Andrea Dworkin, One More Time


It's probably too late to be posting something about the death of Andrea Dworkin, but I only just stumbled on Susie Bright's eulogy for her. Bright is a famously porn-friendly feminist, and her comments are surprising enough to be worth quoting:

I was the one who said Dworkin was a great pornographer, if what that means is using explicit sex in her art to cause a tremendous sensation.

Along with Kate Millet in Sexual Politics, Andrea Dworkin used her considerable intellectual powers to analyze pornography, which was something that no one had done before. No one. The men who made porn didn't. Porn was like a low culture joke before the feminist revolution kicked its ass. It was beneath discussion. Not so anymore!

Here's the irony…every single woman who pioneered the sexual revolution, every erotic-feminist-bad-girl-and-proud-of-it-stiletto- shitkicker, was once a fan of Andrea Dworkin. Until 1984, we all were. She was the one who got us looking at porn with a critical eye, she made you feel like you could just stomp into the adult bookstore and seize everything for inspection and a bonfire.

The funny thing that happened on the way to the X-Rated Sex Palace was that some of us came to different conclusions than Ms. Dworkin. We saw the sexism of the porn business…but we also saw some intriguing possibilities and amazing maverick spirit. We said, "What if we made something that reflected our politics and values, but was just as sexually bold?"

Andrea did not like this one little bit. Honestly, when I started On Our Backs and Herotica, I thought all the girls were going to jump on the bandwagon. I had no idea how bad the animosity would get. I mean, I have tape recordings from colleges where I would go listen to Andrea lecture in rapt attention and turn my little cassette over to capture every word. I never dreamed that I would one day become one of the people she vilified.

Not that Bright is uncritical:

I know it's strange that I have such a tragic affection for her, when she apparently only had loathing for my kind. I've had women come at me with knives who felt they had to do me in, in Dworkin's name. Her passion and activism was classic Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She was a dangerous lady, with no class analysis, no psychological insight–a scary combination. Her loaded warped pistol was neatly picked up by right wing creeps who took all the femme bullets out of it and never looked back.

Stephen Miller's thorough obit in The New York Sun is also worth reading. My favorite part is Dworkin's alleged exchange with Allen Ginsberg. "He said, 'The right wants to put me in jail.' I said, 'Yes, they're very sentimental; I'd kill you.'"