Copyright © 1993, 1994 by Andrea Dworkin.
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One of the conflicts that I feel about talking here, being here, is that I am afraid that anything I say that is even slightly abstract will immediately move everyone's mind off of the fundamental issue. And the fundamental issue is what is done to women who are in prostitution, what exactly prostitution is. But I have to risk that because I want to say to you that you can't think about prostitution unless you are willing to think about the man who needs to fuck the prostitute. Who is he? What is he doing? What does he want? What does he need?
He is everyone. I want you to take one hour, on Monday. I want you to walk through your school, and I want you to look at every man. I want you to take his clothes off with your eyes. I want you to see him with a stiff prick. I want you in your mind to put him on top of a woman with money on the table next to them. Everyone. The dean of this law school, the professors, the male students, everyone. If you are going to the emergency room, I want you to do it. If you have a heart attack, I want you to do it with the intern who is taking care of you. Because this is the world that prostituted women live in. It is a world in which no matter what happens to you, there is another man who wants a piece of you. And if you need something from him, you have to give him that piece.
Men who use prostitutes think they are real big and real brave. They're very proud of themselves--they brag a lot. They write novels, they write songs, they write laws--productive folk--and they have a sense that they are very adventurous and heroic, and why do they think that? Because they are predators who go out and hump women--they rub up against a woman who's dirty and they live to tell about it. Goddamn it. They live to tell about it. Unfortunately. Virtually all the time, no matter what they have done, no matter what harm they have done to her--they live to tell about it, sing about it, write about it, make television shows about it, make movies about it. I would like to say to you that these men are cowards, that these men are brutes, that these men are fools, that these men are able to do what they do because they have the power of men as a class behind them, which they get because men use force against women. If you want a definition of what a coward is, it's needing to push a whole class of people down so that you can walk on top of them. Societies are organized so that men have the power they need, to use women the way that they want to. Societies can be organized in different ways and still create a population of women who are prostituted. For instance, in the United States the women are poor, the women are mostly incest victims, the women are homeless. In parts of Asia, they were sold into slavery at the age of six months because they were females. That is how they do it there. It does not have to be done the same way in every place to be the same thing.
Male dominance means that the society creates a pool of prostitutes by any means necessary so that men have what men need to stay on top, to feel big, literally, metaphorically, in every way; and yet men are our standard for being human. We say we want to be human. We say that we want them to treat us like human beings. In a male-dominant society, men are the human beings. I want to point out to you that we use the word human metaphorically. We are not talking about how men act. We are talking about an idea, a dream, a vision that we have, of what a human being is. We are saying that we do not want them stepping on top of us; we are also saying implicitly that they are not a good enough standard for what being human is because look at what they are doing to us. We cannot want to be like them because being like them means using people the way that they use people--for the sake of establishing one's importance or one's identity. I am saying that in part men are mythological figures to us when we talk about them as human beings. We are not talking about how men really behave. We are talking about the mythology of men as arbiters of civilization. This political movement involves understanding that the human qualities that we want in life with each other are not qualities that characterize the way men really behave.
What prostitution does in a society of male dominance is that it establishes a social bottom beneath which there is no bottom. It is the bottom. Prostituted women are all on the bottom. And all men are above it. They may not be above it much but even men who are prostituted are above the bottom that is set by prostituted women and girls. Every man in this society benefits from the fact that women are prostituted whether or not every man uses a woman in prostitution. This should not have to be said but it has to be said: prostitution comes from male dominance, not from female nature. It is a political reality that exists because one group of people has and maintains power over another group of people. I underline that because I want to say to you that male domination is cruel. I want to say to you that male domination must be destroyed. Male domination needs to be ended, not simply reformed, not made a little nicer, and not made a little nicer for some women. We need to look at the role of men--really look at it, study it, understand it--in keeping women poor, in keeping women homeless, in keeping girls raped, which is to say, in creating prostitutes, a population of women who will be used in prostitution. We need to look at the role of men in romanticizing prostitution, in making its cost to women culturally invisible, in using the power of this society, the economic power, the cultural power, the social power, to create silence, to create silence among those who have been hurt, the silence of the women who have been used.
We need to look at the role of men in creating a hatred of women, in creating prejudice against women, in using the culture to support, promote, advocate, celebrate aggression against women. We need to look at the role of men in creating a political idea of freedom that only they can actually have. Isn't that funny? What is freedom? Two thousand years of discourse and somehow it manages to leave us out. It is an amazingly self-serving monologue that they have had going here. We need to look at the role of men in creating political systems that subordinate women; and that means that we have to look at the role of men in creating prostitution, in protecting prostitution--how law enforcement does it, how journalism does it, how lawyers do it. We need to know the ways in which all those men use prostitutes and in doing so destroy the human dignity of the women.
The cure to this problem is political. That means taking power away from men. This is real stuff; it is serious stuff. They have too much of it. They do not use it right. They are bullies. They do not have a right to what they have; and that means it has to be taken away from them. We have to take the power that they have to use us away from them. We have to take the power that they have to hurt us away from them. We have to take their money away from them. They have too much of it. Any man who has enough money to spend degrading a woman's life in prostitution has too much money. He does not need what he's got in his pocket. But there is a woman who does.
We need to take away their social dominance--over us. We live in a tyranny of liars and hypocrites and sadists.
Now, it will cost you to fight them. They have to be taken off of women, do you understand me? They need to be lifted up and off. What is intractable about prostitution is male dominance. And it is male dominance that has to be ended so that women will not be prostituted.
You, you--you have to weaken and destroy every institution that is part of how men rule over women. And don't ask if you should. The question is how, not if. How? Do one thing, rather than spend your lives debating if you should do this or if you should do that and do they really deserve it and is it really fair? Fair? Is it really fair? Darlings, we could get the machine guns out tonight. Fair? We break our own hearts with these questions. Is it fair? Don't respect their laws. No. Don't respect their laws. Women need to be making laws. I hope that Catharine MacKinnon and I have set an example. We have tried to. There is no reason for any woman, any woman in the world, to be basically performing fellatio on the current legal system. But mostly that is what one is in law school to learn how to do.
What I hope you will take away from here is this: that any vestige of sex hierarchy, any, will mean that some women somewhere are being prostituted. If you look around you and you see male supremacy, you know that somewhere where you cannot see, a woman is being prostituted, because every hierarchy needs a bottom and prostitution is the bottom of male dominance. So when you accommodate, when you compromise, when you turn a blind eye, you are collaborating. Yes, I know that your life is also at stake but yes you are collaborating, both things are true, in the destruction of another woman's life.
I am asking you to make yourselves enemies of male dominance, because it has to be destroyed for the crime of prostitution to end--the crime against the woman, the human-rights crime of prostitution: and everything else is besides the point, a lie, an excuse, an apology, a justification, and all the abstract words are lies, justice, liberty, equality, they are lies. As long as women are being prostituted they are lies. You can tellS the lie and in this institution you will be taught how to tell the lie; or you can use your lives to dismantle the system that creates and then protects this abuse. You, a well-trained person, can stand with the abuser or with the rebel, the resister, the revolutionary. You can stand with the sister he is doing it to; and if you are very brave you can try to stand between them so that he has to get through you to get to her. That, by the way, is the meaning of the often misused word choice. These are choices. I am asking you to make a choice.
Copyright © 1993, 1994 by Andrea Dworkin. All rights reserved. First published in Michigan Journal of Gender & Law, Vol I, 1993.