Interviewed on Dallas Radio Talk Show

October 17, 1998

(The mp3 audio version of this file can be found here.)

ANDREA DWORKIN: . . . The question is: Does one feel the freedom to express not just anger but outrage and passion and the demand for equality and justice?

INTERVIEWER (David Gold, KLIF): Most people, gosh, I mean the overwhelming number of people listening to this program—we've talked about these subjects before—would agree with you about rape, would agree with you about child molestation and abuse of . . . spousal abuse, in whatever form that it takes. . .but your writing goes one step further that, that bothers me a little bit . . .as a man, first of all, I guess it's natural that some of this is going to bother me, right?

DWORKIN: I don't know, I think it depends on what kind of man you are, probably . . .

INTERVIEWER: Oh yes, but . . . page 119 in your book. . . was particularly interesting to me. You correct me when I'm wrong. Essentially, I am paraphrasing now: Men . . . men conquer women, men take women for sex. Women get back. . . food. Essentially, marriage is nothing but prostitution. There is nothing different from rape and seduction with a bottle of wine . . .

DWORKIN: Well yeah, that's quite a paraphrase . . . First, you've got to understand that this book is a collection of writings over an 11-year period and that most of the writing in this book couldn't be published in the United States. In fact the book itself, Letters from a War Zone, was published in England a year and a half ago. You could call this collection a collection of suppressed writings and the particular piece that you are talking about is about why women are poor and what poverty has to do with the fact that we're women. Now you know that the largest population of poor people in this country are women and that the Labor department says that, by the year 2000, women and their children will be close to one hundred per cent of the poor in the United States, so what this has to do with is the sexual value that's given to everything that we try to do that we think has an economic value and the economic value that's given to the sexual dimensions of our personality. I think that for women it is true that what men consider seduction we also consider to be tricks, manipulation, various forms of coercion, . . . I don't think there's too much dispute about that. Germaine Greer used to write about what she called the "little rapes" and she meant, for instance, when a man takes you out on a date and he drives a hundred miles somewhere and then says "Either put out or walk home" and you have to decide between complying with his demands or facing the unknown dangers of the walk home. I mean women are put in that situation a lot, that hasn't changed. So what I am talking about in that essay—which in fact was a speech that was given to a bunch of workers at a publishing house in New York—is why it is that women keep being paid so little money for the work that we do and keep being expected to barter sex in the workplace instead of being paid a decent wage and being sexually autonomous, in other words being left alone.

INTERVIEWER: But Andrea, I find that most women today will say "I don't have to act as we did, or my parents did, twenty or thirty years ago. I am free to be married or not be married, I am free to carry on a career, I am free of this sort of thing so that I don't have to sleep with somebody, if I want to go out and have an evening with a gentleman I can go out and share the tab and I'm not in any way, shape or form beholden to him and most men, I think, like that.

DWORKIN: Well you know, I think that the fact remains that women still report, 80% of us report that we experience sexual harassment in the workplace and that means that when we go in to work, we're expected to put out for promotions that we have already earned by virtue of our work, or other kinds of coercion or blackmail are used in order to get sex from us and I think that—in fact, a study was just done in Rhode Island of high-school students and the results were staggering, something like 75% of the male high-school students believed that if you paid for a movie or you paid for a woman's meal out on a date, she owed you sex and that if you forced sex on her, it wasn't rape because she owed it to you, so I don't think that attitudes have really changed very much, and the fact of the matter is rape statistics are going up, they're not going down. I mean, you can talk to people who say I feel this way and I feel that way and it's fine, I am sure you are right that everyone in the world agrees that rape is wrong and that child sexual molestation is wrong but the incidences of this kinds of violence increase, they're not going down, somebody is doing that.

INTERVIEWER: [interrupting] Isn't that because people are reporting these things and they're more out into the open now? It would seem to me that there's much more knowledge. For instance most men calling this show don't fall into the trap that men fell into twenty or thirty years ago saying that if you didn't dress seductively etc., etc., this wouldn't happen. Most men realize that this is a crime of violence, it's not a sexual crime, it's a crime against women. I just think that it's more out in the open now, that's why this, this thing seems to be going up.

DWORKIN: Well, some of it is true that it is more out in the open, although we are finding that once again women are actually stopping from reporting rape. In other words, the reporting of rape went up—the reporting to police. It is now going down again because the actual rapes have become so much more sadistic that women once again don't believe that they will be believed and as a result—now that there are rape crisis centers, for which most of us are very grateful—they will go to rape crisis centers but they will refuse to report the rapes to the police. The fact of the matter is that we have proof, we know that the average age of rapists is going down. It used to be at around the 18 to 22 year-old range, that is the predominant number of rapists were in that age category. We are now finding that it is lowered to 16 and it is continuing to go down so it sort of doesn't matter what you think in the sense that people say one thing and do something else when it comes to sexual abuse.

INTERVIEWER: Let's hear what's on people's minds out there about this too. . .Our guest is Andrea Dworkin, the book called Letters from a War Zone, published by E.P. Dutton [Circa 1988] There are a couple of things that, that strike me and you probably get this all the time. First of all, it's really tempting, there was a . . . you have the transcript of an interview that you gave . . . can't remember where. . . in the book, where people ask you questions and you wouldn't answer ha ha ha . . .

DWORKIN: I don't know what you are talking about.

INTERVIEWER: Oh there's. There's, there's . . .

DWORKIN: What transcript?

INTERVIEWER: Aaaaaaahhhh . . . you had an interview, a television interview at one point and somebody said: "Are there, are there men you admire?"

DWORKIN: Oh, no, that piece is called "The Nervous Interview." Every piece in the book has a little preface that says where it came from and when it was given and under what circumstances it was written and that is an interview that I did with myself, it's a parody of interviews.


DWORKIN: In other words, when you go around year after year after year and people interview you, after a while all the questions start to sound sort of the same and you find yourself in constantly comic situations.

INTERVIEWER: OK, I didn't do that.

DWORKIN: So I wrote a parody of all the interviews that I had ever been through.

INTERVIEWER: [laughs] Well y'see, I didn't do that, I said it's tempting, but I didn't do that. But you know what kinda bothers me and listeners who listen to this show probably say that you and I sound a lot alike about . . . about one issue here, this issue that we've been talking about, women and economics. Living here in Dallas and Fort Worth, there's a phenomenon I think that goes on more than any place I've ever seen: Women Trade Looks For Money, Men Buy Looks With Money. And it's extraordinary: if you see a, an attractive, a younger woman in a BMW or a Mercedes or a Jaguar, whatever, more often than not she's very attractive. And we talk about this on the air and it's a phenomenon. And men of course wear the Rolexes and drive the Porsche and use that almost like barter. I don't know if I'm capturing the essence of this. (long pause)

DWORKIN: Well I think, probably, we may be looking at the same phenomenon. I suspect we're looking at it differently. The fact is that, as horrible as it is for women to face, we still only make, at most, sixty cents on the dollar compared with men. And in a lot of professions, actually, it's a lot less than that. And the highest paid jobs women have in the United States, the only jobs in which women are paid more than men are modeling and prostitution, and that's it. So the fact of the matter is that for most women, [economic survival] involves having a relationship with some man. For me, I think that economic independence is so important because I think intimate relationships should be freely chosen. And I think that when you're making decisions about your intimate life out of the necessity of being able to eat, the necessity of survival, that your freedom is deeply compromised so I, you know, I remain on the side of the woman on that. I hate the necessity that is created for her so that women have to think about money when women think about men.

INTERVIEWER: So when women, when women—and I hear this from men all the time, single men—they say "I don't have the Rolex, I don't have the Porsche. . .(sentence missing from recording) they've got money and they've got women all over the place and uh, there's no justice out there . . .

DWORKIN: Well, I mean, I don't think that that's true, I think that many women really sacrifice their lives to men, because they admire the man or, more to the point, because the men are doing things in life, in their lives, that the women would really like to do, but that the women feel are closed off to them because they're women. A lot of women live through men, they realize their ambitions through the ambitions of men, they want to become something so they find a man who is that already, because the blocks that are up for women, the prejudices, the biases against women are so extremely strong. And then the fact of the matter is that, no matter what we are talking about, underneath it there is always the reality of sexual danger and sexual violence which is just kind of waiting to destroy any woman at any time. She can't predict when that will happen or who might be the man who might react in that way towards her.

INTERVIEWER: See, see this is where, this is where I have a problem right, right there . . . You come back to the rape and to the molestation and to the seduction and to this problem, which is a problem, and believe me you know, I think that a guy who rapes and is convicted, you know I, I am in favor of the death penalty for people like that, for goodness' sake, it's a crime that to me is every bit as demonstrably damaging as a murder.

DWORKIN: Well we have, of all the rapes that we can figure out are committed, only about one in eleven is reported and of the rapes that are reported, only in about one in ten are there ever convictions. Most rape as you probably know, is not stranger-rape, a woman doesn't walk down the street and then is attacked by somebody she doesn't know, most women are raped by men that they do know, by acquaintances or on dates, women are raped in their homes by husbands, unfortunately by fathers, by relatives, so it's not as if we're talking about a society in which there is a safe place for women and the reason that I keep coming back . . .

INTERVIEWER: [tries to interrupt] B-b-but the . . . I agree with that, I agree with that . . .

DWORKIN: . . . the reason I keep coming back to it—I'll be short—is that I think that for most women it is the reality that underlies most of the choices that we make.

INTERVIEWER: My point is that it's almost as if you're casting, you know in the book you say there's two types of people in this country: people with phalluses and people without phalluses . . .

DWORKIN: I don't say that anywhere. In fact, I give a speech in this book to a group of men, it's to 500 men in the Midwest, and I say to them: "What I want from you is a 24-hour truce during which there is no rape. Now if you care about women, the way you say you care about women, that is the least that you can do for us." Every effort is made, both in this book and in my private life as a feminist, to say to men "Things do not have to be this way. You don't have to accept them. Women don't actually have to be afraid of you. But, if you want things to be different, you yourself have got to go out and make some difference. As long as you accept living in a world where Larry Flynt can say he speaks for you, and you don't say he doesn't, then rape is going to remain what defines the relationship between women and men.

INTERVIEWER: Well! Larry Flynt doesn't speak for me and I, you know, to me Larry Flynt is a, is a messed-up nut.

DWORKIN: Well, what I want to see then, what I say to men is "If he doesn't speak for you, if pornographers don't speak for you, if rapists don't express the way you want to see men with women, then we have to see activism, we have to see picket signs, we have to see demonstrations, we have to see you organizing and going to your State legislatures for legislation that's going to make human dignity a reality for women in this country, but I never say, and I have never said, that there are two kinds of people in this world, those with phalluses and those without. I say society values us according to whether we have penises or we don't and society devalues women.

INTERVIEWER: OK let me take this break, we'll go to calls. . .Come and join us, Andrea Dworkin our guest, the book Letters from a War Zone, we'd love to hear from you here at K-L-I-F.

DWORKIN: Yeah, sure.

Ben on a car phone, you're on KLIF with Andrea Dworkin.

MALE CALLER #l: Yes Andrea, your last statement was that society sees men, sees two types of people, those with penises and those without, is that right?

DWORKIN: That was Dave's statement. What I said is that I've never made that statement but that what I am saying is that society constructs the fact that men are valued for having penises, and women are devalued for not having them. I'm not saying that those are the two kinds of people there are, if we could get beyond social prejudice.

You know there is pretty much a long, long tradition of various intellectuals and thinkers in the society saying that men are the people who can think, men are the people who can act, men are the people who are capable of heroism, men are the people who can write books, men are the people who can make art and usually, in the work of those thinkers, they relate it to the fact that the man has a penis and that this gives him some kind of courage and some kind of creativity that women don't have.

CALLER: But women are part of society, are they not?

DWORKIN: I hope we are. Sometimes we wonder, I think.

CALLER: [interrupting] Well, if you're part of society and you're saying society does this, makes these valuations, women are part of society so therefore, why are you picking on just men on this issue?

DWORKIN: We're part of society and we're brought up very much to have very low opinions of ourselves and we are brought up without a lot of access that men have to the opinion-making parts of society. That is changing a little bit now but, in general, I know when I was growing up, I am 43, and when I was growing up, all the opinions that I heard, all the books that were taught in school that I read, were by men . . .

CALLER: [interrupts] Well, would you answer my question though?


CALLER: . . . Women are part of society, why are you just saying that men are responsible for everything negative in society?

DWORKIN: I'm not saying for everything negative in society, I think that men. . .

CALLER: [interrupting] Well if you . . . what? . . .

DWORKIN: Let me answer. I do think men are responsible for the fact that they value themselves over women and that they teach us that we're not really worth very much and that the only value that we have in this society is pretty much the sexual use that we are to men . . .

CALLER: [interrupting] Well one more comment and I'll hang up. All men, the vast majority of men, are raised by women, and women as mothers give us our values and therefore women . . . you know—you've heard of the saying "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"?—so I don't think you're being fair to men.

DWORKIN: Mm hmm.

CALLER: . . . so I don't believe that you're being fair in your feminist thought process.

DWORKIN: Well, it was a line written by men. I have to tell you that I think that mothers have always been held responsible for the outcome of child-rearing. One mother once described it to me as having all the responsibility and none of the authority, I mean in fact children are raised by schools, children are raised by churches, children are raised by the kind of athletic clubs that they join, there are all kinds of socializing factors and many mothers now are trying very hard to raise their children with egalitarian ideas about boys and girls but it's very hard to do in the face of this society that still keeps saying "boys are worth more."

MALE CALLER #2: Hi Andrea, I infrequently take the time to call to make my views expressed in a forum like this but I really was so moved by some of the things I heard you say that I felt like I had to.

DWORKIN: Thank you.

CALLER: Well, I'm moved in a negative way, I don't want you to [unclear]. . .

DWORKIN: Aaaah, sorry about that.

CALLER: It's just that you lumped me in to a category of animals that I don't choose to be associated with. You told me that you addressed 500 men and said "If you really care about this issue, prevent rape for 24 or 48 hours." 'Cuz you know, your attitude that a whole group of people identified only by sex would engage in that kind of behavior I think is an insult to me and my character that I deserve an apology for.

DWORKIN: Well . . .

CALLER: . . . and I'll go further. And you also . . . I am a very successful businessman, I happen to have worked for my entire career for women, I never planned that and actually I had never even considered it or thought about it very frequently, just the fact of the matter is the entrepreneurs, the people that control the money and the technologies for which I always sought after happened to be female. I've never valued myself over them, I don't value myself over the women that I love, over my wife or my sisters or the people that I grew up with nor did anyone in my family, and that you would intimate that that's common really infuriates me.

Go to Part II of the Dallas Radio Interview with Andrea Dworkin