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Bronze-level article

Andrea Dworkin

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Photograph of Dworkin taken on the set of the British discussion show After Dark.
Part of a series on
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You think intercourse is a private act; it's not, it's a social act. Men are sexually predatory in life; and women are sexually manipulative. When two individuals come together and leave their gender outside the bedroom door, then they make love.
—Andrewa Dworkin, making an impressive series of crank points all at once[1]

Andrea Dworkin (1946—2005) was an Amazon princess and an influential American radical feminist and moonbat.

She is primarily known for her crusade against freedom pornography, which added fuel to the anti-feminist fire by helping to provoke a split between pro- and anti-sex feminists,[2] and alienating liberals who were opposed to anti-pornography laws.[3]

Her later radicalism and sensationalism further alienated potential allies, but this did not prevent some of Dworkin's supporters from lionising her in their eulogies.[4]

Regarding the effects of her work on society and feminist theory, Encyclopædia Britannica has placed her in their list of 300 Women who Changed the World.[5]

Anti-pornography activism[edit]

The common erotic project of destroying women makes it possible for men to unite into a brotherhood; this project is the only firm and trustworthy groundwork for cooperation among males and all male bonding is based on it.
—Andrea Dworkin[6]

In her book Pornography: Men Possessing Women,[7] she argued that pornography is a misogynistic, dehumanizing industry. She also analyzed pornography as a form of sexual assault on women.[5] These analyses have been extensively criticized by, inter alia, former ACLU president and feminist Nadine Strossen[8] and Feminists for Free Expression, a group co-founded by Strossen.[9] Feminists for Free Expression says that since different women "interpret pornography in different ways," there is no "feminist code about which words and images are dangerous or sexist," and any attempt to write such terms into the law impugns the free choice of men and women.

One of her more erudite enemies was the novelist Angela Carter, who in her book The Sadeian Woman argued that because sex was public and political, pornography was essentially political and revealing of power relations. To Carter, even a writer as misogynistic as the Marquis de Sade could be read as a radical political theorist, and she criticised the self-pitying victimhood of Sade's victims like Justine. Dworkin condemned The Sadeian Woman, denouncing it as "pseudofeminist" and accusing Carter of "literary affectation" and contempt for Sade's victims.[10] Carter responded, "If I can get up the Dworkin proboscis, then my living has not been in vain."[11]

Her anti-pornography rhetoric, as translated into legalese by her fellow radical feminist and lawyer Catharine MacKinnon, was hijacked by wingnuts who,[12] while caring little for women's rights, thought they could use it to justify laws against pornography.

U.S. ordinance[edit]

Dworkin and MacKinnon's attempts to pass an ordinance based on their original model — which involved making pornography a civil rights violation rather than something criminal, and allowing people alleging harm by pornography to seek damages[13] — failed in Minneapolis (passed by the City Council, vetoed by the mayor), but succeeded on the second try in Indianapolis in 1984.

One large factor in the ordinance's later undoing was Dworkin and MacKinnon's unorthodox definition of "pornography." Pornography is generally recognized as being material that has been made with the sole intention of exciting the viewer sexually; one of the qualifications for restricting freedom of the press under the Miller test[14] is that the work under dispute must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. But the ordinance contained no exceptions for works with such value; in response to concerns that these sorts of works (examples cited were Ulysses and Iliad), could fall under the scope of the law, MacKinnon wrote:

If a woman is subjected, why should it matter that the work has other value?[15]

In the case American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ordinance unconstitutional on the grounds that it constituted ideology-based censorship:

The ordinance discriminates on the grounds of the speech ... The State may not ordain preferred viewpoints in this way. The Constitution forbids the State to declare one perspective right and silence opponents.[15]

The Supreme Court affirmed with no further comment.

Canadian Supreme Court ruling[edit]

Her work got a broader audience in Canada, where in the case R v. Butler, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled, partly based on her work, that Canada's obscenity law was constitutional based on guarantees of gender equality. When the laws started to be used disproportionately against gay and lesbian materials, Dworkin was embarrassed and rapidly condemned this interpretation of her work.[16]

It should be noted that Dworkin did not support the ruling from the start on the grounds that it affirmed an obscenity law, as she was strongly opposed to obscenity-based censorship; however, she did support the idea that free speech is a lesser concern than gender equality, and approved of the ruling insofar as it brought this idea into Canadian law. As she said in her statement:

In our neighbor nation to the north, Canada's Supreme Court has determined ... that society's interest in sex equality outweighs pornographers' speech rights ... We wish that U.S. constitutional consciousness were so far along.[16]


Her opposition to pornography caused the pornography industry to swing into gear with a bevy of satire directed against her, including claims that she was anti-sex and misandristic. In an attempt to stop this, she sued everyone in sight, but her efforts ultimately failed; Catharine MacKinnon blamed this on the patriarchy in her eulogy to Dworkin, and called the satire libel.[17]

Views and beliefs[edit]

Views on marriage[edit]

She had very contested, sensational views on marriage. She was a self-declared lesbian, but was married twice to men and swore herself to celibacy.[18] Her first marriage to a Dutch anarchist did not go very well, as he clubbed her with blunt instruments and put cigarettes out on her, and she had to turn tricks for a time to get up the money to return to the U.S. from Holland. Later, she married a gay man named John Stoltenberg, author of a book entitled Refusing to Be a Man; this marriage lasted until her death in 2005.

She likened marriage to rape of women by men, arguing that in both cases the man claimed to "own" the woman and took the initiative, while the woman had to go along with him in every way:

Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.[19]

On the domestic abuse of women[edit]

Men are distinguished from women by their commitment to do violence rather than to be victimized by it.
—Andrea Dworkin[20]

She believed that "battered women have the right to kill their batterer".[21]

Misandrist views[edit]

On manhood, she said:

Only when manhood is dead — and it will perish when ravaged femininity no longer sustains it — only then will we know what it is to be free.[22]

And on men, she said:

Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman.[23]

Most of her rhetoric follows the radical feminist line that gender is a social construct that when taken away will leave us all the same as each other except for the dirty bits. Dworkin also went one step further and expressed opposition to men's privilege within the hierarchical structure of patriarchy.

Her writing has been interpreted as being overtly misandrist; under the patriarchy as Dworkin perceived it, it is difficult to disentangle men from the privilege they all enjoy (whether or not they want to), which is oppressive to all women (whether or not men intend to oppress them). Men have also reduced language to being sexist tools of the devil, since according to Dworkin:[24]

Male supremacy is fused into the language, so that every sentence both heralds and affirms it.

And just to confuse things, Susie Bright called Dworkin a "scholar of great men."[25]

Views on sex[edit]

No woman needs intercourse; few women escape it.
—Andrea Dworkin[26]

In a discussion of how men in a patriarchal society view sex, she stated that "Violation is a synonym for intercourse".[27] Due to this, she was widely reported as having said explicitly that all sex is rape. Even though she never actually said those words, as Cathy Young remarked with regard to Dworkin:

If a male writer had written book after book arguing that women were evil creatures whose sole purpose in life is to sexually manipulate and destroy men, would we spend a lot of time quibbling over whether he actually used the phrase, "All women are whores"?[4]

This makes one wonder what she meant by "violation" and "synonym". She also equated sex with rape, stating:[28]

Seduction is often difficult to distinguish from rape. In seduction, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine.

Views on childbirth[edit]

She had no children, as is made very obvious by her views on childbearing, viz.:

Childbearing is glorified in part because women die from it.[22]

She was also strongly opposed to Cesarean sections, which fit in nicely with her opposition to childbearing, compounding her view that it is oppressive:

They cut directly into the uterus with a knife — a surgical fuck ... the uterus of the whore entered directly by the new rapist, the surgeon, the vagina saved to serve the husband.[7]

Though women may undergo Caesarean sections to alleviate the pain or risk of vaginal childbirth, Caesareans are a very physically demanding option, add a great deal of risk to childbirth, and are often performed unnecessarily.[29] On the other hand, they are also sometimes performed because natural birth has ceased to be a viable option for any number of reasons. Either way, one can assume that the idea was not to rape the woman's uterus for the fun of it. Left unstated in her diatribes is exactly how humans are supposed to propagate the species, or what a woman should do if complications make it impossible for her to complete a natural childbirth. Die, one would suppose.


  1. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/andreadwor408625.html
  2. http://sitemaker.umich.edu/lesbian.history/the_sex_wars
  3. Honigsbaum, Mark. "Andrea Dworkin, embattled feminist, dies at 58". The Guardian. April 12, 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/apr/12/obituaries.gender.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Young, Cathy. "The Dworkin Whitewash". April 17, 2005. Hit & Run. Reason Magazine. http://www.reason.com/blog/show/109179.html.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Dworkin, Andrea". 300 Women Who Changed the World. Encyclopedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/women/article-9124959.
  6. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/andreadwor408993.html
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dworkin, Andrea. Pornography: Men Possessing Women. 1989. The Andrea Dworkin Online Library. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/PornAList.html.
  8. Strossen, Nadine. Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights. http://books.google.com/books?id=5abYVL2eXekC&printsec=frontcover
  9. Position statements of Feminists for Free Expression. http://www.ffeusa.org/html/statements/statements_pornography.html
  10. "Rape and Trauma through Angela Carter", Charley Barker, Ethics and Trauma in Contemporary British Fiction, pp 69-70
  11. "A New Kind of Being", Jenny Turner, London Review of Books, 3 Nov 2016, p 8
  12. "Andrea Dworkin Has Died". Susie Bright's Journal. April 11, 2005. http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/2005/04/andrea_dworkin_.html.
  13. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/other/ordinance/newday/AppD.htm
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Miller test.
  15. 15.0 15.1 American Booksellers Association, Inc. et al. v. William H. Hudnut, et al.. United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit. 1985. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/comm/free_speech/hudnut.html.
  16. 16.0 16.1 MacKinnon, Catherine A. and Andrea Dworkin. "Statement by Catharine A. Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin Regarding Canadian Customs and Legal Approaches to Pornography". August 26, 1994. The Andrea Dworkin Online Library. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/OrdinanceCanada.html.
  17. MacKinnon, Catherine A. "Who Was Afraid of Andrea Dworkin?". New York Times. April 16, 2005. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/16/opinion/16mackinnon.html?ei=5090&en=0b54a3eb2e26dcd9&ex=1271304000&adxnnl=1&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1229575874-d6woCB0/pHi9pcY+jk9ANA.
  18. Dworkin, Andrea. "'They took my body from me and used it'". The Guardian. June 2, 2000. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2000/jun/02/society.
  19. Dworkin, Andrea quote. QuotationsBook. http://quotationsbook.com/quote/25374/.
  20. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/andreadwor402632.html
  21. "The Lie Detector". The Andrea Dworkin Online Library. The Andrea Dworkin Web Site. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/LieDetect.html.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Andrea Dworkin Quotes. BrainyQuote. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/a/andrea_dworkin.html.
  23. Weisburg, D. Kelly. Applications of Feminist Legal Theory to Women's Lives. 1996. Google Books. http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=dxISOPpZUhIC&pg=PA149&dq=Under+patriarchy,+every+woman's+son+is+her+potential+betrayer+and+also+the+inevitable+rapist+or+exploiter+of+another+woman.
  24. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/andreadwor386280.html
  25. "Andrea Dworkin Has Died". Susie Bright's Journal. April 11, 2005. http://susiebright.blogs.com/susie_brights_journal_/2005/04/andrea_dworkin_.htm
  26. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/andreadwor377840.html
  27. Dworkin, Andrea. Intercourse: Occupation/Collaberation. 1987. The Andrea Dworkin Online Library. http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/IntercourseI.html.
  28. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/andreadwor390632.html
  29. "The Cesarean Section FAQ". Childbirth.org. 1999. http://www.childbirth.org/section/CSFAQ.html.