example and sexual harassment, capture these differ-
ent subjective experiences of shared social realities: For the man, the of-
fice pass was sex (and pleasurable), for the woman, it was harassment
(and painful); for the man the evening was a date-perhaps not pleasant,
but certainly not frightening-for the woman, it was a rape and very
scary indeed. Similarly, a man may experience as at worst offensive, and
at best stimulating, that which a woman finds debilitating, dehumanizing
or even life-threatening. Pornographic depictions of women which facili-
tate by legitimating the violent brutalization of our bodies are obvious ex-
amples. Finally, many men are simply oblivious-they do not experience
at all-external conditions which for women are painful, frightening,
stunting, torturous and pervasive-including domestic violence in the
home, sexual assault on the street, and sexual harassment in the work-
place and school.
Feminists generally agree-it should go without saying-that women
* Assistant Professor of Law, University of Maryland Law School.
For their insightful comments, criticisms, and perspectives, I would like to thank Paul
Brest, Ellen Borgerson, Mark Kelman, Deborah Rhode, Bob Rabin, Bob Gordon, Lynn
Henderson, all of the Stanford Law Community; Chris Littleton, Martha Fineman, Ruth
Colker, Vicki Schultz and the other participants in the Wisconsin Difference conference;
Jana Singer and David Luban from Maryland Law School, Hendrik Hartog and Maria
Makris-Gouvas (class of '87) from Wisconsin Law School and Michael Perry from
I also must thank Toni Fitzpatrick, Marci Wilder and Susan Lubeck of the Women
of Stanford (all class of '88), Jon More, and Tom Grey for their comments and friendship,
which proved indispensable to the writing of this paper. Lastly, the article would never
have happened without the empathic insights, laughter, friendship and courageous exam-
ple of Lynn Henderson. This article is for her.

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