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on February 21, 2018
This was the straw feminist text in my college years. Before I even knew about the big feminists of the movement, I knew about Andrea Dworkin. She was the feminist that didn't believe that sexual intercourse was anything but violence, that tried to shut down the porn industry through civil courts, that wrote extensively about the harmful effects of pornography in a way that could be compared to previous moral crusades against comic books, rock & roll and video games. She wanted to remove Playboy from the 7/11 and join with Ed Meese in a puritanical crusade.

When I said that I wasn't feminist, I was thinking about Andrea Dworkin. When I embraced Camille Paglia I felt like I was pushing away Dworkin. When I finally came around to embrace feminism as a movement, I would say that it is a big tent and that you didn't have to agree with all feminists while thinking of Andrea Dworkin. Andrea Dworkin wanted to get rid of pornography and that was enough to make me dismiss her.

Now with the metoo movement and more discussions of sexual harassment and sexual assault as part of the patriarchy, I have finally come to respect Dworkin as a feminist and a social critic. Do I agree with everything in this book? No. I rather enjoy the media that she is against. There are parts where I am thinking notallmen and rather annoyed that this would be my reaction.

But she's not completely wrong. The sexual revolution might have been a positive step but it did not liberate men and women from the so-called traditional gender roles. In fact, it made things worse since the exploitation became more widespread. Andrea Dworkin depicts gender roles as violent and disturbing where men are conditioned from birth to take whatever they want even as women are conditioned to please men (remember a few years ago when an eight year old boy was punished for kissing girls and adults went on and on about how it was his right and how dare the school system interfere? Yeah, it's like that). In this context, pornography is the most crass manifestation of male power and dominance. Even homosexuality becomes skewed through the paradigm of male power as gay porn often carries out the same power dynamics and prison rape is a joke that our culture has only recently decided is maybe not funny.

One of the most important chapters is on the Marquis de Sade and the eagerness of his biographers to give him a free pass. Even though he abused and hurt many women, the biographers have traditionally dismissed his activities as "maybe a little too much" and made the women disappear from the histories entirely. All of the excuses to deny rape victims their due are on display as the great man that is the Marquis de Sade is praised while his victims are either hysterical, lying or outright evil. Given recent news about Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, etc., etc. and their armies of enablers, it's really hard to read the excuses that biographers made for a man long dead without thinking about how much this has become a tradition.

This is a challenging and eloquent book. It may not change your mind about pornography, but it will make you think and hopefully recognize the mechanisms of rape culture and misogyny within the modern world.
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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!
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on September 3, 2011
She's well spoken and has some quips in response to the blatantly misogynist writings of so-called "intellectuals" that made me chuckle out loud. The book is dense and has a fair psychological assessment of the patriarchal mindset (IE men relating to women as objects, not people, essentially). It shed some light on the state of affairs between men and women.

But i read it about 20-30 years too late. I'm a 25 year old female. It seems as though the "war has been won." Most of the statistics she uses to buttress her claims of female oppression are out of date. Women are graduating in larger numbers and make more than men now. Plus the sheer number of men I see pushing baby strollers is indicative of how the tables have turned.

The book made my head hurt because of its lack of objectivity, that is to say its male attack overkill. Having gone through a similar phase myself, i can see it for what it is, a hurt woman expressing her rage and disguising it as intellectual, objective discourse. Too much conjecture.
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on June 28, 1998
Andrea Dworkin is not just unique among many talented, feminist authors - she is a woman with an exceptional command of the English language, and an exquisite talent for using words to make a point in an either brilliant or shockingly crude fashion. She simply will not allow the reader to make excuses in his/her mind for the basic lower value of females around the world which is the base of pornagraphy.
This book is not for the faint-hearted, weak, or those who wish to live in a fantasy-land when it comes to male views of women's bodies and sexuality. Andrea Dworkin is a genius and, whether or not one agrees with any of her points, she will challenge the very foundations of our paternal societies and their implications for female sexuality, how women's lower social status is perpetuated through the condoning of degrading and violent sexual themes in art, entertainment, and literature, and how these repeating (and all to frequent) themes affect the zeitgeist of our culture.
You are not a woman until you have carefully read this enlightening and liberating book, and you are not a man until you have faced up to the ugly and destructive side of male-dominated culture and sex explicitly exposed by Ms. Dworkin.
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on November 1, 1999
Dworkin is a powerful emotional writer and will give words to those who oppose pornography and have a difficult time articulating their opposition. Which turns out to be ironic.
The book's power is its weakness. Men do injustice to women in this world. Somehow Dworkin makes an emotional and not-entirely-rational leap to a conclusion that pornography essentially enslaves women and should be opposed on those grounds.
People who are uncomfortable with pornography may be swayed by her argument. But her conclusion is quite disturbing: Because Dworkin doesn't like pornography...it should be banned...women who enjoy pornography are self-hating...men who enjoy pornography are misogynists. In the end, Dworkin ends up playing the role of the mythical dictatorial male.
It is books like this that have given "feminism" a bad name.
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on January 4, 2000
This is quite simply probably the best book ever written on the evil of pornography. It's a refreshing change to read on the subject from an author who's not from the religious right.
Dworkin's shocking descriptions of the violence and abuse that pornography causes and depends on for its survival will have all but the most diehard users feeling physically sick in disgust.
If there is any man out there who thinks that "softcore" pornography is okay and doesn't hurt women, you really need to read this book! It will change your mind, I know it did mine.
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on December 10, 2011
One would think from this tirade that all pornography is heterosexual. But of course there exists a lot of male homosexual pornography. This would never involve possessing or abusing women, since there are no women in homosexual pornography. I suspect that all of these feminist arguments against pornography are really based on traditional Judaeo-Christian puritanism and prudery. There is also the little matter of the demonization of males, of masculinity, and of heterosexuality.
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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...
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on January 2, 2005
is limitless and inescapable. Personally, I believe all men are really only hot for each other. Men love same-sex men only environments: the military, religious institutions, political organisations are cultures created by and for males giving free reign for men's hot obsession with males and hatred of women. No more evident is men's sexual fixation with men and hatred of women evident but in men's pornography. Men just love watching films produced by men and filmed by men where groups of naked sexually aroused males make a male-bonding high-five over the lonely woman lying down they've just watched each other penetrate. Men compare and admire the male genitals they idealise and vomit womanhating invectives over women males have invented to institutionalise men's hatred of women. Men's pornography is the most lucrative business in the world, because men's hatred of women is limitless. Dworkin's book analyses the psychosexual mechanics at work in the male brain and why women allow themselves to be used as sexual props in men's productions. When the woman screams in men's porn, gagging for more as males like to describe it, she reads from a script written by men to reassure the male viewer she loves his genitals as much as men do - however, 80% of women cannot experience an orgasm through the mechanical motions of male genitalia. It's all fake.
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on January 23, 2014
Andrea Dworkin and her dark "second wave" feminist take on pornography don't get much attention any more. Americans imagine they're beyond the need for such critiques, thus the third wave feminists and their "discovery" that porn just needs a bit of tweaking (or maybe none at all if you're a Nancy Friday type feminist). Let's all be sex positive. Uh.....

All I can do is tell my story. I am a Christian, a white male, and the perfect candidate to massively reject Andrea Dworkin and her message. But when I read this book it was a bone-breaker and a b***s breaker. I mean, I had to rethink my own consciousness after reading Dworkin. She turned me into a Christian feminist-in-training (ain't arrived yet), and I suspect every woman I've interacted with since (from my wife to my daughters to my pastors to my friends) owes Dworkin a debt!

The book is flawed. It is written with such red-hot intensity (reminiscent in tone to Richard Wright's novel "Native Son") that her often literary voice goes a bit flat. But the flaw may also be why it works. For instance, she writes passages which at first read seem pornographic... and one begins to respond to them that way. Then, suddenly, one sees through what she is doing and apprehends just how demeaning, appalling, depersonalizing, and UNsexual it all is! Which of course is her point. And one, if allowing the self to do so, comes into contact with that reactionary core that none of us want to admit to.

Read it. But know it is not an easy book to read and you will come out with bruises.
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