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ANDREA DWORKIN Printer Friendly Page
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  • Radical feminist author
  • Died in April 2005
  • “Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture.” 

Radical feminist and author Andrea Dworkin was born September 26, 1946 in Camden, New Jersey. A longtime member of the National Organization for Women (NOW), she was lauded by fellow feminists such as Gloria Steinem, who once said: "In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve. Andrea is one of them."

Dworkin’s Jewish father was a schoolteacher and a socialist. As told by Andrea, a pivotal experience in her life occurred at age nine, when she was molested by a man in a dark movie theater. This event contributed heavily to the hatred of men which would define her worldview for the rest of her life.

While Dworkin was attending Bennington College (in Vermont), she became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. In 1965 she was arrested during a protest at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations and was sent to the New York Women's House of Detention, where, according to Dworkin, she was given a brutal internal examination by two male doctors. Her testimony about the experience was widely reported and led to the prison's closure.

After Dworkin graduated from college, she moved to Amsterdam and married a Dutch anarchist who abused her, causing Dworkin to leave the marriage and become a prostitute.

Dworkin's history of physical and sexual abuse led her to write her first book, Woman Hating, when she was 27. This was the first of fourteen books Dworkin would write, mostly dealing with feminist issues. She also wrote many articles and papers on a wide array of topics. She claimed, among other things, that battered women have the right to kill their abusers; that Israel mistreats its own women much as it mistreats the Palestinian people; and that Hillary Clinton should end her marriage to Bill Clinton.

In addition to Woman Hating, Dworkin also authored such books as: Our Blood: Prophesies and Discourses on Sexual Politics (1976); The New Woman's Broken Heart (1980); Pornography -- Men Possessing Women (1981); Right-Wing Women (1983); Ice and Fire (1987); Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality (1988); Intercourse (1988); Letters from a War Zone (1989); The Politics of Domesticated Females (1991); Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation (2000); and Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant (2002).

Believing that rape and the subjugation of women formed the basis for most human cultures, Dworkin urged women not only to fight back against their male oppressors, but actually to form their own, gender-exclusive nation-state. Characterizing all heterosexual sex as the equivalent of rape, she wished to "destroy patriarchal power at its source, the family, [and] in its most hideous form, the national state."

Dworkin worked with radical feminist attorney Catharine MacKinnon in drafting legislative language that defined pornography as a civil rights violation against women. The law was passed in Indianapolis in 1983 but was declared unconstitutional by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals two years later, a decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in American Booksellers Association, Inc. v. Hudnut.

In 1998 Dworkin, who was now openly lesbian, married the openly gay John Stoltenberg -- founder of "Men Against Pornography," author of Refusing to be a Man, and managing editor of AARP The Magazine.

Dworkin's politics were extremely radical and she was known to criticize both Republicans and Democrats, though the latter were clearly more to her liking than the former. In a November 2004 essay describing why she would vote, however unenthusiastically, for Senator John Kerry in that year's presidential election, Dworkin wrote: "If Bush wins, we get more terror, charmingly diverted to countries not the United States…. The morally reprehensible -- the Bush/ Cheney strategy -- smacks us between the eyes; and then, and only then, do we vote for the lesser of two evils. But don't forget that they are two evils. Sick to my stomach because he will stay in Iraq, I'm voting for John Kerry."

Over the years, Dworkin made many statements expressing her contempt for men, who she viewed as oppressors and exploiters of women. Among the more notable of these statements were the following:

  • "One of the differences between marriage and prostitution is that in marriage you only have to make a deal with one man." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "Marriage . . . is a legal license to rape." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "The hurting of women is . . . basic to the sexual pleasure of men."
  • "... [W]omen and men are distinct species or races ... men are biologically inferior to women; male violence is a biological inevitability; to eliminate it, one must eliminate the species/race itself ... in eliminating the biologically inferior species/race Man, the new Ubermensch Womon will have the earthly dominion that is her true biological destiny." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "Heterosexual intercourse is the pure, formalized expression of contempt for women's bodies." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "In everything men make, they hollow out a central place for death, let its rancid smell contaminate every dimension of whatever still survives. Men especially love murder. In art they celebrate it, and in life they commit it." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "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." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "Rape, then, is the logical consequence of a system of definitions of what is normative. Rape is no excess, no aberration, no accident, no mistake -- it embodies sexuality as the culture defines it." (Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics)
  • "As I see it, our revolutionary task is to destroy phallic identity in men and masochistic nonidentity in women -- that is, to destroy the polar realities of men and women as we now know them so that this division of human flesh into two camps -- one an armed camp and the other a concentration camp -- is no longer possible. Phallic identity is real and it must be destroyed. Female masochism is real and it must be destroyed." (Our Blood: Prophecies And Discourses On Sexual Politics)
  • "The cultural institutions which embody and enforce those interlocked aberrations -- for instance, law, art, religion, nation-states, the family, tribe, or commune based on father-right -- these institutions are real and they must be destroyed. If they are not, we will be consigned as women to perpetual inferiority and subjugation." (Our Blood: Prophecies And Discourses On Sexual Politics)
  • "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." (Our Blood: Prophecies And Discourses On Sexual Politics)
  • "... [T]he prisons for women are our homes. We live under martial law. We live in places in which a rape culture exists.... Men have to be sent to prison, to live in a culture that is as rapist as the normal home in North America. We live under what amounts to a military curfew. Enforced by rapists.… In the United States, violence against women is a major pastime. It is a sport. It is an amusement. It is a mainstream cultural entertainment…. It saturates the society." (First published in Canadian Studies/Les Cahiers de la Femme, Vol. 12, No. 1, Fall 1991)
  • "The annihilation of a woman's personality, individuality, will, character, is prerequisite to male sexuality." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "Rape is the primary heterosexual model for sexual relating. Rape is the primary emblem of romantic love. Rape is the means by which a woman is initiated into her womanhood as it is defined by men." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig." (Ice and Fire)
  • "Men are rapists, batterers, plunderers, killers." (Pornography: Men Possessing Women)
  • "Like prostitution, marriage is an institution that is extremely oppressive and dangerous for women." (Letters From a War Zone)
  • "Under patriarchy, every woman is a victim, past, present and future. Under patriarchy, every woman's daughter is a victim, past, present and future. Under patriarchy, every woman's son is her potential betrayer and also the inevitable rapist or exploiter of another woman." (Our Blood: Prophecies And Discourses On Sexual Politics)
  • "[M]en are biologically aggressive; their fetal brains were awash in androgen; their DNA, in order to perpetuate itself, hurls them into murder and rape." (Letters From a War Zone)

On April 9, 2005, Dworkin died of natural causes in her Washington, DC home at the age of 58.



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