Andrea Dworkin

Andrea Dworkin has been an influential write, speaker, and activist for
over two decades. She claims to be a feminist, and that her ideas are
beneficial to women. This paper will show that many of her most popular beliefs
are not only detrimental to society, but also not in the best interests of women.
In letters from a war zone, Andrea Dworkin presents a collection of
speeches and short articles she has composed during her career as a writer and
activist. Many of her articles deal with censorship and pornography. One claim
is central to all of these, pornography is an act and not an idea, thus
censorship is not relevant to it.
In response to a New York Time Review of her 1981 book, Pornography: Men
Possessing Women, Dworkin writes, “Pornography says the women want to be hurt,
forced, and abused; pornography says women want to be raped, battered, kidnapped,
maimed; pornography says women want to be humiliated, shamed, defamed,
pornography says that women say no but mean yes - Yes to violence, yes to pain.”
(Dworkin p 203)
In response to Dworkin\'s fiery rhetoric, Wendy Mcelroy writes that
Dworkin has scientific backing and even cites evidence to the contrary. “In
Japan, where pornography depicting violence is widely available, rape is much
lower per capita than in the United States, where violence in porn is
restricted.” Mcelroy attacks the belief that pornography cause violence,
stating that even if a correlation is present, is does not necessarily mean
there is a causal relationship. (McElroy 102)
Lynne Segal sees in inherent harm in trying to link the two together.
She believes that feminists who try to do so are wasting valuable time that
could be spent on other important issues. “In the end, anti-pornography
campaigns, feminist or not, can only enlist today, as they have invariously
enlisted before, guilt and anxiety around sex, as well as lifetimes of confusion
in our personal experiences of sexual arousal and activity.” “In contrast,
campaigns which get to the heart of men\'s violence and sadism towards women must
enlist the widest possible resources to empower socially.” (Gibson 19)
Another argument of Dworkin\'s is that pornography should not be
protected as free speech under the first amendment. It is her contention that
protecting what pornographers say, is protecting what pornography does.
Pornography is more than words. They are acts against women. “Pornography
happens to women.” As a result, bans on such material are warranted, not only
because it is harmfully and discriminatory to women, but also because there are
no civil liberties that are violated in preventing an act. (Dworkin 185)
Since it is uncertain whether there is even a correlation between
violence against women and pornography, any attempt to ban it must be viewed as
censorship. What ever it is referred to, it still has the same effect.
In many of Dworkin\'s writings, she laments the silencing of women. She
is partially responsible for this silencing. In 1992, The Canadian Supreme
Court ruled in favor of a legal restriction on pornography based on the
psychological damage it does women. “Ironically, this obscenity law has been
used almost exclusively against gay, lesbian, and feminist material.” (McElroy
The effect of censorship is absolutely detrimental the weaker voice, as
is the case with the Butler decision. Dworkin herself fell victim, when her
book, Pornography, was seized by Canadian customs officials. Censorship in
contradictory to feminist goals, because freedom of speech is the most powerful
weapon in the feminist arsenal. Medical journals used by medical students, and
the testimony of women victimized by sexual abuse are prime targets of
censorship. (Strossen 77)
An episode involving Dworkin and her cohort in censorship, Catherine
MacKinnon, demonstrates the dangers of censorship. At a symposium at A Michigan
law school, at which Dworkin and MacKinnon were speaking, a group of feminists
had prepared a series of documentaries of the topic of the conference,
prostitution. Dworkin refused to speak at the symposium if adversarial speakers
were there, so the documentaries were the only voice of opposition to them.
When work got out that the documentaries could possibly pornographic, Dworkin
and MacKinnon insisted on their removal. When the presenter refused, they
coerced the students with threats of leaving, to force the removed of the
documentary exhibit. What had started out as an academic symposium quickly
turned into a forum for the exclusive advocacy of Dworkin ideals. Her action
epitomized the danger of censorship to society and other feminists, she silenced
the weaker voice. (Strossen 211-214)
Dworkin\'s opinions on pornography are summed up nicely by Wendy McElroy;
Pornography is morally wrong; Pornography leads directly to violence against
women; Pornography, in and of itself,