LETTERS FROM A WAR ZONE

WRITINGS 1976-1989


by Andrea Dworkin

Part I

TAKE BACK THE NIGHT

In legend there is relief from the enemy,
sorrow is turned into gladness, mourning into holiday.
In life, only some of this is possible.
--E. M. Broner, A Weave of Women

The Lie 1979

Copyright © 1979, 1988, 1993 by Andrea Dworkin.
All rights reserved.

The Lie was written as a speech and given at a rally on October 20, 1979, at Bryant Park, behind New York City's formal and beautiful main public library. This park is usually dominated by drug pushers. It, with the library behind it, marks the lower boundary of Times Square, the sexual-abuse capital of industrialized Amerika. 5000 people, overwhelmingly women, had marched on Times Square in a demonstration organized by Women Against Pornography and led by Susan Brownmiller, Gloria Steinem, and Bella Abzug, among others. The March had begun at Columbus Circle at West 59 Street, the uppermost boundary of the Times Square area, and the rally at Bryant Park marked its conclusion. For the first time, Times Square didn't belong to the pimps; it belonged to women--not women hurt and exploited for profit but women proud and triumphant. The March served notice on pornographers that masses of women could rise up and stop the organized trafficking in women and girls that was the usual activity on those very mean streets. Feminists took the ground but didn't hold it.

There is one message basic to all kinds of pornography from the sludge that we see all around us, to the artsy-fartsy pornography that the intellectuals call erotica, to the under-the-counter kiddie porn, to the slick, glossy men's "entertainment" magazines. The one message that is carried in all pornography all the time is this: she wants it; she wants to be beaten; she wants to be forced; she wants to be raped; she wants to be brutalized; she wants to be hurt. This is the premise, the first principle, of all pornography. She wants these despicable things done to her. She likes it. She likes to be hit and she likes to be hurt and she likes to be forced.

Meanwhile, all across this country, women and young girls are being raped and beaten and forced and brutalized and hurt.

The police believe they wanted it. Most of the people around them believe they wanted it. "And what did you do to provoke him?" the battered wife is asked over and over again when finally she dares to ask for help or for protection. "Did you like it?" the police ask the rape victim. "Admit that something in you wanted it," the psychiatrist urges. "It was the energy you gave out," says the guru. Adult men claim that their own daughters who are eight years old or ten years old or thirteen years old led them on.

The belief is that the female wants to be hurt. The belief is that the female likes to be forced. The proof that she wants it is everywhere: the way she dresses; the way she walks; the way she talks; the way she sits; the way she stands; she was out after dark; she invited a male friend into her house; she said hello to a male neighbor; she opened the door; she looked at a man; a man asked her what time it was and she told him; she sat on her father's lap; she asked her father a question about sex; she got into a car with a man; she got into a car with her best friend's father or her uncle or her teacher; she flirted; she got married; she had sex once with a man and said no the next time; she is not a virgin; she talks with men; she talks with her father; she went to a movie alone; she took a walk alone; she went shopping alone; she smiled; she is home alone, asleep, the man breaks in, and still, the question is asked, "Did you like it? Did you leave the window open just hoping that someone would pop on through? Do you always sleep without any clothes on? Did you have an orgasm?"

Her body is bruised, she is torn and hurt, and still the question persists: did you provoke it? did you like it? is this what you really wanted all along? is this what you were waiting for and hoping for and dreaming of? You keep saying no. Try proving no. Those bruises? Women like to be roughed up a bit. What did you do to lead him on? How did you provoke him? Did you like it?

A boyfriend or a husband or one's parents or even sometimes a female lover will believe that she could have fought him off--if she had really wanted to. She must have really wanted it--if it happened. What was it she wanted? She wanted the force, the hurt, the harm, the pain, the humiliation. Why did she want it? Because she is female and females always provoke it, always want it, always like it.

And how does everyone whose opinion matters know that women want to be forced and hurt and brutalized? Pornography says so. For centuries men have consumed pornography in secret--yes, the lawyers and the legislators and the doctors and the artists and the writers and the scientists and the theologians and the philosophers. And for these same centuries, women have not consumed pornography and women have not been lawyers and legislators and doctors and artists and writers and scientists and theologians and philosophers.

Men believe the pornography, in which the women always want it. Men believe the pornography, in which women resist and say no only so that men will force them and use more and more force and more and more brutality. To this day, men believe the pornography and men do not believe the women who say no.

Some people say that pornography is only fantasy. What part of it is fantasy? Women are beaten and raped and forced and whipped and held captive. The violence depicted is true. The acts of violence depicted in pornography are real acts committed against real women and real female children. The fantasy is that women want to be abused.

And so we are here today to explain calmly--to shout, to scream, to bellow, to holler--that we women do not want it, not today, not tomorrow, not yesterday. We never will want it and we never have wanted it. The prostitute does not want to be forced and hurt. The homemaker does not want to be forced and hurt. The lesbian does not want to be forced and hurt. The young girl does not want to be forced and hurt.

And because everywhere in this country, daily, thousands of women and young girls are being brutalized--and this is not fantasy--every day women and young girls are being raped and beaten and forced--we will never again accept any depiction of us that has as its first principle, its first premise, that we want to be abused, that we enjoy being hurt, that we like being forced.

That is why we will fight pornography wherever we find it; and we will fight those who justify it and those who make it and those who buy and use it.

And make no mistake: this movement against pornography is a movement against silence--the silence of the real victims. And this movement against pornography is a movement for speech--the speech of those who have been silenced by sexual force, the speech of women and young girls. And we will never, never be silenced again.


"The Lie," first published in New Women's Times, Vol. 5, No. 21, November 9-22, 1979. Copyright © 1979 by Andrea Dworkin. All rights reserved.


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