Andrea Dworkin,
April 11, 2005 1:37 PM   Subscribe

Andrea Dworkin, feminist icon and scourge of pornographers, has died aged 58.
posted by Holly (138 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
courtesy of the Spacemoose archive:

Andrea the Hutt

Give him to me

// juvenile humor
// appologies in advance
posted by C.Batt at 1:44 PM on April 11, 2005


I didn't agree with a lot of what she wrote, but I was glad she was out there. I would take 50 of her over several other public people I could mention.

Young to die
posted by edgeways at 1:53 PM on April 11, 2005


I remember Adam Parfrey's brilliant screed at her in Cult Rapture. She's probably kvetching about all the naked people running around in the afterworld.
posted by jonmc at 1:54 PM on April 11, 2005


"Scourge of pornographers"? Hardly. It's not exactly like the porn industry is teetering on the brink of insolvency, or indeed anything but stronger now than it was in the early 80s, by orders of magnitude... to top it off it's not even socially unacceptable now the way it used to be.
posted by clevershark at 1:54 PM on April 11, 2005


She weren't no Mary Wollstonecraft, but her ideas were certainly intriguing. Nutty (to me), but intriguing.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2005


I experience little emotion but a sense of relief when I hear of the passing of people, even well-meaning folks with brutality and pain in their past, who have fought to remove freedom of expression. She was forefront in that fight, and, on that aspect alone, I am glad to see a soldier down.

Life, however, is not that black and white, and I do not know the person (and now never will).
posted by jscott at 2:03 PM on April 11, 2005


Wow.

Even though I was a feminist, I always only knew about her as a sort of deranged caricature. However, I actually studied some of her writings last semester in a Feminist Theory course, and spending hours carefully analyzing her arguments did convince me that, even if I don't necessarily agree entirely with her, she's not incoherent, and I think there was some value and substance to her position.

I resented her for being an easy target, but I'd certainly take her over a thousand Camille Paglias.

And C.Batt, congratulations on being the first one to react. Your nuanced viewpoint is more than appreciated. Classy, dude.
posted by ITheCosmos at 2:05 PM on April 11, 2005


The Andrea Dworkin Online Library, including a page debunking some things said about/attributed to her, an autobiography and her classic anti-ACLU stuff.

I'd argue that the movement Dworkin represented is in large part responsible for the increased outspokenness of pro-porn feminists who didn't agree with her, which led to a dramatic increase in woman-produced porn and a more open approach to sex in general. I guess we can thank her for that, at least. Oh, and C.Batt, next time an obituary thread comes along, try waiting a half hour before linking to insulting juvenile crap, ok?
posted by mediareport at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2005


I found Susie Bright's obit/memoir of Dworkin fascinating; a thoughtful, complex bow toward a one-time hero and later adversary. Well worth a read.
posted by Kat Allison at 2:08 PM on April 11, 2005


Until now, I was one of the uninformed majority who bought the popular media's depiction of Dworkin as a man-hating nutcase. Reading the obit made me a little sad for her tough but apparently well-fought struggles and a little ashamed at myself for buying the crap about her foisted by the mainstream.

I cannot say that I agree with (what I believe to be) her arguments about porn, but this article made me want to check out what she actually wrote, rather than holding on to what I think she wrote.
posted by beelzbubba at 2:08 PM on April 11, 2005


.

no, wait, I meant

(_*_)
posted by bashos_frog at 2:09 PM on April 11, 2005


Intriguing? She was an asshole. I remember her tirade on my college campus in the eighties literally likening every Saturday night heterosexual encounter to rape. She was another Taliban simply bent the other way.
posted by tkchrist at 2:09 PM on April 11, 2005


Hmm, from the Guardian Unlimited, some insight?

Ms Dworkin's life as a political activist began early. In 1965, when she was 18, she was arrested at the US mission to the United Nations, protesting against the Vietnam war. She was sent to the New York City Women's House of Detention, where she was given a brutal internal examination.

Her testimony about the experience was reported worldwide and helped to bring public pressure to bear to close the prison. An unmarked community garden now grows where it once stood.

posted by scheptech at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2005


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posted by jokeefe at 2:20 PM on April 11, 2005


I remember her tirade on my college campus in the eighties literally likening every Saturday night heterosexual encounter to rape.

I attended a similar Dworkin speech during college. I remember feeling equally wary of both her & Brother Jed whenever they'd haul themselves and their massive egos into town for another dogmafest.
posted by dhoyt at 2:25 PM on April 11, 2005


Thanks for the Susie Bright link, Kat Allison; that was good.
posted by mediareport at 2:28 PM on April 11, 2005


Why do we all hate her? Should she have acted more demurely?
posted by sian at 2:28 PM on April 11, 2005


Thank you Kat Allison for the Susie Bright piece.

Andrea presented herself as a street fighter intellectual, a bohemian freedom fighter, and someone who wanted to get to the bottom of things. That remark about Malcolm X is apt. Malcolm pointed out The problem is WHITE PEOPLE. Dworkin said, The problem is MEN. And for all the holes that can be poked in that cloth, there is something about that grain that is absolutely true, when you are the short end of the bolt.

I loved that she dared attack the very notion of intercourse. It was the pie aimed right in the face of Mr. Big Stuff. It was an impossible theory, but it wasn't absurd. There is something about literally being fucked that colors your world, pretty or ugly, and it was about time someone said so.


*braces self for flood of Dworkin-hate*
posted by jokeefe at 2:32 PM on April 11, 2005


If I had a dollar for every physically and psychically unattractive person who decides the problem is the opposite sex...
posted by spazzm at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2005


How about a dollar for every person who decides others are the problem period. Black men who decide white people are the problem. White people who decide black people are the problem. Women who decide men are the problem. And on and on thru every categorization of human being you can think of..
posted by scheptech at 2:40 PM on April 11, 2005


I experience little emotion but a sense of relief when I hear of the passing of people, even well-meaning folks with brutality and pain in their past, who have fought to remove freedom of expression. She was forefront in that fight, and, on that aspect alone, I am glad to see a soldier down.

Can I ask, then, is the Big Porn Discussion considered to be over, finished, done with? Are we all happy with porn now, all in agreement that it's a harmless, healthy and happy thing? Is even attempting to bring up reservations with it mean being instantly slapped with an 'anti-sex prude' label now and forevermore? And can anyone tell me how this is any different from the way things have always been?

And can someone direct me to all the supposedly female-positive porn that is available these days? Cause from what I can see the overwhelming majority of the stuff is the same old same old...

And, on preview, spazzm demonstrates half my problems with our supposedly sex-positive free expression society, and what happens to women who open their mouths and say ugly things.

Think I'll go for a walk. If I stick around here I'm likely to get angry. I'll remember Andrea Dworkin as someone who I had major disagreements with, but who at least stood up in the public forum and said her piece. She did some good, she did some bad, her legacy is complicated; but she was sucessfully vilifed in the press to the point that I wonder if her detractors here have actually read anything she wrote.
posted by jokeefe at 2:42 PM on April 11, 2005


Andrea Dworkin believes that all intercourse is rape.

FALSE. She has never said this. She sets the record straight in a 1995 interview with British novelist Michael Moorcock. And in a new preface to the tenth-anniversary edition of Intercourse (1997), Andrea explains why she believes this book continues to be misread:

[I]f one's sexual experience has always and without exception been based on dominance--not only overt acts but also metaphysical and ontological assumptions--how can one read this book? The end of male dominance would mean--in the understanding of such a man--the end of sex. If one has eroticized a differential in power that allows for force as a natural and inevitable part of intercourse, how could one understand that this book does not say that all men are rapists or that all intercourse is rape? Equality in the realm of sex is an antisexual idea if sex requires domination in order to register as sensation. As sad as I am to say it, the limits of the old Adam--and the material power he still has, especially in publishing and media--have set limits on the public discourse (by both men and women) about this book [pages ix-x].

posted by elpapacito at 2:43 PM on April 11, 2005


.

Whatever you think of the viewpoints, it's always lovely to see a woman stand up for what she believes in and damn the naysayers.
posted by agregoli at 2:45 PM on April 11, 2005


After a lot of pondering and soul-searching I've come to the conclusion that I agree with a lot of Dworkin's beliefs about porn and sexuality. Well... Not sexuality per se, but sexuality as it is in our culture.

She's been criticised by many for "picking" on pornography while giving a free ride to Dobson types who give her issues lip service while still prooting a male-dominated patriarchy. I think both need to be confronted -- the religious ideology that gives us opressive gender stratification, and broken concepts of sexuality that permeate our society.

On the whole "All Sex Is Rape" thing, one of the quotes from the debunking page sums it up:
If one has eroticized a differential in power that allows for force as a natural and inevitable part of intercourse, how could one understand that this book does not say that all men are rapists or that all intercourse is rape? Equality in the realm of sex is an antisexual idea if sex requires domination in order to register as sensation.
Might not agree with her, might think she became an ironic arrow in the quiver of right-wing moralists... but she was getting at something subtle and fundamental about the way many men in our culture do perceive and understand sex.

I've always been baffled by the fact that many of her detractors point to women producing porn as proof Dworkin was wrong. It seems irrelevant to the point she raised, like saying that the existence of Christians proves atheists wrong.

Hmm. On preview, probably opening a very unhappy can of snakes posting this, but what the heck.
posted by verb at 2:49 PM on April 11, 2005


.
posted by seanyboy at 2:50 PM on April 11, 2005


Whatever you think of the viewpoints, it's always lovely to see a woman stand up for what she believes in and damn the naysayers.

I'm sure Ann Coulter and Condoleeza Rice will be glad to have your unwavering support.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:57 PM on April 11, 2005


"If one has eroticized a differential in power" is a BIG fucking "if". The problem with many of her acolytes is that their eroticized power is an assumed fact, not merely the predicate of a conditional.

It also occurs to me, in my experience, the power in sex flows the other way.
posted by notsnot at 2:57 PM on April 11, 2005


59 years old.

She looks 70 in the picture.

I can't help but think that's what happens when you live your life as a humorless, uptight biddy.
posted by BobFrapples at 2:59 PM on April 11, 2005


This has been the most interesting obit thread by far in the last month or so...
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 PM on April 11, 2005


Count me in as another who respected Dworkin for standing up and saying what she believed. As well, a proper reading of her actual works and intentions does lead to some very interesting ideas that shouldn't be dismissed as "men=rape=bad" just out of hand. I'm sad to hear she died; that's awfully young to go.
posted by livii at 3:00 PM on April 11, 2005


scheptech:
How about a dollar for every person who decides others are the problem period."

Exactly! They are the real problem.
posted by spazzm at 3:00 PM on April 11, 2005


The last news article I saw about Andrea Dworkin described how she had just filed a police report claiming to have been drugged and raped, I think by a couple of men in a hotel where she was staying in Paris. I am probably botching some of the details, but the whole thing was so absurd and had such a sense of Tawana Brawley meets current-hotbutton-daterape-drug that I was left with the overwhelming feeling that Ms. Dworkin had completely lost her mind.
posted by alms at 3:01 PM on April 11, 2005


Maybe she was right. The Anti-porn people lost anyway.

There is more porn than ever before. The fact is that most people - men and women - gay and straight - LIKE porn.

Dworkin was utterly unsuccessful in her condescending attempt at "evolving" humanity.

No only that if you replace "men" with "blacks" or "jews" in everything Dworkin wrote the tone of this thread would be substantially different and you all know it. I don't care how smart or intellectual or misunderstood she was... she was an extremist asshole. Fucking Hitler "stood up for what he believed in". Still an extremist asshole.

And what is this "sex in our culture" thing people keep saying? Like there is another culture with more advanced sexual attitudes who never had some form of porn? Who? The Yanamomo? The Grand Valley Dani? The Amazons? Who?
posted by tkchrist at 3:08 PM on April 11, 2005


If one has eroticized a differential in power that allows for force as a natural and inevitable part of intercourse, how could one understand that this book does not say that all men are rapists or that all intercourse is rape? Equality in the realm of sex is an antisexual idea if sex requires domination in order to register as sensation.
So, under what circumstances is it not rape then? Are only certain narrow sources or ideas of eroticism allowed?

Freedom for both men and women means choosing the one you like and works best for you. Lots of men get off on being dominated and humilated. Lots of husbands love and respect their wives in the bedroom in a equal sharing.

I consider myself very very liberal, and about as far to the left as you can get, but I never understood her perspective on these topics.

On preview: "If one has eroticized a differential in power" is a BIG fucking "if". The problem with many of her acolytes is that their eroticized power is an assumed fact, not merely the predicate of a conditional.

This is exactly it. That's a huge assumption, and beyond it there is something to be said for submission as being merely a matter of sexual taste, albeit strongly influenced by culture, but then what isn't? I don't eat much German food because I'm not German, but as long as I'm free to choose without consequence then we are in a free society.
posted by McBain at 3:12 PM on April 11, 2005


tkchrist- OMG GODWIN.
posted by McBain at 3:12 PM on April 11, 2005


I don't think it's pornography that ever kept women down...it's people looking like she does that make hetero men and lesbian women go out and buy pornography!
posted by hayamor at 3:13 PM on April 11, 2005


"The Yanamomo? The Grand Valley Dani? The Amazons? Who?"

"You know, of course, that the Tasmanians, who never committed adultery, are now extinct."
~ William Somerset Maugham
posted by spazzm at 3:14 PM on April 11, 2005


I never listened to her much and don't really agree with much of what she had to say but I admire her strength and determination to stand up and say it.
posted by fenriq at 3:26 PM on April 11, 2005


*rubs one out*
posted by quonsar at 3:27 PM on April 11, 2005


if you replace "men" with "blacks" or "jews"

That's not an accurate analogy, though. You'd have to replace "men" with "whites" or "christians" - the idea is that the dominant group has a serious impact on how the minority experiences the culture.

"If one has eroticized a differential in power" is a BIG fucking "if".

It may be "a big fucking if" in your personal life, but you can hardly claim that it's "a big fucking if" in the culture at large. Even in tiny, day to day ways, women are meant to be the passive half of the couple - all those date books that advise women never to make the first move, etc. I don't follow that advice and I try to find people who don't think that way either, but you really can't suggest that it doesn't permeate our culture. You have to make a particular effort to get outside the ingrained assumptions of power - yin=female, yang=male; hold the door for ladies; men fuck, women get fucked. men only "get fucked" (in common parlance) when they take it up the ass, and that's considered giving up the power - making yourself vulnerable - etc - even by people who like it.
posted by mdn at 3:35 PM on April 11, 2005


If I had a dollar for every physically and psychically unattractive person who decides the problem is the opposite sex.

She looks 70 in the picture.

I can't help but think that's what happens when you live your life as a humorless, uptight biddy.


I don't think it's pornography that ever kept women down...it's people looking like she does that make hetero men and lesbian women go out and buy pornography!

I guess it was wrong of me to expect any better, huh?

Never mind what her ideas were, what mistakes she might have made in her theory, what she got right. She was so fucking ugly, none of that matters!

And verb, it's still worth saying. Thanks.
posted by jokeefe at 3:39 PM on April 11, 2005


.
posted by Sheppagus at 3:41 PM on April 11, 2005


Even in tiny, day to day ways, women are meant to be the passive half of the couple - all those date books that advise women never to make the first move, etc. I don't follow that advice and I try to find people who don't think that way either, but you really can't suggest that it doesn't permeate our culture.

Sure, that stuff's all bullshit. My wife is in medical school and she is and will be called "Nurse" by patients for the rest of her life. That's the stuff we should fight against. That doesn't mean she can't enjoy porn or even make some herself if she wanted to. It is the idea that her doing so would be wrong or somehow lowering herself, no matter what her arbitrary personal sexual tastes are, because they are just that, personal and arbitrary. It's the coersion, not the act itself, which is what blows her arguments away for me.
posted by McBain at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2005


There is more porn than ever before. The fact is that most people - men and women - gay and straight - LIKE porn.

Really?
posted by jokeefe at 3:46 PM on April 11, 2005


if you replace "men" with "blacks" or "jews"

That's not an accurate analogy, though. You'd have to replace "men" with "whites" or "christians" - the idea is that the dominant group has a serious impact on how the minority experiences the culture.


That is an accurate analogy, since the notion that men rule every aspect of society is about as truthful as the notion that jews rule finance, news media and Hollywood.
posted by spazzm at 3:53 PM on April 11, 2005


You know, I'm not a big fan of Dworkin, but all of the "whatever, ugly bitch" nastiness going on in this thread really make me think that she may have had a thing or two right.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 3:54 PM on April 11, 2005


And can someone direct me to all the supposedly female-positive porn that is available these days? Cause from what I can see the overwhelming majority of the stuff is the same old same old..."

Vote with your dollars, or use RoboJoel (the automated nudity retrieval system).
posted by spazzm at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2005


If I had a dollar for every physically and psychically unattractive person who decides the problem is the opposite sex...

I'd rather have a dollar for everyone who responds to a feminist critique by making snide remarks about the physical attractiveness of the person who wrote it.

The thing about Andrea Dworkin is not that I particularly agreed or disagreed with anything she said, but that in the process of confronting her arguments I was forced to critically reevaluate my own take on sexuality and power and society and blah blah blah. Had her arguments been less radical, I don't think they would've had as much of an impact. At least not on me. And FWIW, here's another good debunking of the "all sex is rape" thing that goes in to a little more detail about her actual stance.

.
posted by yami_mcmoots at 4:03 PM on April 11, 2005


ugly bitch Nobody said this but YOU.
posted by tkchrist at 4:05 PM on April 11, 2005


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posted by ontic at 4:06 PM on April 11, 2005


I certainly had moments where I hated her guts, and overall I thought she was philosophically way OTT, but I'd be surprised if anyone who read her auto-biographical novel "Mercy" did not come away from it unmoved. This book was like a scalpel in my brains and I've never quite forgotten it. The lady could write.
posted by stinkycheese at 4:07 PM on April 11, 2005


Why do we all hate her? Should she have acted more demurely?

I guess it was wrong of me to expect any better, huh?

Wait, so does this all mean you people think Hitler was a hottie? And if the jews own Hollywood, how come I can't even get Naomi Watts' autograph?

*confused*
posted by ImJustRick at 4:09 PM on April 11, 2005


notsnot: It also occurs to me, in my experience, the power in sex flows the other way.

That is, until it dribbles onto the bed. Assuming you didn't mop it up first.

(sorry, couldn't resist.)

McBain: So, under what circumstances is it not rape then? Are only certain narrow sources or ideas of eroticism allowed?

Well, on this point, I think Catherine MacKinnon is a better analyst. Is simple verbal consent really sufficient when there is an imbalance of power? Is it really consent when someone has the power to say, "fuck me or get the fuck out?" Is it really consent when some forms of affection are hugely overvalued over other forms of affection? Is it really consent in a culture in which someone is expected to initiate sexual activity on or before the 3rd date?

While much of the "sex positive" movement would like to lock away sexuality behind closed doors and say that sex is separate from gender law, workplace politics, the economy and culture. Radical feminists say, "now wait a minute, it is rather naive to believe that you can just close the bedroom door and shut out the rest of your life."

I think the big problem is that Dworkin and MacKinnon pointed to the problems, but never really articulated any alternatives. Stoltenberg cracks open the door a bit by noting that there are quite a few more ways to have sex beyond intercourse. Starhawk does better in focusing on power-with vs. power-over.

McBain: It is the idea that her doing so would be wrong or somehow lowering herself, no matter what her arbitrary personal sexual tastes are, because they are just that, personal and arbitrary.

Now that is where I, and I think that radical feminism would disagree. Sexual tastes don't exist in a compartmentalized isolation chamber, but spill over into our relationships, and are shaped by the politics that surround us. One of my profound frustrations with the whole "sex positive scene" is that you really can't say much about sex beyond "your kink is ok." Sorry, there are some kinks that I think are definitely not OK.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:09 PM on April 11, 2005


One of my profound frustrations with the whole "sex positive scene" is that you really can't say much about sex beyond "your kink is ok." Sorry, there are some kinks that I think are definitely not OK.

Indeed. It's troubling, because there seem to be so few ways to grapple with this question that don't veer into slippery slope arguments and highly subjective analysis.

That said, I think that "Consent or non-consent is the only measure of goodness" works about as well as The Invisible Hand Of The Free Market.
posted by verb at 4:13 PM on April 11, 2005


(Poorly argued half thoughts) + (generalized, self-perpetuating rage about all the evil in the world) = writing like the following:

Pornography, like fairy tale, tells us who we are. It is the structure of male and female mind, the content of our shared erotic identity, the map of each inch and mile of our oppression and despair. Here we move beyond childhood terror. Here the fear is clammy and real, and rightly so. Here we are compelled to ask the real questions: why are we defined in these ways, and how can we bear it? (An excerpt from part 2 of Dworkin's Woman Hating)

Are there any defensible arguments here? Well ... no... , but it sounds intellectual and very profound.
posted by Wash Jones at 4:14 PM on April 11, 2005


> Can I ask, then, is the Big Porn Discussion considered to be
> over, finished, done with?

I would say not, but my opinions are very much in the microscopic minority around here. Nevertheless. "We fight rather to keep something alive than in the expectation that anything will triumph." (Eliot) "One should be able to see that the situation is hopeless without losing the will to make it otherwise." (Scott Fitzgerald)


> Is even attempting to bring up reservations with it mean being instantly
> slapped with an 'anti-sex prude' label now and forevermore?

Sure it is. But you can't care about that.
posted by jfuller at 4:18 PM on April 11, 2005


You got me there, tkchrist. I guess that you calling her an asshole and likening her to Hitler, along with all of the comments about her appearance, make my comment seem a little harsh.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 4:20 PM on April 11, 2005


Wannabe social engineer, long ago rendered irrelevant, dies prematurely.

Boo-hoo.
posted by Kwantsar at 4:24 PM on April 11, 2005


As an aside, I'd like to know what a brutal internal examination is.

Did she have a standard internal examination like all internees get, and did the staff go out of their way to make it brutal?

Or was it just a standard internal examination but completely unwarranted? The act in itself was degrading and brutal?

Does anyone know? If her testimony about the experience was reported worldwide then it must be out there. (At work - can't spend an hour Googling for her testimony!)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2005


Are there any defensible arguments here? Well ... no...

I disagree. "Pornography, like fairy tale, tells us who we are" is perfectly valid. I just personally have problems working out whether I am (or want to be) Pinocchio or Snow White.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2005


There are so many things I want to say but I don't think there is anyway I could say them without getting shouted down by one side or the other, or possibly both.

I just don't have the stamina today.

That said, I think that "Consent or non-consent is the only measure of goodness" works about as well as The Invisible Hand Of The Free Market.
posted by verb at 6:13 PM CST on April 11 [!]


Which is to say it works the vast majority of the time, and only fails in certain specific conditions.

It is these specific conditions you need to address (public goods, abusive spouses) instead of declaring the entire system a failure.

Consensual sexual arrangements work rather well for the vast majority of people.
posted by Ynoxas at 4:28 PM on April 11, 2005


yami_mcmoots: Bingo!

verb: That said, I think that "Consent or non-consent is the only measure of goodness" works about as well as The Invisible Hand Of The Free Market.

Well, yeah. I should say that I've come around in my thinking much closer to Dworkin and MacKinnon than Bright and Sprinkle over the years. A large part of it came from some pretty bitter disillusionment with the mixed messages from the BDSM community. On the one hand, "safe, sane and consensual" is repeated over and over again as the explicit text. However, the subtext idolizes ideal submission.

Even outside of the BDSM community, there is a heck of a lot of media out there that tries to sell people the idea that there is something wrong with you (or will be something wrong with you) if you are not getting it on a regular basis.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:30 PM on April 11, 2005


I don't get the whole 'critique' of pornography.
If the critics don't like what's out there, why don't they make something better? It's not like it's hard, you know.
And why are they complaining - are they dissatisfied with the porn they buy? No, most of these critics never consume pornography - they don't even associate with people who do.
So what are they complaining about?
I guess the sad truth is that they want to control what others are allowed to see, read and write.

And that, my friends, is to have true power over someone.
posted by spazzm at 4:37 PM on April 11, 2005


Can I ask, then, is the Big Porn Discussion considered to be over, finished, done with? Are we all happy with porn now, all in agreement that it's a harmless, healthy and happy thing?

Nah. And I don't believe that all porn is a happy, healthy thing, but I'll be damned if I let the Andrea Dworkins (or Jerry Falwells) of the world make the decision for the rest of us.

I also don't think that rejecting Dworkin's simplistic arguments about sexuality makes one anti-feminist. Many feminists like Susie Bright, Lisa Palac, and Nadine Stroessen have rejected them as well. I don't know that I'd actually consider Dworkin a feminist so much as a hateful puritan who proclaimed herself a feminist.

But she definitely had a rough life (the context of which makes some of her more over-the-top opinions understandable, but not agreeable) and I don't believe in celebrating people's deaths (with a very few exceptions) so condolences to her loved ones and RIP.

Well, yeah. I should say that I've come around in my thinking much closer to Dworkin and MacKinnon than Bright and Sprinkle over the years. A large part of it came from some pretty bitter disillusionment with the mixed messages from the BDSM community.

BDSM, to my eyes, is a swamp of dark, barely understood motivations, and I've always been of the belief that if you find getting smacked around (or smacking people around) to be sexually gratifying, then, well, you probably have issues that would better be dealt with elsewhere than the bedroom. Not that I'll stop consenting adults from doing what they want. Just stating my impressions.

But I don't think that the necessary reaction to that is to swing towards McDworkinite puritanism. And I'm especially insulted by McKinnon's monkey-see monkey-do veiws on men and pornography.
posted by jonmc at 4:39 PM on April 11, 2005


jonmc: The puritans get a bum rap most of the time. Most of the first babies in puritan colonies came within a year of proposal, and a few months after the wedding. Puritan midwives knew about female orgasm and encouraged it as a way to help conception along.

Likewise, I don't read Dworkin and MacKinnon as puritan even in the way that you are misusing their legacy. If I can be glib and summarize what they say in one sentence, it would be, "Don't have any illusions that your sex life exists in a vacuum."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:47 PM on April 11, 2005


Dworkin was a laughable idiot zealot and a bigot. Her "philosophy" (excuse me while I puke) was based on tunnel-vision obsessiveness twisted by personal bitterness. And I say that as a staunch feminist. Don't laugh.
posted by Decani at 4:47 PM on April 11, 2005


The whole gender / race analogy is a child of the 60's and bogus:

a) women are not a minority group
b) they don't live in their own isolated communities, they intermingle and even live with their supposed opposites men, right in the same houses...
c) they share resources with them like food and stuff, continually
d) they share family connections with them, they have the same relatives
e) they even spawn new little males and females with them in vast and equal numbers
f) they spend almost all their free time with them, have been for a way long time

Not saying nothing's ever been wrong (it has been and continues to be), just saying the analogy with racial hatred is completely ridiculous because it's such a radically different set of circumstances.

A lot of extremist 60's thinking came out of this one very real, very extreme, and very shameful problem, that of racial hatred and oppression. It seems like in attempting to address that we ended up creating a lot of other extremist positions. So now everyone is a victim, everyone belongs to an oppressed minority of some kind, we all have rights separate from everyone elses (this rights, that rights) and no one is responsible for the whole situation, we're all just looking out for our own self-identified group and blaming all the others for everything.
posted by scheptech at 4:48 PM on April 11, 2005


Cranky - I didn't liken her to Hitler. I don't see "standing up for your beliefs" to be the sole condition for admiration.

I SAW her speak. She rambled and raged. She was full of hate speak that would make any Fascist proud. She hardly had the charisma of Hitler. Better vocabulary, maybe.

Nuts the world over "stand up for their beliefs."

Much depends on those beliefs, doesn't it? And much of Dworkin's extreme beliefs she admitted to be shaped by her terrible experiences as a prostitute.

Well that's self-selecting experience.

It's simple:
1. You got to be fucked up to become a prostitute in the first place.

2. And the men you meet are gonna be fucked up.

3. So, ergo, gosh, your opinions of gender and sexual relations are about how fucked up gender relations all are. Because NOTHING positive has happened to you.

That's like Michael Jackson publishing a guide on baby sitting.

She could put together a cogent argument to rationalize what were otherwise extreme beliefs. Wow. What a misunderstood genius.
posted by tkchrist at 4:49 PM on April 11, 2005


As far as her being a feminist, she's done more than engage in her largely futile campaign against porn. For that alone she's a laudable human being.

That everything she attempted to do to pornography was an affront to the constitution is true, but also ignores the fact that everything she did was an attempt to liberate women she felt were in danger.

If nothing else, her fight allowed a normally jocund and lazy porn industry to cement its position firmly on the side of free speech. I can't find fault with that.

Remember her fondly, regardless of her record. Her influence was largely good, even if ironically so.
posted by shmegegge at 4:53 PM on April 11, 2005


If I can be glib and summarize what they say in one sentence, it would be, "Don't have any illusions that your sex life exists in a vacuum."

I don't think anything of the sort, KJS, and you've always seemed like an uncommonly reasonable guy, so I'll restate what my main objection to them is: the simplistic reductive idea that looking at pornography automatically motivates men to act out what they see. Not to mention their veiw of men as uncontrolled, drooling libido-slaves is very close to that of fundy puritans.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on April 11, 2005


How come "the gender argument" is always so much more prevelant than "the gender discussion?" Will it always be this way?
posted by afroblanca at 4:53 PM on April 11, 2005


BDSM is for people afraid of fucking. They are the "Trekies" sex.
posted by tkchrist at 4:55 PM on April 11, 2005


a proper reading of her actual works and intentions does lead to some very interesting ideas that shouldn't be dismissed as "men=rape=bad" just out of hand.

And yet in a class I took on feminist political theory that is exactly how many students were interpreting her and MacKinnon's work.

The last news article I saw about Andrea Dworkin described how she had just filed a police report claiming to have been drugged and raped, I think by a couple of men in a hotel where she was staying in Paris.

Actually, she described it in the New Statesman in graphic detail, but refused to report it to the police - which of course raises all kinds of doubts about the story.


I'm not a big fan of Dworkin, but all of the "whatever, ugly bitch" nastiness going on in this thread really make me think that she may have had a thing or two right.


I agree - the verbal violence directed against her for not looking like some wanker's masturbatory fantasy is frightening. I disagreed almost completely with her writings - but anyone who can anger people this well needs to stay in the cannon.
posted by kanewai at 4:57 PM on April 11, 2005


but anyone who can anger people this well needs to stay in the cannon.

I know that's a typo, but it's a really funny one.
posted by jonmc at 4:58 PM on April 11, 2005


it's interesting to see the hate-fest against Dworkin in this supposed liberal bastion (a joke that isn't even funny anymore)

but yeah -- our resident white men, a famously oppressed minority, can sleep safely now that Dworkin's "massive ego" isn't around anymore.

if I cared about what some of our usual suspects here think, I'd be saddened, or disappointed. thank God I don't. pigs just can't avoid to root in their own excrement, it's in their nature, it'd be unfair to blame them for the stench of shit they carry with them.


requiescat in pace, Dworkin, e che la terra ti sia lieve.

.
posted by matteo at 5:04 PM on April 11, 2005


Oh what I wouldn't give for an 'edit' button!

Of course, I think she has a place in the canon. We'll save the cannon for others.
posted by kanewai at 5:08 PM on April 11, 2005


matteo, believe it or not, there are responses to someone's work other than reverence or complete dismissal. There's y'know, engagement. Dworkin's work had a certain utility at a certain point just like some of the earlier Black Muslim writings did, in that it alerted the dominant class, (and you'll get no argument from me that in many respects, white males are still the dominant class in the US and other places) that other people were extremely pissed off at things they had done. But it also contained a lot of assertions, like the ones I've mentioned above that were patently false and to promulgate them does more harm than good.

True, Dworkin belonged to an oppressed minority. So do the Black Israelites who claim that all white people are "grafted devils." Just because someones a member of an oppressed group does not neccesarily make their arguments cogent and logical or even sane.

but yeah -- our resident white men,

are you positing yourself as some kind of exception? I swear I'm not picking on you, matteo, but this is a pet peeve of mine, whenever a white male person (and "white" is a category that has had shifting meanings according to political expediency, a century ago in America, neither you nor I would be considered "white" by many) feels the need to publicly denigrate the group he belongs to, I always wonder what their motivation is? To offer themselves up as a sacrificial lamb for the "sins" of their group? I don't belive in collective guilt so I reject that.

I remember an article by Jim Goad a bout his prison experiences where he said that he was stunned at first when he was in jail to see Black Muslims and white convicts with "White Power," tatooed on their chest happily playing cards together, until someone said to him that "in prison, only racists are respected." To do otherwise, is seen by all sides as a lack of self-respect.

Now, I'm not arguing that we should use convicts as behavioral models, but it's an interesting observation.
posted by jonmc at 5:17 PM on April 11, 2005


BDSM is for people afraid of fucking. They are the "Trekies" sex.

Man, that comment shows a level of ignorance and inexperience so profound it's almost beautiful. It makes Dworkin look broad-minded.
posted by Decani at 5:20 PM on April 11, 2005


it's interesting to see the hate-fest against Dworkin in this supposed liberal bastion

Why is it interesting that liberal people would dump on someone who was anything but liberal in her views? I don't follow your pount.
posted by Decani at 5:21 PM on April 11, 2005


Or point, even.
posted by Decani at 5:22 PM on April 11, 2005


That everything she attempted to do to pornography was an affront to the constitution is true, but also ignores the fact that everything she did was an attempt to liberate women she felt were in danger.

Road to hell, good intentions, etc.

As with many academics, the problem is that they want to be judged by their ideas, rather than by its ramifications, while the rest of us live in a world where reality is altered by neither word nor fiat but by action alone. Thus, examining Dworkin's anti-porn crusade and the way her ideas have been used by the most extreme elements on the left leaves her looking more culpable than laudable, however subtle her writings may or may not be.
posted by DaShiv at 5:25 PM on April 11, 2005


Also, jonmc: word. When someone relies on the "well, that's a typical white male view" line, you know they've got nothing. It's no better an argument than "well, trust a fucking nigger/woman/queer to think that".
posted by Decani at 5:26 PM on April 11, 2005


Is simple verbal consent really sufficient when there is an imbalance of power? Is it really consent when someone has the power to say, "fuck me or get the fuck out?"

I understand the point but, how can this situation not apply to a man? That it generally applies to woman is of historical consequence, but to clutter up that issue with the sex act and not focus on the underlying issues of widespread economic and institutional discrimination seems to be purposely inflamatory. You see this in any imbalanced and unhealthy relationship regardless of sex (how many battered male partners are out there? more than you think).

My point is that these things have nothing to do with the actual sex act or the arbitrary details that take place during it, who sticks what in whom. It is about being in a healthy relationship vs. an abusive one.

When women have the choice to get an education, live on their own, make a good living, even have kids without a man, then they are free to enter into any relationship they want because the underlying issues have been addressed. I guess I see her point, that if you live in a society like say Saudi Arabia where the woman has no freedom to choose these things, that sex would become a form of rape. But pornography doesn't exist anywhere in that society. In fact, as we've discussed here before, free societies generally have MORE porn.

And I think most everyone's kink is okay. As long as there is no hard violence and everyone is a consenting adult. I don't find much of it erotic, but different strokes!
posted by McBain at 5:28 PM on April 11, 2005


It's no better an argument than "well, trust a fucking nigger/woman/queer to think that".

Well, not exactly.

I agree that it's usually a way to avoid debate, but I'd never be nuts enough to compare what straight white guy jonmc goes through in this world to what a gay, black or female person does. I've gotten the occasional taste of it due to circumastances and other people's ignorance and I found it infuriating.

But back to the point. I thik what's happened is that since most of the people weilding huge political and economic power in this country are white males that most white males are weilding huge political power, which is demonstrably untrue.
posted by jonmc at 5:31 PM on April 11, 2005


tkchrist, so far you've used Hitler, the Taliban, and Michael-Jackson-as-child-molester to illustrate your feelings about Dworkin. Once again, care to explain how my summing up was wrong?

Look, I've already said that I'm not a fan of Dworkin. But the level of anger directed at her, by you and by others, in this thread is a little disturbing.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:32 PM on April 11, 2005


I find this thread fascinating. I've always withheld judgment of any sort on Dworkin, because I have no idea how to even start. jokeefe's comparison between Dworkin and Malcolm X is extremely apt, I think. They're both living manifestos, hyperbolic and sensational.

Did anyone else read the Leah McLaren article in the Globe and Mail a couple of years ago? The one that publicly questioned whether Dworkin was lying about being raped in Paris? (I can't find a copy online.) I let out a low whistle when I read it. Only Dworkin could invite that sort of response.
posted by painquale at 5:34 PM on April 11, 2005


Man, that comment shows a level of ignorance and inexperience so profound it's almost beautiful. It makes Dworkin look broad-minded.

You need to loosen those leather straps a notch, then maybe you'd get it.
posted by tkchrist at 5:35 PM on April 11, 2005


Whatever you think of the viewpoints, it's always lovely to see a woman stand up for what she believes in and damn the naysayers.

Why? A woman standing up for some repellent or silly thing is still someone pushing for some repellent or silly thing, and in that case I at least would hope that she'd face a whole lot of naysayers. Not that Dworkin necessarily fell in that camp, though my opinions about censorship of anything for any reason are strong and negative.

Back in college, a woman rabblerouser would pass through from time to time, and she'd stand up for what she believed, and in return she'd get catcalls, derision, other mild verbal abuse, and baffled stares. What she believed in was that she was her husband's property; her sign said so. Standing up for a viewpoint against naysayers is only lovely if you're right and they're wrong. Otherwise you're evil or misguided, or a simple crank, or both.

I don't get the anger either.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:43 PM on April 11, 2005


The whole gender / race analogy is a child of the 60's and bogus... the analogy with racial hatred is completely ridiculous because it's such a radically different set of circumstances.

Try talking to black women about the comparison. They have the inside scoop from both sides, and in my experience very commonly consider being female just as much or more of a disadvantage.

a) women are not a minority group

There are not fewer women than men, but women are physically smaller and weaker than men, and throughout history have therefore been politically weaker and commonly dismissed or controlled. Women got the vote 50 years after black men.

b) they don't live in their own isolated communities, they intermingle and even live with their supposed opposites men, right in the same houses...
c) they share resources with them like food and stuff, continually
d) they share family connections with them, they have the same relatives


how does that reduce the likelihood that they're oppressed? It seems more likely to increase that likelihood, actually. Slaves often spent their time "right in the same houses" as their masters, too.

e) they even spawn new little males and females with them in vast and equal numbers

Throughout much of history they were traded by their fathers to the sons of their father's friends, to serve this purpose.

f) they spend almost all their free time with them, have been for a way long time

Again, I don't see why you think this removes any possibility of imbalance of power. Women have only been recognized as citizens for about 85 years. There are still people alive who remember when women weren't considered fully autonomous human beings by our enlightened government.

I'm not a big fan of Dworkin, by the way; I actually haven't read much of it and I'm not particularly focused on feminist studies. But this thread bugs me. Recorded history goes back about 3000 years. For about 2900 of those years, women were flatly assumed to be secondary, passive, and primarily useful for producing kids. Yes, we've made progress. No, we're definitely not "over" that whole issue.

That doesn't mean she can't enjoy porn or even make some herself if she wanted to. It is the idea that her doing so would be wrong or somehow lowering herself, no matter what her arbitrary personal sexual tastes are, because they are just that, personal and arbitrary.

As I think KJS said above, this is assuming that her "arbitrary personal sexual tastes" exist in a vacuum. It's very unlikely that that's the case. We are affected by the culture in which we live. The more mainstream and accepted porn that presents women as fuckees there to please men, the more the general conception of women as secondary and passive becomes. If porn in general seemed to present women and men as equally active, equally powerful, equally hot, etc, that'd be one thing. But there are way more women sucking dicks than men eating cunts, you know? There's a huge market of "rape porn" advertised online - it's not amazon women with dildos chasing down small men.
posted by mdn at 5:48 PM on April 11, 2005


but I'd never be nuts enough to compare what straight white guy jonmc goes through in this world to what a gay, black or female person does.

Me neither. My point was the arguments are equally fallacious. That's all.
posted by Decani at 5:50 PM on April 11, 2005


tkchrist, so far you've used Hitler, the Taliban, and Michael-Jackson-as-child-molester to illustrate your feelings about Dworkin. Once again, care to explain how my summing up was wrong?

*Sigh* I already did. Are you deliberately being obtuse?

Look, I could of used Proust but people wouldn't know what the hell I was talking about, would they?

Yes. I DID compare her to the Taliban. I think it's apt. Extremist. Orthodox. Hostile. All those things. Yup. Why the hell not.

I used Hitler, a cliche and tiresome tactic, to illustrate a cliche and tiresome point. Just like everybody else.

Oh. For fuck sake. People don't deserve admiration for simply being orthodox zealots that won't back down or admit they were ever wrong. Ok. Get it.

I want somebody to say they admired her for the merits of her ideas and explain what those actually WERE. But they can't, and they don't. because her ideas, not all, but many, were pathological ramblings rooted in her own personal victimhood dressed up as intellectual.

I saw her speak. Fifteen feet from me. For 2 and half hours. I gave her ideas a fair shake. Ok. And she was, IMHO, a nut.

I attended like eight political and feminist conferences that year. But I'm just another angry white male, right?

Ok. So I think she was an asshole. Big deal. I'm not changing my opinion of her because she is no longer metabolizing oxygen. And nothing anybody has posted has made her anymore appealing.
posted by tkchrist at 5:53 PM on April 11, 2005


There's a huge market of "rape porn" advertised online - it's not amazon women with dildos chasing down small men.

Although, if that's what you're into, I'm sure it can be found quite easily.

I'm not trying to make light of what your (astoundingly articulate) comment said, but my point is this: I'll grant for the sake of argument that Dworkin was in favor of the liberation of women, and that's an admirable goal, but the fact that she's on the "right" side dosen't make her ideas any less wrong.
posted by jonmc at 5:53 PM on April 11, 2005


way more women sucking dicks than men eating cunts, you know?

You have GOT to be joking.
posted by tkchrist at 5:55 PM on April 11, 2005


jonmc: I don't think anything of the sort, KJS, and you've always seemed like an uncommonly reasonable guy, so I'll restate what my main objection to them is: the simplistic reductive idea that looking at pornography automatically motivates men to act out what they see. Not to mention their veiw of men as uncontrolled, drooling libido-slaves is very close to that of fundy puritans.

I don't think their views are quite that simplistic. I'm no fan of their proposed laws, but I do think there is a bit of truth to the notion that a lot of porn out there that is equivalent to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the stuff peddled by the World Church of the Creator now the Creativity Movement.

What's the solution? The heck if I know. This is another one of those cases where it seems like it is really difficult to take a reasonable middle ground between, "all porn is good" and "all porn is bad." However, saying "some porn is good" is quite fashionable, while saying "a lot of porn is bad" will get you called a prude, puritan or worse. However, it seems that the pro-porn people have won the day and effectively shouted-down anybody who suggests that we really should think about what some of this stuff really says.

MacKinnon: I understand the point but, how can this situation not apply to a man? That it generally applies to woman is of historical consequence, but to clutter up that issue with the sex act and not focus on the underlying issues of widespread economic and institutional discrimination seems to be purposely inflamatory. You see this in any imbalanced and unhealthy relationship regardless of sex (how many battered male partners are out there? more than you think).

Well, my reading of both MacKinnon and Dworkin is that it's not about the sex act, or the gender (except for the fact that men (in general) get more privelege than women (in general)), but about the power. MacKinnon authored a brief on behaf of the National Organization on Male Sexual Victimization in the Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services case that found men can be victims of sexual harassment. Dworkin's argument is that intercourse has been constructed in a certain way in our culture, but could be constructed a different way if we were to iron out the power dynamics. Both argue that the current statutory laws that define intercourse as obligatory within marriage and the absence of marital rape laws in some jurisdictions make the issue of "consent" problematic.

And I think most everyone's kink is okay. As long as there is no hard violence and everyone is a consenting adult. I don't find much of it erotic, but different strokes!

Well, I don't agree on that. I think it's perfectly reasonable to question and examine why we do what we do.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:56 PM on April 11, 2005


a lot of porn is bad" will get you called a prude

Howz about this:

"Porn is bad when people are injured, coerced or otherwise forced, under age, or drugged while making it."

and:

"Porn is good when consensual adults, who are highly paid unionized professionals, are engaged in things they personally enjoy doing and nothing conflicts with the previous definition. And they must be devastatingly hot."
posted by tkchrist at 6:04 PM on April 11, 2005


I don't think their views are quite that simplistic. I'm no fan of their proposed laws, but I do think there is a bit of truth to the notion that a lot of porn out there that is equivalent to The Protocols of the Elders of Zion or the stuff peddled by the World Church of the Creator now the Creativity Movement.

OK, we're more or less on the same page, then. I don't disagree. Porn of the Max Hardcore variety, I find nauseating, misogynist (a word I don't use lightly) and anti-human. But, I'd hate to have the fight to eliminate that interfere with the right of the rest of us to look at harmless pics of boobies, cocks or whatever floats our collective boat.

Well, I don't agree on that. I think it's perfectly reasonable to question and examine why we do what we do.


I'm with you on this. It's not so much that I think peoples kinks are harmful (barring rape and pedophilia), it's more that I see certain stuff (hardcore S&M, scat/golden showers, etc) and I think to myself "If you find that erotic, I gotta wonder what's up in your head."

That may not be the right thing to say, but there you have it in all honesty.
posted by jonmc at 6:05 PM on April 11, 2005


There is more porn than ever before. The fact is that most people - men and women - gay and straight - LIKE porn.
posted by tkchrist at 6:08 PM EST on April 11 [!]

Really?
posted by jokeefe at 6:46 PM EST on April 11 [!]

It is estimated that Americans now spend somewhere around $10 billion a year on adult entertainment, which is as much as they spend attending professional sporting events, buying music or going out to the movies.

Maybe not most, but an awful lot of us.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:16 PM on April 11, 2005


and that's not factoring in us net geeks who get our porn for free.
posted by jonmc at 6:16 PM on April 11, 2005


jonmc: Cool, consensus!

tkchrist: Well, I don't know about that. There are quite a few things that are made by consenting employees that are complete and utter trash. However, nobody is going to say nasty things about my sex life if I savagely criticize something like Ring 2.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2005


.
posted by stet at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2005


jonmc: Cool, consensus!

Great, lets go grab some beers at the strip club.
posted by jonmc at 6:18 PM on April 11, 2005


HALLELUJAH!!
posted by HTuttle at 6:24 PM on April 11, 2005


Htuttle, if that "HALLELUJAH!!" was for beers at a strip club, then cool. If it was for Dworkin's death, that's abominably mean-spirited and insensitive. I din't like it in the Reagan thread, and I'll call it out here, too. I'm not fond of what either person was about, but celebrating the death of anyone short of a Hitler or a Bin Laden is just distasteful and reveals more about you than your target. Or maybe I just want to believe that MeFites are calssier than that.
posted by jonmc at 6:27 PM on April 11, 2005


I love the Susie Bright post.
I love Why do we all hate her? Should she have acted more demurely?
I can't bring myself to read the rest of the thread because it will probably make me scream.

Oh, and

.
posted by librarina at 6:31 PM on April 11, 2005


KJS - now let's not get into plot. I'm just as tired of the "Pizza Delivery Guy" plot as everybody else.
posted by tkchrist at 6:38 PM on April 11, 2005


Andrea was right: porn turns men (or strange pink creatures, at least) into monsters!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:20 PM on April 11, 2005


And can someone direct me to all the supposedly female-positive porn that is available these days? Cause from what I can see the overwhelming majority of the stuff is the same old same old...

Well, as the saying goes, 90% of everything is crud, but you do know about Candida Royale, right? Women *are* creating porn from a non-moronic-male perspective, and it *is* available to those who seek it out.

Anyway, I really hope some folks actually bother to read the 1995 Michael Moorcock interview in which Dworkin's views come across quite clearly. Especially on the intercourse = rape bit:

Michael Moorcock: After "Right-Wing Women" and "Ice and Fire" you wrote "Intercourse". Another book which helped me clarify confusions about my own sexual relationships. You argue that attitudes to conventional sexual intercourse enshrine and perpetuate sexual inequality. Several reviewers accused you of saying that all intercourse was rape. I haven't found a hint of that anywhere in the book. Is that what you are saying?

Andrea Dworkin: No, I wasn't saying that and I didn't say that, then or ever. There is a long section in Right-Wing Women on intercourse in marriage. My point was that as long as the law allows statutory exemption for a husband from rape charges, no married woman has legal protection from rape. I also argued, based on a reading of our laws, that marriage mandated intercourse--it was compulsory, part of the marriage contract. Under the circumstances, I said, it was impossible to view sexual intercourse in marriage as the free act of a free woman. I said that when we look at sexual liberation and the law, we need to look not only at which sexual acts are forbidden, but which are compelled.


Whoever wrote above that Dworkin's work was "poorly argued half-thoughts" obviously hasn't read her very closely. Her critique of an ACLU-style commitment to "free speech" - which I've come to vehemently disagree with - was one of the sharpest and most mind-blowing concepts I encountered in college. In the end, I agree with Doug Henwood's comment at Susie Bright's site:

What an odd and amazing character she was - clearly lots of brainpower, but so twisted up about lust and aggression. I guess that's what made her so compelling to read. Somehow all the bottled up lust & aggression came out, despite the best efforts of her ideology to contain it.

Amen. A conflicted but highly intelligent critic of gender relations, whose critique ultimately falls short of truly puncturing her primary target. RIP, Andrea.
posted by mediareport at 7:20 PM on April 11, 2005


As some posters pointed out earlier, Dworkin did not equate sex with rape. Rather she was concerned with issues of consent. She questioned whether women can consent in a society where they are not treated as equals. Clearly, Dworkin was working from the premise that men and women in American society are not treated as equals. If this is your viewpoint, the question is an interesting, though mostly academic, one. Most people don't operate from this viewpoint anymore, so the discussion is pretty pointless.

Why all the "ding dong the witch is dead" posts? CLASSY.
posted by birgitte at 7:28 PM on April 11, 2005


Brutal internal examination. Please explain.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 7:36 PM on April 11, 2005


.
posted by sophieblue at 7:38 PM on April 11, 2005


again, I don't see why you think this removes any possibility of imbalance of power.

Ok, I never said it removes any possibility of imbalance of power. Nuh uh, not what I said.

What I said was:

There have been and still are problems. Personally, I'd suggest starting with something other than evaluating everything in terms of "power" relationships which is a hugely negative view of humanity.

Anyway, comparing the condition of women in society to minority racial oppression is a non-starter for the reasons I listed. There are just too many situational differences for it to make any sense.

So what I'm positing is this: that Dworkin's (along with many others) false starting analogy back in the day, in comparing every social ill in existence, up until this day, with the form of racial intolerance that existed into the 60's leads to extreme and ultimately untenable conclusions. I'm just saying, a better way is needed to describe the situation in order to deal with it, this one's broke.

And btw, you gotta give the woman her due anyway, lookit the debate started up here, not bad. And hey, also btw, I'm the one who posted the Guardian quote way back indicating, with some empathy, what happened to her when she was only 18 years old, the Brutal internal examination thing which, yes, has not been expanded upon, anyone know more about that?
posted by scheptech at 7:47 PM on April 11, 2005


KirkJobSluder said: "A large part of it came from some pretty bitter disillusionment with the mixed messages from the BDSM community. On the one hand, "safe, sane and consensual" is repeated over and over again as the explicit text. However, the subtext idolizes ideal submission."

I don't see the conflict here. Many people, men and women alike, genuinely enjoy submission and get off on it, and it is very possible and common to do so safely, sanely and consensually.
posted by RoseovSharon at 8:03 PM on April 11, 2005


From her 1992 NYT letter to the editor:The third time, I was 18, a freshman in college, and I had been arrested for taking part in a sit-in outside the United Nations to protest the Vietnam War. It was February of 1965. This time, my experience was reported in The New York Times, newspapers all around the world and on television: girl in prison -- New York's notorious Women's House of Detention -- says she was brutalized by two prison doctors. Forced entry with a speculum -- for 15 days I had vaginal bleeding, a vagina so bruised and ripped that my stone-cold family doctor burst into tears when he examined me.
posted by PY at 8:26 PM on April 11, 2005


Did anyone else read the Leah McLaren article in the Globe and Mail a couple of years ago? The one that publicly questioned whether Dworkin was lying about being raped in Paris?

Here is an article casting doubts on her rape claim. Leah McLaren's article is mentioned in the sidebar.

[It also mentions the "brutal internal examination": In 1965 she was arrested and imprisoned after joining an anti-Vietnam war demonstration, then assaulted by the two male prison doctors who gave her an internal examination.

"They pretty much tore me up inside with a steel speculum and had themselves a fine old time verbally tormenting me as well
.]
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:34 PM on April 11, 2005


Thanks PY. I missed that on preview.

The next obvious questions are: Why???!! Did they do it to all the ladies arrested that day? What happened to the doctors? Surely they must have been tried and jailed if what she is saying is true?

I'm flabbergasted.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:55 PM on April 11, 2005


Ynoxas: Which is to say it works the vast majority of the time, and only fails in certain specific conditions.
It is these specific conditions you need to address (public goods, abusive spouses) instead of declaring the entire system a failure.
Consensual sexual arrangements work rather well for the vast majority of people.


I would certainly agree. What I meant by the comment about consensus was NOT that it is ineffective as a framework for preventing abusive situations and weighing relational dynamics in our society. It IS the best bare-bones framework we've got to go on in a pluralistic society.

Consent determines legality; it cannot determine goodness. A friend of mine entertained elaborate and brutal rape fantasies for years -- perhaps I'm a prude, perhaps I'm unwilling to accept the kinks of others... but I'd say that's an example of an unhealthy sexual desire. How does the concept of 'consent' work in that sort of scenario? Is 'consent/non-consent' a framework that is even capable of describing healthiness or wholeness? No. That doesn't mean we abandon the idea of consent. Rather, I think we should recognize the concept's limitations.

That doesn't mean we outlaw pornography, crack down on the SI Swimsuit edition, and enforce strict dress standards. But there's a rather huge stretch of philosophical ground between 'outlaw nudity' and 'porn is good, everyone loves porn.'
posted by verb at 11:06 PM on April 11, 2005


A friend of mine entertained elaborate and brutal rape fantasies for years -- perhaps I'm a prude, perhaps I'm unwilling to accept the kinks of others... but I'd say that's an example of an unhealthy sexual desire. How does the concept of 'consent' work in that sort of scenario?

I don't see the conflict at all, verb. Adults who choose to explore the intense psychology of rape or domination fantasies may be playing with fire, sure, but that doesn't mean consent is impossible in that situation, or that it's always severely pathological to want to explore those aspects of human social consciousness. Submissive/dominant role-playing might even be psychologically important to some people.

And, really, who cares if you "accept the kinks of others"? Not the folks with the kinks, I'd bet.
posted by mediareport at 12:02 AM on April 12, 2005


"believe it or not, there are responses to someone's work other than reverence or complete dismissal."

Indeed. While I disagreed with almost every aspect of Dworkin's theory, I've always held her skill as a polemicist and irritant in the highest regard. Her writing was always engaging and entertaining, even when it was frustrating and wrong-headed.

And regardless of her failings, I never for a moment doubted that she was on the side of the angels -- the poor, the oppressed, the downtrodden, the marginal. I wish I was convinced that some of the mean-spirited contributors to this thread were quite so benevolent in their intent.

RIP, Andrea. God knows, you seemed to have so little of it while you were alive...
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:21 AM on April 12, 2005


As much as I disagreed both with Dworkin's analysis and with her proposed solutions, I had to respect her for taking seriously the idea that sex could be a site of male domination of women. She took the side of women who were victims of rape, coersion, and even unbalanced bedroom power dynamics, and she took their pain seriously.
posted by mai at 12:48 AM on April 12, 2005


mediareport: down to attitude really. I share with verb (and others who have commented similarly) an irritation at the resistance in sex-positive circles to the idea that some orientations and consequent relationships might, ultimately, be pathological. Someone has a paraphilia, has good insight into it, and incorporates it into their sex life in a consensual way: fine. But there are others who have very little insight, but wrap it all up in scene jargon and philosophy (for instance, belief in some kind of 'natural human pecking order') where "safe/sane/consensual" gives a justification and a gloss of rationality. That way lies the risk of basically abusive relationships.
posted by raygirvan at 3:35 AM on April 12, 2005


On one hand, there are people here saying that they've read some of her writings and she wasn't the nut she was portrayed as.

And then there are other people saying they've met her, and she was exactly the nut she was portrayed as.

So I'm inclined to believe the later - that she was the nut she was portrayed as, and assume from the former that she had some interesting ideas and caused a lot of people to think about things in different ways.

RIP
posted by -harlequin- at 4:17 AM on April 12, 2005


I was never a huge Dworkin fan; I think mediareport has it right:

A conflicted but highly intelligent critic of gender relations, whose critique ultimately falls short of truly puncturing her primary target.

I'd like to thank the few people who are exhibiting some compassion and/or good sense in this cesspool of a thread. I don't know why I felt compelled to read the whole thing, but it sure makes me want to spend less time on MetaFilter.
posted by languagehat at 5:54 AM on April 12, 2005


This is quite the thread, with responses that are by turns thoughtful, outraged, sympathetic, searching, defensive, and dismissive. And I think that in a sense, there could be no better index to just how complex and many-faceted Dworkin's contributions and effect were.

And I echo this...

RIP, Andrea. God knows, you seemed to have so little of it while you were alive...
posted by orange swan at 6:31 AM on April 12, 2005


I'm sure Ann Coulter and Condoleeza Rice will be glad to have your unwavering support.

I can be happy that they are speaking their minds and still not agree with them. It's pretty close-minded to think that one couldn't.
posted by agregoli at 6:45 AM on April 12, 2005


I share...an irritation at the resistance in sex-positive circles to the idea that some orientations and consequent relationships might, ultimately, be pathological.

Have you really seen that kind of resistance? I haven't. Hell, I'd say about the *only* place I've seen honest, thoughtful discussion of the risks (and, to be fair, therapeutic benefits) of power-related play is in "sex-positive circles." Besides, how can you be certain that the percentage of pathological "orientations and consequent relationships" is higher among BDSM practitioners than among non-BDSM practitioners? Are you just assuming that it is?

It's not as if folks who "have very little insight" into their sexuality, or believe in a "natural human pecking order" are very hard to find (standard gender roles, anyone?). Seems to me your formulation doesn't leave all that much room for non-pathological sex.

This is where the resistance enters, raygirvan - not to the idea that some relationships are bad ones, but to the notion that it's easy to spot a pathology after watching a few minutes of an intense scene between a couple of people, or hearing someone describe a particularly intense and degrading fantasy (note: fantasy). The quickness to judge is sometimes really striking. Given the rampant pathologization of various kinds of harmless sexuality, I think resistance to that kind of snap judgment is more than justified.
posted by mediareport at 7:03 AM on April 12, 2005


For love of philosophy, and therefore feminism, I took nine credits worth of women's studies in college and worked for a women's community center for two semesters. It was in this environment that I first encountered Ms. Dworkin's writing.

Her writing, unlike Susie Bright's, is full of violence and fear and anger and pain. Regardless of what Dworkin is saying on any particular subject, the underlying themes are there. This is one side of feminist writing, by men or women, while other side has a more sensual joy and grief and realism.

Dworkin made me nauseous the way that some Nazi propaganda has, and, oddly enough, like de Sade, and like the art of criminal psychopaths. That's strong, but its my subjective truth, for whatever that's worth.

That she was a pioneer, there is no doubt.
posted by ewkpates at 7:28 AM on April 12, 2005


Boy, that went way downhill after the last time I commented. I'm going to read her work, and ignore bullshit like TKChrist's screaming hysteria. Even though he may have seen her, he seems to have either not had the capacity or the will to take anything away from it aside from a rabid and incoherent desire to compare it to fascism. And since it doesn't appear to me that he knows the difference between censorship and fascism, I'll discount his analysis thusly.
There's an interesting trackback in one of the links posted (here) that goes into a pretty good analysis of Dworkin, Dowd and CJ Craig (from the West Wing).
posted by klangklangston at 7:33 AM on April 12, 2005


Have you really seen that kind of resistance? I haven't. Hell, I'd say about the *only* place I've seen honest, thoughtful discussion of the risks (and, to be fair, therapeutic benefits) of power-related play is in "sex-positive circles."

Yes, I have seen that kind of resistance, both in this thread and in the the lives of folks I've known who used "sex-positive" talk as an easy cover for addiction and self-destructive behavior. It's certainly their right to engage in such behavior, and their issues don't mean that others share the same pathologies.

But I've seen honest, thoughtful discussion of the risks and therapeutic benefits of eating disorders in the pro-anorexia sites that dot the web as well. The fact that such conversation exists doesn't mean that it's healthy or beneficial.

If there's one to be said of Dworkin, it's that she spoke out against a set of sexual lenses she perceived as distorting and destructive. As best as I can tell, she spent her life doing that but never articulated a positive, constructive, healthy view. She defined sexuality in via negativa. While that may call the bad stuff into stark relief, it doesn't offer us much of a positive view to go forward with. It's telling that pro-porn feminists now refer to themselves as 'sex-positive.' As if people who think porn is destructive are somehow against sex.
posted by verb at 7:38 AM on April 12, 2005


I feel compelled to quote the Eurythmics.

Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to be used by you
Some people want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused

Indeed.

I personally can't understand any other vantage point except what is mutually agreed upon between two consenting adults is "fine" by me.

I've seen videos of guys who enjoy getting kicked, hard, in the groin. Not exactly my cup of tea, but I'm not sure it falls to me to try to abate their behavior.

Sex is so subjective. I have kinks that some might find repulsive, and others might find incredibly trite and pedestrian, while others might find them to not even merit the term "kink" at all.

There is a broad spectrum of sexual appetites.

I don't know enough about Dworkin to say much. What little I've read of hers I didn't like.

I think that, ironically, many feminists, and especially sexually oriented feminists, don't give women enough credit for the power that they do wield, which in a great many hetero relationships (dare I say most?) is formidable.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:43 AM on April 12, 2005


I can be happy that they are speaking their minds and still not agree with them. It's pretty close-minded to think that one couldn't.

Not my point. Do you think it's "lovely" that Ann Coulter speaks her mind, damn the naysayers? It's just an absurd proposition to suggest that any time a woman speaks her mind it's cause for celebration, simply by virtue of her womanhood. (I think ROU_Xenophobe made this point better than I later in the thread).
posted by pardonyou? at 9:29 AM on April 12, 2005


Not my point. Do you think it's "lovely" that Ann Coulter speaks her mind, damn the naysayers?
"Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. But I'm not saying that sex must be rape. What I think is that sex must not put women in a subordinate position. It must be reciprocal and not an act of aggression from a man looking only to satisfy himself. That's my point." -- Andrea Dworkin

"Men are rewarded for learning the practice of violence in virtually any sphere of activity by money, admiration, recognition, respect, and the genuflection of others honoring their sacred and proven masculinity. In male culture, police are heroic and so are outlaws; males who enforce standards are heroic and so are those who violate them." -- Andrea Dworkin

"The genius of any slave system is found in the dynamics which isolate slaves from each other, obscure the reality of a common condition, and make united rebellion against the oppressor inconceivable." -- Andrea Dworkin

"I think women should be armed but should not be allowed to vote.... The problem with women voting -- and your Communists will back me up on this -- is that, you know, women have no capacity to understand how money is earned. They have a lot of ideas on how to spend it." -- Ann Coulter, Politically Incorrect, Feb. 26, 2001

"It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 - except Goldwater in '64 - the Republican would have won, if only the men had voted." - Ann Coulter, May 17, 2003

"My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention." -- AnnCoulter.com

"Anorexics never have boyfriends. ... That's one way to know you don't have anorexia: if you have a boyfriend."
-- Ann Coulter, Politically Incorrect, July 21, 1997
I may not agree with all of the conclusions that Dworkin reaches, but I can't help but feel that her views on women, men, and our culture are slightly more insightful and nuanced than Coulter's. If we take Dworkin's ideas seriously, Coulter seems like perfect proof: a woman who's used sexual appeal and a willingness to attack other women as a tool to climb in a traditionally male-dominated media.
posted by verb at 5:41 PM on April 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


My problem with Dworkin (and others, like Mackinnon,) are that they essentially infantalize women. She placed such a high bar for a women's true sexual consent, without really discussing other comparable situations, and, at the same time, really devalued the thoughts and arguments of those women who disagreed with her. Essentially a false-consciousness argument, but with a really low barrier to entry. She also attributed violence to non-violent situations. ironically helping to devalue the concept of violence. (admittedly, this had little societal impact.)

By saying that in this society, the average woman is incapable of consent, one wonders what kind of cotton-candy society is required for true consent to occur. (Ignoring the question for a moment, that why does this only apply to women, usually in sexual situations? I mean, if she was a Marxist-Feminist, applying this standard to everything, at least she'd be consistent and apparently thought this through some more, even if I still disagreed with her.)

Beyond that, when you say most women are incapable of giving consent, and continue by saying that those women who say they are consenting are either liars, or not really consenting because no one would really consent in their situation, therefore they clearly are thinking incorrectly, then I question exactly how much of a feminist you really are.

And I consider it pretty presumptuous to question a woman's self-application of feminist identity, so I think you have to go pretty fucking far to get me to do that.
posted by Snyder at 1:08 AM on April 13, 2005


Snyder, I certainly see the point you're making about the infantalizing. I don't think that she's getting at the idea of women being incapable of consent so much as our collective sexual understanding not offering them too many options.

For example: if you're raised in a world that only talks about athletes and marginalizes all other pursuits, are you "choosing" to become an athlete when you join little league? When you pursue a sports scholarship? Or are you just operating in a world where the option of being a drama major never occurs to you?

That's an odd hypothetical, admittedly. But the central idea of Dworkin's that I find most interesting is the idea that consent in a culture where saying no is bad is no consent at all. When a person says 'Yes,' are they saying that to sex? Are they saying it to the desire to be normal? Are they saying it to the desire to continue to be loved by someone? In lesser ways, I grew up participating in sports not because I enjoyed them but because I knew it was what boys had to do if they weren't sissies. I don't think it infantalizes men or women to acknowledge this fundamental problem.

That's where my comparison to the Invisible Hand Of The Market came in. assuming that Consent Determines Goodness is as damaging as assuming that The Market Ensures The Right Outcome. Consent determines legality, and the market ensures the most profitable outcome. Both assume that everyone has an equal starting point, or full knowledge of their choices.

These aren't questions about legality but rather underlying ways of understanding ourselves. As interesting as I find Dworkin's ideas, I'm not in favor of, say, banning pornography or something like that. I do maintain, though, that the core ideas she fought for are valuable.
posted by verb at 9:05 AM on April 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


I've been avoiding this thread but decided to come back & respond...

I think that, ironically, many feminists, and especially sexually oriented feminists, don't give women enough credit for the power that they do wield, which in a great many hetero relationships (dare I say most?) is formidable.

well, I think you're just misunderstanding what feminists want. Women can "wield power" in many relationships, but it is a only power secondary to the interests or desires of men. It is only power because they can choose to provide or not provide something which is of interest to the other. Some people are powerful because they know who they are, and they seek to actualize their capacities and lead others to ends which will be beneficial, etc. The kind of power you're speaking of is not that sort. It is the superficial power derived from the manipulation of someone else's needs and interests. This whole paradigm is what feminism is trying to move beyond. It is not about, how can I control my man by focusing my attention on what he wants and choosing to what degree to satisfy him depending on how well he meets my needs? Rather, it is about becoming a fully autonomous individual who enters into meaningful relationships with other human beings, precisely without this sort of gamesmanship, because women are exactly as human as men.

The kind of power you're speaking of is only available to those women who have something men want. Anne Coulter only has whatever power she has, because she's hot - which she says herself:

"My pretty-girl allies stick out like a sore thumb amongst the corn-fed, no make-up, natural fiber, no-bra needing, sandal-wearing, hirsute, somewhat fragrant hippie chick pie wagons they call 'women' at the Democratic National Convention."

-If she were a 300 lb troll, not a soul would notice her existence. All of her power is derived from the desires of men, not from her own source of self.

Although, if that's what you're into, I'm sure it can be found quite easily.

You have GOT to be joking.


Absolutely, you can find any sort of porn you want. But a lot of people don't spend that much time looking for porn. I've rented videos a couple times with people, and I've mildly looked online, but visual porn doesn't do much for me [well, for some reason things like the comic "Cherry" are more interesting to me, but that's neither here nor there], so most of my sense of it is from what the average person gets just by living in the modern world - passing posters or magazines or videos, clicking through to websites by accident, getting spam in the inbox, yadda yadda. Anyway, no, I'm not joking at all. BJs are a major theme in porn, & in my experience clit licking is most commonly presented as a girl with an extra long tongue making weird flicky motions around another girl's labia. No doubt, there are videos that present things in a more interesting way, but I'm addressing what leaks out to the cultural mainstream, not what specific searches can lead you to.

If you do a quick search for porn (& I just did this to make sure things are as I remember) you'll find lots of pictures of women in submissive looking positions -head low, chin low, eyes looking up to you (the viewer), and the place to be penetrated presented as inviting [from whichever direction - the point is, she's there for you to take].

Anyway. Nice comments, verb.
posted by mdn at 10:21 AM on April 13, 2005


mdn - Your third paragraph is the most efficient description of how I feel as a feminist. You rock. :D
posted by Radio7 at 5:06 AM on April 14, 2005


mdn: I think your analysis is apt, but it can also be turned on its head or reversed to fit the male archetype.

Men only have "power" in a relationship if they have traits attractive to a woman.

Undesirable men and undesirable women would both suffer equally in a relationship, I would think.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:32 AM on April 14, 2005


but it can also be turned on its head or reversed to fit the male archetype.

My friend, you seem to still be missing the point. Feminists are not saying "men have too much power: we want a world where women dominate instead." They're trying to say, "let's not live by gender roles and power dynamics at all." So, yes, men can be & are feminists also - it isn't about 'reversing the archetype' - the idea is to get outside the archetype altogether and share a world in which we all recognize each other first and foremost as human beings.

Just 85 years ago, men were recognized as human beings, and women were recognized as women. They were not even citizens of the state, much less public officials. "man" is the 'default' (all men are created equal) and hence although men might have given up some power in their relationships etc, they have always had the opportunity to be individuals with their own source of power, in the public sphere (as professionals or businessmen or gov't or whatever), whereas women have traditionally siphoned off all their power from men. Some women, like anne coulter, are apparently happy to still do that. Some of us, however, have a rather different attitude.

Things are much better now, but we don't have an equal percentage of women serving in public offices or anything like that. Perhaps we never will; perhaps fewer women are interested - that's fine. But the point is that if it turns out that I belong to a gender with less interest in leadership & politics (and at this stage it's far too early to determine what's social expectation and what's innate tendencies), that should have no effect on what people expect of me. Whether I am male or female is secondary to the fact that I am in individual human being with certain capacities. The various categories to which I belong are irrelevant to my human potential.
posted by mdn at 8:21 AM on April 15, 2005


Men only have "power" in a relationship if they have traits attractive to a woman.
Ynoxas, I think mdn's point holds. It's easy to turn any dynamic power around. Slaves had power over farmers in the south, because the economy would crumble if they stopped working. The people of Iraq had power over Sadaam, because rulers only govern by the consent of the people. Students have power over professors, because if everyone stopped enrolling on college, professors would have no jobs.

Those are very extreme examples, and I'm not trying to suggest that gender dynamics in our society are that freakishly messed up. Rather, the 'power' that women have traditionally had was the power to veto male desire, not to initiate and connect as equals. The belle of the ball gets attention, but the power she holds over her suitors is simply the power to accept or decline, not to choose her own path.

As mdn said, the ideal is a world where neither men nor women are viewed in this way, where the power dynamics are dismantled as much as possible and we can relate as peers and equals. It's not a pie in the sky dream -- and it's not about 'turning the tables.'
posted by verb at 8:37 AM on April 16, 2005


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