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The book that neutered a generation of radicals?
on November 7, 2002
This is the book that caused a whole generation of feminists to waste their lives in a futile and fruitless crusade against pornography.
The bizarre thing is how a work this incoherent managed to inspire such misplaced fervour in its readers. Porn is a pretty easy target, you might think, but Dworkin actually struggles to build a case against it, and many are laugh-out-loud tendentious. Mention of a Porsche in a photo shoot caption is, we are told, a veiled reference to the transportation of the Jews and the Holocaust (Dworkin name drops the Holocaust on every conceivable occasion, which I pfind in very poor taste). Posing a model with a laser beam is clear evidence of violent intent, because powerful laser beams can be very dangerous--in case we don't beleive her, Dworkin quotes page after page of a US Navy report on laser beams.
This sort of crazed pseudo-scholarship is the hallmark of Dworkin's work and is very much in evidence here. The flimsiness of the argument is propped up by a impressive looking scholarly apparatus of footnotes, citations and bibliography. But, like the laser beam report its mainly padding--even Dworkin has admitted that many of the books in the bibliography are't even cited in the text.
None the less this hyper-activity has led to Dworkin being cited as something of an intellectual within the feminist movement but there's very little reasoned argument here, just an elongated version of slogans like: "Pornography is violence against women". "Pornography is the theory: rape is the practice", to which one can only reply well, is it?
Unfortunately, with this work Dworkin succeeded in convincing a lot of people that pornography was the root of all evil. Many have gone on to swallow the Dworkinite line that all conflicts are subordinate to gender oppression (even, she has claimed, that of Palestinian versus Israeli). The corollary of this belief is of course that all we need to do to heal the world is to sort out gender politics: this has effectively committed huge numbers of female radical activists to waste their time on pointless activites like attacking adult bookshops...