With click-on highlights from
The Andrea Dworkin Online Library
Andrea Dworkin is antisex.
FALSE. Her early fiction is especially rich with
narration about both lesbian and heterosexual lovemaking--for example,
"a simple story of a lesbian
girlhood" and "First Love."
Andrea Dworkin believes "Coitus is punishment."
FALSE. This line is said by a fictional character
in her novel Ice and Fire. The character
is paraphrasing Franz Kafka.
Andrea Dworkin is antilesbian and lives with a man.
A HALF-TRUTH. She has lived since 1974 with the
writer John Stoltenberg, whose essay about
living with Andrea appeared in Lambda Book Report in 1994. They
have both been out for more than two decades. In a 1975 speech
to a Lesbian Pride Week rally, Andrea called her love of women "the
soil in which my life is rooted."
Andrea Dworkin believes that battered women have the
right to kill their batterer.
TRUE. She said so in a 1991 speech
to a conference about women and mental health, and she said so again,
right after O.J. Simpson was acquitted on criminal charges, in an opinion
piece about Nicole Brown Simpson for the Los Angeles Times.
Andrea Dworkin believes women are superior to men.
FALSE. She not only rejects this view but has publicly
confronted other feminists who believe it, as she explains in "Biological
Superiority: The World's Most Dangerous and Deadly Idea."
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].
Earlier in her life, Andrea Dworkin prostituted.
TRUE. In an autobiographical
essay written for the Contemporary Authors reference series,
Andrea writes of a time in her life, beginning in her late teens, when
"I fucked for food and shelter and whatever cash I needed." She
cites a letter she wrote in reply to the author John Irving, published
in The New York Times Book Review May 3, 1992, and in that letter
she describes a time when, "homeless, poor, . . . sexually traumatized,
I learned to trade sex for money. I spent a lot of years out on the street,
living hand to mouth." That experience, according to this letter,
is part of what informs the commitment behind all her writing: "With
pornography, a woman can still be sold after the beatings, the rapes, the
pain, the humiliation, have killed her. I write for her, in behalf of her,
I try to intervene before she dies. I know her. I have come close to being
her." In a speech given in October
of the same year, she again publicly identifies with prostituted women:
"...the premises of the prostituted woman are my premises."
Andrea Dworkin is antiabortion.
FALSE. She is a longtime supporter of NARAL and
Planned Parenthood, politics she learned from her mother, as she tells
in the interview with Michael Moorcock.
But in her book Right-wing Women,
Andrea sharply criticizes the male-dominated political left for promoting
"abortion on male terms, as part of sexual liberation," rather
than as self-determination for women.
Andrea Dworkin is an "essentialist"--she
believes, for instance, that men are biologically driven to dominate.
FALSE. From her very first book, Woman Hating
(1974), Andrea has said that gender is a social lie, and she has explicitly
rejected the notion that "men" and "women" exist in
nature. "It is not true that there are two sexes which are discrete
and opposite," she says in a speech given
in 1975. And in a chapter published in
1981, she mourns the tragedy of the socialization that male children
endure ("How does it happen that the male child whose sense of life
is so vivid that he imparts humanity to sun and stone changes into the
adult male who cannot grant or even imagine the common humanity of women?").
Andrea Dworkin got an antipornography law passed in
FALSE. While it is true that in 1993 the Supreme
Court of Canada changed Canada's criminal statute against pornography in
a decision called Butler, Andrea in fact opposed the feminist lobbying
efforts that led to this court decision--as a public
statement about Canada makes clear--because she does not believe in
Andrea Dworkin's own books have been censored due to
feminist anti-pornography efforts in Canada.
FALSE. As the same public
statement explains, several of Andrea's books were once detained for
inspection by Canadian Customs officials but under procedural guidelines
that were in effect for years before 1993 and have been unaffected by the
Butler decision. (The books then passed routinely into Canada.)
In a debate with Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz,
Andrea Dworkin flipped him the finger.
FALSE. That is not her debating style. The photograph
of the two them in Alan Dershowitz's autobiography, The Best Defense,
actually shows Andrea making a characteristic gesture for emphasis. Unfortunately
the full record of what really transpired during their 1981 debate at Radcliffe
College has been suppressed--by Mr. Dershowitz himself. He has refused
to permit The Schlessinger Library for Women, which sponsored the debate,
to distribute the tape recording. But Andrea's opening
remarks are now available in the Andrea Dworkin Online Library.
American Civil Liberties Union president Nadine Strossen,
in her book Defending Pornography, tells the following story:
The late John Preston, a gay activist and writer, illustrated
Andrea Dworkin's long-standing antipathy toward any expression of
male sexuality, including gay male sexuality, by recounting her actions
during the early 1970s when he was director of the Gay House, Inc., in
Dworkin used to run a lesbian discussion group in the
center. One of her favorite antics back then was to deface any poster or
other material that promoted male homosexuality. "THIS OPPRESSES WOMEN!"
she'd write all over the place....
THE STORY IS FALSE. Preston's original newspaper
article (published in the Boston Phoenix) claims Andrea Dworkin
was in Minneapolis in 1971. But at that time she actually was living in
Amsterdam as a battered wife, as she recounts in an autobiographical
essay written for the Contemporary Authors reference series.
She later escaped and moved to New York City. She went to Minneapolis for
the first time in fall 1983 to teach a semester at the University of Minnesota.
While there, she was invited to address a conference of 500 men. That speech
was later published as "I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour
Truce During Which There Is No Rape."
Against many lies spread about her by the American Civil
Liberties Union over the years, Andrea has long tried to raise "a
real debate about the values and tactics of the ACLU," as she writes
in "The ACLU: Bait and Switch."
Andrea Dworkin believes that rape, battery, prostitution,
and pornography are violations of women's civil rights.
TRUE. Feminist organizing against rape, battery,
prostitution, and pornography is the theme of many writings available in
the Andrea Dworkin Online Library. A good place to start is the extensive
table of contents for Letters From a
War Zone, which includes many speeches she gave to Take Back the
Night rallies, including "The Night
and Danger," about the relation of violence against women to racism.
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