Quotes from Pornography, by Andrea Dworkin

“With a disgust common to all feminists who have tried to be participants in the so-called humanism of men, only to discover through bitter experience that the culture of males does not allow honest female participation, Virginia Woolf wrote: “I detest the masculine point of view. I am bored by his heroism, virtue, and honour. I think the best these men can do is not to talk about themselves anymore.” Men have claimed the human point of view; they author it; they own it. Men are humanists, humans, humanism. Men are rapists, batterers, plunderers, killers; these same men are religious prophets, poets, heroes, figures of romance, adventure, accomplishment, figures ennobled by tragedy and defeat. Men have claimed the earth, called it Her. Men ruin Her. Men have airplanes, guns, bombs, poisonous gases, weapons so perverse and deadly that they defy any authentically human imagination. Men battle each other and Her; women battle to be let into the category “human” in imagination and reality. Men battle to keep the category “human” narrow, circumscribed by their own values and activities; women battle to change the meaning that men have given the word, to transform its meaning by suffusing it with female experience.”

“Men will advocate some forms of violence and not others. Some men will renounce violence in theory, and practice it in secrecy against women and children. Some men will become icons in male culture, able to discipline and focus their commitment to violence by learning a violent skill: boxing, shooting, hunting, hockey, football, soldiering, policing. Some men will use language as violence, or money as violence, or religion as violence, or science as violence, or influence over others as violence. Some men will commit violence against the minds of others and some against the bodies of others. Most men, in their life histories, have done both. In the area of sexuality, this fact was acknowledged with no recognition of its significance by the scholars of the Institute for Sex Research (the Kinsey Institute) who studied sex offenders:

‘If we labeled all punishable sexual behavior as a sex offense, we would find ourselves in the ridiculous situation of having all of our male histories consist almost wholly of sex offenders, the remaining few being not only nonoffenders but nonconformists. The man who kisses a girl [sic] in defiance of her expressed wishes is committing a forced sexual relationship and is liable to an assault charge, but to solemnly label him a sex offender would be to reduce our study to a ludicrous level.’

Rather than “reduce [their] study to a ludicrous level,” which would be unthinkable, the honorable scientists chose to sanction as normative the male commitment to the use of force documented by their study.”

“Pornography reveals that male pleasure is inextricably tied to victimizing, hurting, exploiting; that sexual fun and sexual passion in the privacy of the male imagination are inseparable from the brutality of male history. The private world of sexual dominance that men demand as their right and their freedom is the mirror image of the public world of sadism and atrocity that men consistently and self-righteously deplore. It is in the male experience of pleasure that one finds the meaning of male history.”

“Sade’s biographers attempt to justify, trivialize, or deny (even though records confirming the facts exist) every assault Sade ever committed against women and girls. Especially, tireless efforts are made to discount the kidnapping and torture of Rose Keller, Sade’s first nonprostitute victim of record.

Violence against prostitutes, regardless of its ferocity, is nothing less than an acceptable fact of life. W ho, the biographers ask with mock wonderment, can deny that these “girls” are there to be used? The man’s right to sexual pleasure on his own terms is the given, the natural right. Sexual pleasure includes by definition or intrinsically justifies the use of force, trickery, or violence. The cost to the prostitute’s health or well-being means nothing. Her own will
has no value and no claim to value. The use of force against
prostitutes means less than nothing. Freedom, that hallowed word, is valued only when used in reference to male desire. For women, freedom means only that men are free to use them.”

“Coleridge’s ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ operates more consistently in the viewing of pornography than it ever has in the reading of literature. The willing suspension of disbelief is crucial. Without it, one might remember that this rendition of women in private is not women in private at all, but women in makeup and costumes under hot lights in uncomfortable positions posed before a camera behind which is a photographer behind whom is a publisher behind whom is a multibillion-dollar industry behind which are rich lawyers claiming that the photographs are constitutionally protected speech essential to human freedom behind whom are intellectuals who find all of this revolutionary behind all of whom—except the models—are women who launder their underwear and clean their toilets. Indeed, to be a consumer of pornography one must be adept at suspending disbelief. Should disbelief prove stubborn and not easy to suspend, the knowledge that the models posed for money provides confirmation that they are whores and then the photographs are a simple expression of a general truth. For the viewer who remembers that the photographs are artificial constructs, the photographs prove what the photographs show: that women are whores, dumb and evil whores at that; that women like to whore; that women choose to whore.”

“Film critic Molly Haskell, at the end of a decade of vigorous feminism in the United States, expressed the weary anger and astonishment of women who keep knocking their heads against this particular brick wall:

‘If we think talking it all out has brought us [men and women] closer together in the last few years, we have only to broach the subject of rape. Men seem incapable of understanding what rape means to a woman—the sense of total violation, or the mere threat of rape as a lifelong shadow over her freedom of movement…

The central division is between the sense of rape as an act of
hostility and aggression, as women see and know and experience it, and rape as an erotic act, as fantasized by men.'”

“The valuation of women’s sexuality in pornography is objective and real because women are so regarded and so valued. The force depicted in pornography is objective and real because force is so used against women. The debasing of women depicted in pornography and intrinsic to it is
objective and real in that women are so debased. The uses of
women depicted in pornography are objective and real because women are so used. The women used in pornography are used in pornography. The definition of women articulated systematically and consistently in pornography is objective and real in that real women exist within and must live with constant reference to the boundaries of this definition. The fact that pornography is widely believed to be “sexual representations” or “depictions of sex” emphasizes only that the valuation of women as low whores is
widespread and that the sexuality of women is perceived as low and whorish in and of itself. The fact that pornography is widely believed to be “depictions of the erotic” means only that the debasing of women is held to be the real pleasure of sex.”

“On the Left, the sexually liberated woman is the woman of
pornography. Free male sexuality wants, has a right to, produces, and consumes pornography because pornography is pleasure. Leftist sensibility promotes and protects pornography because pornography is freedom. The pornography glut is bread and roses for the masses. Freedom is the mass-marketing of woman as whore. Free sexuality for the woman is in being massively consumed, denied an individual nature, denied any sexual sensibility other than that which serves the male. Capitalism is not wicked or cruel when the commodity is the whore; profit is not wicked or cruel when the alienated worker is a female piece of meat; corporate bloodsucking is not wicked or cruel when the corporations in question, organized crime syndicates, sell cunt; racism is not wicked or cruel when the black cunt or yellow cunt or red cunt or Hispanic cunt or Jewish cunt has her legs splayed for any man’s pleasure; poverty is not wicked or cruel when it is the poverty of dispossessed women who have only themselves to sell; violence by the powerful against the powerless is not wicked or cruel when it is called sex; slavery is not wicked or cruel when it is sexual slavery; torture is not wicked or cruel when the tormented are women, whores, cunts. The new pornography is left-wing; and the new pornography is a vast graveyard where the Left has gone to die. The Left cannot have its whores and its politics too.”

Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women

One thought on “Quotes from Pornography, by Andrea Dworkin

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