adworkin.jpgFeminist Andrea Dworkin described pornography as a violation of women’s civil rights, and linked sexually explicit videos and magazines to rape and violence toward women. She supported her deeply held beliefs by testifying before numerous governmental committees, writing more than a dozen books and working as a political activist.
The New Jersey native claimed she was sexually abused when she was 9 years old. While attending Bennington College in Vermont, she was arrested in front of the United States Mission to the United Nations for protesting the war in Vietnam. During the four days Dworkin spent at the New York Women’s House of Detention, two male doctors brutalized her with cruel and punishing internal examinations. Her testimony about their actions eventually shut down the prison.
Dworkin’s parents were humiliated by the scandal, however, and turned against her. In response, she moved to Amsterdam and married a Dutch anarchist. Dworkin suffered beatings and verbal abuse for five years, then rallied enough courage to leave him. To sustain herself, she slept on friends’ floors and prostituted herself for money.
Dworkin was 27 when she published her first book, “Woman Hating: A Radical Look at Sexuality.” Over the next four decades, she wrote magazine and newspaper articles, novels, essay collections and content for Websites. In 2001, her book, “Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation,” won the American Book Award. Dworkin’s autobiography, “Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant,” was published in 2002.
Dworkin joined forces with legal scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon in 1983 to draft a law that allowed women to sue producers and distributors of pornography in civil court. Their campaign was inspired by Linda Marchiano, an adult actress known as Linda Lovelace who starred in the 1972 film, “Deep Throat.” Years after “Deep Throat” became a cult hit, Marchiano claimed she had been coerced by her husband Chuck Traynor into making the movie. The law was overturned by a federal appeals court in 1985, but upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dworkin’s militant stance on pornography and women’s rights found opponents on both sides of the gender aisle. Men claimed her opinions promoted censorship and served as an assault on “traditional family values.” Women who disagreed with her views said she set the feminist movement back by infringing on a woman’s right to choose how she wants to use her body. Frequently described as a “man-hater,” Dworkin was in fact married for seven years to author John Stoltenberg. Although they were both gay, the couple had been living together for more than three decades.
Dworkin died on April 9. Cause of death was not released. She was 58.
Quotes by Dworkin