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She does have a point, but...
on April 28, 2007
The problem with "Intercourse" isn't so much that Dworkin takes her rhetoric overboard. That much was probably intentional, in order to make a point about how deep sexism runs in most cultures and for how long it has been that way - and she definitely got that point across. The book's downfall is that she not only doesn't make it clear that that's what she's doing, she even eschews any opportunity to clue readers in to that end.
"Intercourse" is probably the work that gave rise to the myth that Dworkin believed all sex was rape. In fact she never said that, here or elsewhere, and as such it would be wrong to attribute that belief to this or any other of her works. That said, she doesn't quite NOT say that either, and it's not entirely unreasonable to conclude that she is implying as much. Perhaps she considered it unnecessary to spell out the point that a survey of literary sex scenes could never be completely comprehensive. But after chapter upon chapter of examples in which she (correctly) shows various classic works of literature to be rather misogynistic, it may well have strengthened her thesis if she'd shown an example or two of more female-positive works. Never is the possibility of such things even floated. Also, for all her later denials that she was arguing that women can never really enjoy sex or that men can never be anything but dominating in the bedroom, she scrupulously avoids allowing for either of those possibilities throughout the book. Given the opportunity to clarify those points directly, she refused. In the preface to the updated 1997 printing, she asked rhetorically if men could ever hope to understand her thesis, pointedly refused to give a straight answer, and then referred to any and all of her detractors with a word I can't repeat here.
I certainly understand why any writer would resent having to address a baseless accusation cooked up by one's critics. But Dworkin ultimately had no one but herself to blame for the degree to which this book was misinterpreted. Which is too bad, because her larger points about the eroticization of violence against women in literature would be well taken if they weren't so ambiguous.