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Someone give Andrea Dworking a nice cup of tea and a talk-to
on October 7, 2008
Let's see what nice things I can say about this book:
*it has one of the nicest, most complete indexes I've ever come across. Exemplary!
*I share Dworkin's disregard for the wholesale appreciation of many intellectuals for authors such as de Sade and Bataille (and Restif de la Bretonne, to name another culprit), and of sadomasochism and fetishism in general. I mean, if whips and chains are for you, fine. Just don't tell me that it makes you more of an intellectual.
*Like Dworkin, I am sceptical of the Kinsey Report.
But apart from that, wow. Andrea Dworkin was clearly a troubled woman with regards to men, like an inverted Larry Flynt. In this book she mainly picks up some pretty random examples of pornography, describes them in an often overly elaborate and graphic way (it reminds you of that old joke where a high-and-mighty priest gets into describing some perversion with surprising acuity and enthusiasm), and then freely interprets them. One salient example is where she cites a Playboy photo where laser lights are being used (we never get to see the photo, of course): she first describes this picture minutely; then she cites some document that laser is the most powerful form of light and that the military are planning to use it as a weapon (at this point you can tell that Dworkin is not really the type of person who reads Popular Mechanics for fun), and then concludes that the photo depicts a woman being violated by a weapon. This is complemented by several elaborate references which are meant to lend the argument a whiff of scientificity ... nessability.
Another peculiar example is where she delineates the term husband from "husbandry" (i. e. farm keeping), and then claims that it means someone who stores up his semen. A prime example of feminist bogus etymology.
Dworkin's style of writing reminds me how I used to pad out my essays at university: quote some extreme example. Describe it as verbosely as possible (max out that text counter in MS Word). Then make some extremely emotional, radical and far-out statement, and support it by quoting as many high-faluting references as possible (Das Kapital, the collected works of Aristotle and the Gilgamesh epic being surefire sources). Sprinkle liberally with quotations, and serve to the lecturer while still seething. I guess if you find Dworkin's offering impressive, then you never had to finagle your way past a term paper deadline.
Peculiarly, Dworkin cites Bataille's "History Of The Eye" as well as that obscure Playboy laser photo, but for some reason she doesn't even mention the 1972 Deep Throat movie (arguably the most popular piece of porn of all times).
Dworkin is strangely, unsalubriously fascinating because of her sheer venom, and, for some, because of her intellectual pretense. If she had written a balanced essay about how some pornography is a bit over the top, no-one would have cared. But as she wrote about pornography being the ultimate weapon of one half of mankind to annihilate the other, she landed a minor bestseller and became a feminist icon.
So let the gender wars begin!