The Angriest of Lesbians?: Paying Homage
Andrea Dworkin: feminist genius or total, raving lunatic? Here's why even this queer, kinky, porn-lovin' boy can take a step back and say "Thanks!"
I love porn. Nothing like settling down with a nice story of spanking, fisting, and dominance (OH MY!) to get one's juices really flowing before bed. I did, however, once see a porno that made me want to never have sex again. Almost. Just in case you were worrying, I got over it. You may now resume breathing easily. I just wanted to set the record straight on my "pornopinion" (might as well make up a word for it, right?) before I say what I have to say...
One mention of the theme “Women and Pornography” and my mind immediately leaps to Andrea Dworkin. Her death this year spurred a barrage of news and opinion articles running the gamut of opinion—some praise her for being a critical voice in raising issues of sexual violence to the forefront of feminist conversation while others decry her has a total lunatic, equating all sex with rape and being a voice of anti-male sentiment.
My first instinct in writing is to point out that I don’t particularly agree with Andrea Dworkin, hence my preface. I consider myself to be a sex-positive fan of free expression. Do I think that there is some porn that is degrading to women? Sure I do. I do not, however, believe that it is prudent to go around trying to legislate good taste, personal preference, or morals. While our government has certainly tried to do that in the past (for an interesting read I’d recommend parusing our country’s child pornography legislation, much of which has little to do with protecting children and more to do with policing adults) and is still grappling with the issue, we get into a deeper argument of semantics and values—what is pornography? What is in good taste? How do we define ‘damage’? Whose morals are, well, the most moral? It’s complicated, worth exploring, but not what I’m aiming to do here.
I find it fitting that my first instinct is to assert my difference of opinion from Dworkian philosophy. I am, after all, a part of a generation of feminists who have defined ourselves in our dissent. We have established our platform by voicing loudly that we’re not all “like that.” Many of us shun earlier viewpoints that portray women as passive and sexless creatures who are left only to be manipulated and taken advantage of by the patriarchy. We’ve come together with a go-go rally cry that says that feminism is much more than man-hating.
Some have called Dworkin an angry lesbian. Some have said that she was too ugly and couldn’t get a straight dude so that’s where her spitfire-pissiness came from. I think the best part about all of this name-calling and drama is that the folks slinging the mud and sensationalizing undoubtedly learned part of what they know from Dworkin herself. She was the master of taking her opinion and building it up, rising it to a dramatic crescendo and throwing it out there for the world to see. Did she know her opinions were so unpopular in certain circles? Damn straight she did. She loved it.
In getting past my initial urge to distance myself from Dworkin I realize that I should really be thanking her. Without Andrea Dworkin far fewer people would be talking about violence against women—a subject that is still shrouded in silence and could use some more attention paid. Without Andrea Dworkin I doubt I would have the liberty to be disagreeing. Dworkin paved the way for feisty feminists of all shapes, sizes, persuasions and genders to start talking about sex and power.
Andrea Dworkin and porn have something in common—they’re not for everyone. Believe as you may, but I think that Dworkin’s legacy will live on in the discourse and the debates yet to come. We need to keep educating ourselves no matter which side of the debate we’d like to participate in. For every putz who can quote one line of Dworkin and claim to have a deep understanding of both her arguments and of feminism at large, we need more people who are willing to take their convictions, back them up, and have the courage to go forth and speak.
On that note, what are your thoughts? Porn—an evil and degrading empire, or the fuel for the ultimate in safer sex experiences? If it has degrading or disturbing elements what do you think are the best ways to control those without losing freedom of expression? I welcome comments and ideas and in the mean time I have a hot date with some erotica and a vibrator. Andrea Dworkin might not be proud, but I’ve never been “that kind” of feminist, anyway.