Modern Times Interview of Andrea Dworkin With Larry Josephson
mp3 version will be available soon
So what I do in Intercourse is to look at the way that intercourse is
LJ: Good evening, this is Modern Times on the American Public Radio Network. My name is Larry Josephson and tonight we’ll be talking with, or sparring with, Andrea Dworkin, who is a radical feminist, self-described. The author of one of the two introductions to a book called Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out, and also Intercourse, Pornography, Ice and Fire, and many other titles. It should be really interesting, so don’t go away. In fact, there’ll be a test after the program. ……
LJ: Andrea Dworkin is here, my guest tonight. Andrea Dworkin is a self-described radical feminist who has published 10 books and the latest being an introduction to a paperback book called Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out, published by the Crossing Press in Freedom, CaliforniaI wonder if there’s a Slavery, CaliforniaAndrea, welcome to Modern Times.
AD: Thank you, it’s good to be here.
LJ: I’ve wanted to have you here as a guest for a very long time, because you and I represent almost the polar opposites about attitudes about sex and gender. I’m not quite up to Norman Mailer’s standards as a man.
AD: (laughter) Well, that’s good
LJ: But I do strongly believe in men, the necessity of men, of fathers, of husbands, of lovers, male lovers, and I do believe that at it’s best, sex is a sacrament, and, so, I’ve been following your work and reviews of it, your work, and trying to pass legislation trying to criminalize pornography or at least making it possible to recover damages, and your work, I believe that you said some place that all forms of sexual intercourse between men and women whether consensual or not are a form of rape.
AD: No it’s not. I mean, when you say you’ve been following my work and then say you’ve been reading reviews of it, I know that what you’ve been following is a caricature of everything that I’ve ever written.
LJ: Well, I’ve read quite a bit in these two books, I mean I haven’t read every word you’ve written but I haven’t read every word that Tolstoy wrote either.
AD: There’s an introduction Sexual Harassment, to this anthology but the work that I’ve done on my own, the nonfiction work and the novels that I’ve published I think are a little bit deeper than they are ever given any kind of credit for and that they take human passion and compassion into account, and they really are described in the most reductive possible ways.
LJ: That’s probably true of all book reviews, I mean, they have 700 words to describe ayou know500-page book so this is inevitable. I want to ask you, in Intercourse you have saidI’m paraphrasing herethat sexual intercourse is essentially a way of enslaving women, of reducing women to chattels and so forth and so on. Is that true of the relationship between every man and every woman?
AD: Well that’s not what I say. First of all, in terms of women being sexual chattel, that’s a simple historical fact, and what I’ve done has been to analyze the law and how laws tell people not only what they can’t do but what they must do and so a lot of people who are very committed to sexual liberation understand that breaking laws is very important, but they don’t understand that when law mandates behavior that also is very significant. So what I do in Intercourse is to look at the way that intercourse is mandated for women as a form of compulsory behavior, that does not mean that all intercourse is forced or compulsory, but this is a social institution with laws to back it up in which women have been sexual property for men, and that has a tremendous impact on what we feel, what we women feel about men and what we feel during intercourse. So what I did with my book on intercourse, which took me five years to write, and I feel a lot of upset when it’s dismissed casually and cartooned in the description, is to ask, I think, a series of very serious questions that range from, is this act that has been used to dominate women an act that must be used to dominate women? What are the ways in which power is exercised over women during this act? What are a lot of the prejudices against women that basically prescribe what women’s behavior should be during intercourse?
LJ: Now could you give us an example of a law that requires women to do something, either to have intercourse or to be servants to their husbands?
AD: Sure, up until the last several years, for instance, the fact that a husband could not be prosecuted for raping his wife because he had a legal right to have access to her body and she had no right to deny him that access. That was such a formulation of law.
LJ: Right, but using the past tense. I agree with you….,
AD: In some states it’s still the case.
LJ: OK, but I think your historical analysis is correct in as far as it goes. The question is applying it. It seems to me in reading your book that there’s no exception, that I didn’t find a place where you talked about intercourse or any kind of emotional relationship between men and women, or for that matter men and men or women and women, as being anything other than some sort of active enslavement. That it can’t be good.
AD: Well, again, I just have to tell you that I think it’s a real misreading of what I’m doing. I begin the book Intercourse with an analysis of several different male writers, writers who I think are phenomenal writers on issues of power and freedom. They’re all male writers, they have very complex, and in some cases very troubled relationships to the act of intercourse. So, for instance, the first chapter is, as you mentioned, you mention Tolstoy. The first chapter is on Tolstoy. Now Tolstoy had a relationship to intercourse in which he, he, not me, he considered every act of intercourse an act of violence, and my question was, what was his experience such that this is what he thought? How did he act in his real life towards his wife who also kept a diary and therefore we know what she felt. There’s a chapter on James Baldwin in which I talk about his view of intercourse as the ultimate risk of love and freedom and that’s the way it’s described in that chapter. So I think that….
LJ: I’m assuming you mean that one in a positive.
AD: Yeah, absolutely. And so part of what I’m saying is that men, and in particular male writers, are allowed, in this society, to have very complex feelings about intercourse. The men whose work I describe for instance the very great Japanese writer Kobo Abe, a contemporary writer, I would say has an incredible fear of intercourse, an incredible fear of women that is expressed in a very complex and sensual way. But I as a woman writer am allowed to say yes or no. I’m not allowed to have any ambivalences any hostilities any raging questions, any passions, any concerns.
LJ: Who is it that’s not allowing you this? You’re a published author of 10 books.
AD: Yeah. That’s a small miracle actually. Several of the books have been published in England long before they were published here because I couldn’t find publishers here. But what I am saying is there is a very gendered reading of women’s work so that, for instance, when we read Tolstoy we want to face the problems that we have, we want to look at what harms us. We go to the writer expecting that writer to present us with problems and experiences, many of which disturb us. I mean, I grew up believing that that was one of the most important functions of writing, that it was to present people with problems and difficulties that were real and that were disturbing, but when you are a woman and you write about sex, you are supposed to affirm or deny, and you are supposed to be that simpleminded and the reading experience is supposed to be that simpleminded for the reader, and I won’t do that. None of my books do that.
LJ: You know, not too long ago Nancy Friday sat in your chair and as far as I’m concerned Nancy Friday is a pornographer that her books, she may have opened up a certain subgenre of women’s erotic literature, women’s sexual fantasies, but the fact is that as far as I’m concerned it’s a book of pornography, not terrible, not very good as pornography, but that’s what it is. And yet there are many feminists who strongly disagree with your ideas about pornography and the very fact that you are pushing for legislation that would make it possible for women who are victims or anyone who are victims of a sexual crime to sue the publisher, the writer, the distributor, the seller, of work of pornography for damages and also in some cases criminalize the possession or the sale of pornography.
AD: No. You said that about legislation that criminalizes pornography. I have never supported that kind of legislation. What Catharine MacKinnon and I did in Minnesota in 1983 was to develop a new approach to try to deal with the ways in which pornography injures women, in particular, but as you said, also anybody else that it might injure. And the sexual assault provision is just one, and what that says is that somebody has been sexually assaulted because of pornography where, for instance, the pornography is used in the assault, and the rapists follow point-by-point the pornography and they do it to the woman. That the pornographer is in part responsible for what has happened to the woman and therefore should be civilly liable, not criminally liable, civilly liable.
LJ: But that would have the effect of putting the pornography industry out of business.
AD: Well, what you are saying is that pornography is so often involved in rape that if the pornography…
LJ: I’m not saying that you’re saying that…
AD: No that’s what you’re saying. If it would put the pornography industry out of business that is because the pornographers would not be able to be found innocent.
LJ: No, you can basically bankrupt someone even if they’re found innocent at the end of the process by the cost of the legal defense.
AD: No, let me say something. The reason that the pornography industry opposes this bill in the way that it does is not because they’re afraid of frivolous lawsuits, it’s because they’re afraid of lawsuits that are not frivolous. So that for instance, under this bill, a woman who is coerced into making pornography can sue the pornographers. Someone who is defamed in pornography can sue the pornographers; someone who has pornography forced on them in school, for instance, or in work and relating to the title of the book we are talking about, sexual harassment, in an office for instance can sue not the pornographers, but the institution that allows the forcing to take place. So what we did was that we defined pornography in a very specific concrete way, there’s nothing impressionistic about the definition, we’re talking about a $10 million a year industry that is out there, that exploits women, that hurts women, that’s involved in insult and assault to women, and we say the pornographers need to be civilly liable for what they do.
LJ: I have in front of me a letter to Senator Biden of the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose the chair of the Committee, signed by Carol Vance(?) and Ann Snitco(?), the latter who I know from BAR days basically opposing this bill, the Pornography Victim’s Compensation Act.
AD: This is not our bill.
LJ: But the fact is, I’m using this as an illustration, that many respected feminists are anti-censorship and oppose your and Ms. MacKinnon’s work. What I want to know is, before we get lost in all of these details here, what is wrong with pornography? and I’m not talking about pornography that maybe have anything to do with snuff or that is killing people as part of the sexual act or bondage or anything like that, but straight sex pornography. How many lonely sailors and people on desert islands and people who can’t get dates get some kind of relief, I assume you’re not opposed to masturbation.
AD: Well, you’re assuming an awful lot.
LJ: Well I’m asking you. Are you?
AD: No, I’m not, and I don’t really care what people do with each other. I will deal first with the opposition question. There’s no reason that feminists shouldn’t disagree with each other. We disagree with each other on a lot of different points. Not just this one. I think that the opposition to the work against pornography that has gotten a lot of mainstream attention has always been for the last ten years the same ten women. What happens across the country is that there is enormous grassroots support for trying to do something about pornography that isn’t the old obscenity solution to the problem. It’s not, hide it we don’t want to see it. We’re talking about women who came alive during the sixties. We’re not sexually inexperienced, we’re not sexually ignorant, we’re not Victorian, we know what we’re talking about, and we know that there is a global trafficking in women that the pornography industry is part of and that in this country that a lot of women are being hurt both in the making of pornography and in the use of pornography. So that’s number one. The fact that Carol Vance and Ann Hunter and any other women have basically made a career out of getting their names in print….
LJ: Haven’t you and Miss MacKinnon made a career out of doing the same thing.
AD: No, actually, we haven’t made a career out of following other feminists around and insulting and attacking them. No we haven’t. What we have done is to try to find ways to deal with the sexual exploitation of women. Catharine MacKinnon is one of the pioneers of sexual harassment as a legal tort so that women have redress when these kinds of predations happen to them at work.
LJ: Okay, the problem, there’s that old thing in rhetoric about, what is it, a syllogism which doesn’t compute, the law of the something in the middle, the undistributed middle. I agree with you that sexual harassment is bad. Rape is terrible. I am the father of two daughters, I’ve had several wives. I have a very dear woman friend who was raped and almost murdered. I’m not for rape. I’m not for date rape. I’m not for sexual harassment. I thought Clarence Thomas was scum. I think he’s scum as a legal scholar, as a political thinker, and I believed Anita Hill. And so does everybody else I know, man, woman, and child. So I don’t recognize myself. Not that I’m an angel, not that I haven’t had terrible fights with women and said terrible things and thrown chairs at people in my life. But the fact is, I’m not one of these people who justifies rape, sexual harassment, or physical abuse of women as some sort of god-given male right. I don’t believe that. I don’t recognize myself in your work, and what bothers me is the leap of logic from pornography to sexual harassment, rape, and so forth. I think pornography is a relief. I think it’s an aid to masturbation, and I think that it doesn’t necessarily give people, men, ideas to go out and commit acts against women. I think it drains off that kind of sexual [unintelligible].
AD: It’s not really a matter of ideas. And the fact of the matter is I can tell you that you’re proven wrong but if you’re not willing to….It’s not just a matter of telling you. Women have been talking now for 20 years about the use of pornography in sexual abuse committed against them. Women have been talking now for a little less time than that about the ways they have been coerced into pornography. We have a generation of people now who are 20 years younger than you and me who were raised in this society saturated with pornography, and I am telling you that the kinds of sexual assaults that these women are being subjected to, which come right out of the pages, right off of the video screens, are often with the videos going and the men imitating them, have a level of sadism that women my age have almost never seen. I am telling you that it is happening. That there is an incredible kind of alienation that has to do with the way that pornography teaches men to look at women and to treat women, an incredible kind of dehumanization that has to do with the way men objectify women and pornography facilitates that, an eroticisation of violence against women, and desensitization of women’s humanness and value as human beings. There’s an enormous amount of laboratory evidence. There’s a lot of clinical evidence. There is what is laughingly called the anecdotal evidence to make it sound trivial. That means it’s what happened to the person, and the person says this is what happened to me. I believe what you say about yourself, why shouldn’t I? But the fact of the matter is that, if you are refusing to even listen, and sometimes it’s hard to listen because sometimes the material isn’t there. For instance, we organized hearings in Minneapolis in 1983 where for the first time women who lived there came forward and used their names and told the City Council about every kind of sexual abuse that pornography was implicated in. We have been trying for a decade to get those hearings published in this country. They were published in England five years ago. I mean, I am telling you I understand that the information isn’t always easily available. But the fact of the matter is you can’t just say that when women say, we’re being hurt this way, this is what happened to us, that you don’t think it’s true because you think men masturbate. I mean, I know men masturbate, but men also learn from what they’re masturbating to. This isn’t a matter of somebody getting an idea. This is a matter of somebody’s sexuality being conditioned to look at other human beings as if they’re things and not people, as if they’re two-dimensional instead of real human beings.
LJ: All right, but Susan Brownmiller has basically established the idea that rape is not necessarily or primarily a sexual act but it’s an act of violence against women. That is received opinion and now it’s beginning to be disputed and revised, but the fact, frankly I have never seen a pornographic film or read a pornographic book, and I have read a fair number of them, that fits the image of women being bound up and beaten and mutilated and whatever. Some of Amnesty International’s reports are more along those lines.
AD: Well, I’m told that Penthouse has been trying to buy the photographs that Amnesty International has of tortured prisoners and that happily Amnesty International has refused to sell them. There is a relationship between the kind of sadism that you see in prisons practiced on people, and the sexual kick that the torturer’s often get out of doing that torture and the ways in which women are battered in their homes, and the ways in which women are raped, not just on the street but in their homes. I mean, what I am saying to you is that this touches on every area of what we need to know about how sadism functions in everyday life. And what I would like to know from you, is that you’re telling me you have never seen any of this stuff. I don’t know why that it is, it’s all over the place.
LJ: Well, I’ve seen pornography, I’ve never seen a snuff movie. I’ve read about them.
AD: What I’m telling you is that you said, women beaten, women in bondage, that kind of pornography is all over the place.
LJ: I’ve read about it, I’ve not seen it.
AD: Now what I am saying to you is, you haven’t seen it, that makes you relatively an innocent in terms of what pornography is. But what is done to make that pornography is really being done to real women.
LJ: What I would dispute is the causality. I would say that that kind of pornography is a manifestation of the same kind of images, the same kind of fantasy that leads in some cases to those despicable acts. But I don’t believe that causality for me is not proven.
AD: That’s fine.
LJ: The point at which you would suspend the First Amendment protections for erotic writings. Because the problem is that with the laws that you project you could go after Robert Mapplethorpe or you could go after the Salome production at the Metropolitan Opera where there was a woman in a body stocking who came up from the stage who looked nude from the 5th row.
AD: Now that’s not true. The definition is a very specific definition, and it has to do with sexual inequality. What we did is we wrote a civil rights law. Now we’re talking about harm that has been proven over and over again. I’m sorry you don’t know about it, I’m sorry you don’t think it’s real. I’m sorry you think pornography is cathartic, it isn’t. It teaches men a real hatred of women, and it encourages men to act that hatred out and then men do, and women suffer.
LJ: My image of you and of Catharine MacKinnon and of the women on the street corners from Women Against Pornography who scream at people and show pictures…
AD: That is a group called Feminists Fighting Pornography. And Women Against Pornography and I have nothing to do with them. We don’t get to control everybody.
LJ: I understand that. I don’t control everybody who calls in here either. My point I am making though is that a lot of people believe essentially that you and Catharine MacKinnon and your supporters are the New Puritans and are essentially anti-sex, that you are Orwell’s anti-sex league that you are, in fact, against even normal sexual consensual intercourse where the man and the woman are both willing and wanting. Well what I am telling you is that there’s been an enormous propaganda campaign against what we’ve been doing, and we get very little access to say what we believe, and when we do we’re usually confronted with millions of conflated arguments in one sentence as you have frequently been doing so that pulling the premises in your questions apart takes time and is not that easy to do. Now what Orwell wrote about pornography in 1984 was that the state produced it and pretended it was illegal. And he had the state sending it out in brown envelopes as if it were taboo, because, he postulated, that the state understood that pornography is an instrument of control, of subjugation, not an instrument of liberation.
LJ: I read that in high school so it’s been a while. But as I remember the state also used illicit sex as a way of identifying and controlling rebels in the society, and they used this figure Goldstein who was in theory a rebel against big brother but was in fact an agent of Big Brother. I’m not sure that I would agree with your deconstruction of 1984.
AD: I’m not deconstructing it. I’m just saying that most people refer to it without even remembering what was in it or what it was about and that Orwell was fairly prescient in identifying totalitarian institutions in the society he was living in, and pornography was one of the institutions he identified as being totalitarian and in the interest of the state. I think he’s right.
LJ: I think what you’re trying to do with pornography is totalitarian. I think when you say, for example, that you would in effect legislate so that an erotic work in which the man and the woman were unequal in power would be subject to civil penalties, to me that is a kind of totalitarianism.
AD: Well, I have to tell you that, see, I live in a world where your view of what’s totalitarian doesn’t make a lot of sense to me because from the beginning of my life as a woman I was pretty much taught that I was worthless and what I was going to think was worthless and what I was going to be was worthless. I wasn’t alone in this; all other women that I have ever met were pretty much taught the same thing, whether purposefully or not. And that the subjugation that I was going to enjoy, and I was going to enjoy it, wasn’t going to come directly from the state but rather it was going to come via a man who in fact was going to be protected by the state in his dominance over me, thus I describe the typical American family. Now what I think about that is that as a woman, I have to find my freedom. And up until this moment in time, my freedom has been destroyed by yours, by rights that you have over women. By the license that you take, by the power that you have. And so I am going to challenge every institution in this society that makes women into basically some form of trash that lowers us, that hurts us, that insults us. I’m going to do it and do it and do it and do it because I want the kind of freedom that you’re talking about. And if what you say to me is that my freedom is incompatible with yours. I say, well I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have mine. I don’t think they’re incompatible, but maybe you do.
LJ: Well I think that is the Manichean dichotomy that I choose not to make a choice about.
AD: Yeah, but it keeps coming from your side. It keeps coming from, this is totalitarian. This is totalitarian. What we’re saying is that we’re being hurt, that we’re being hurt in our civil rights, in our equality rights, and that we’re being physically hurt by a systematic kind of sexual abuse that keeps us down.
LJ: But in the last few years we have seen, as you say, it is now illegal for a husband to rape his wife, it is now that police are taking wife battering more seriously.
AD: Thanks to us.
LJ: Well, I’m not against that. Some cases where a woman has been so horribly abused that she has taken a gun and killed her husband that in many of those cases, not in all of them, the woman has been acquitted.
AD: No, in most of the cases the woman goes to jail, and in most of those cases she gets a life sentence. The ones in which women have been acquitted, which I’m grateful that they have been, have been the anomalies.
LJ: We seem to be having two interviews here, you’re interview and my interview, and we’re not connecting.
AD: I want to know what you want to do about the snuff films. You tell me.
LJ: I’ve heard rumors that they exist but I have never seen one. I’ve never seen one advertised. Are you talking about a real snuff film?
AD: They do exist. There are men in California who are in jail for making one.
LJ: I would certainly punish people who make snuff films or who use children in pornography.
AD: Yes, so then what would you do about the film? What would you do about the film?
LJ: I guess I would say, first of all, that it has not been proved that there’s a connection between viewing those films and committing the acts that they depict.
AD: So you would protect the film?
LJ: In the same way I would set up the legal system so that someone who might be guilty goes free if their guilt is not proven beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s part of our system.
AD: It is part of our system and it means that 9 out of 10 rapists are acquitted. That’s what it means. So what you’re saying is that you would allow a profit-making motive, you would protect the snuff films so that there would be profit making the snuff film because that’s more important than what? If you know that if a profit can be made from it, more women are going to be killed to make the next one.
LJ: Okay but where do you draw the line between a sleazy snuff film and a dramatization of The Kreutzer Sonata.
AD: In a sleazy snuff film, a woman dies in it. Why is that hard to understand?
LJ: Someone dies….
AD: No. The Kreutzer Sonata is a work of words on a page. In a snuff film, a woman dies.
LJ: But supposed that’s dramatized, The Kreutzer Sonata.
AD: Somebody takes a knife and cuts her open and pulls her uterus out and then ejaculates on her. That is what a snuff film is. Why are you comparing these two things? I wanna know what you would do about the snuff film.
LJ: Because I wanna know who is to decide the line that divides the snuff film and the dramatization of The Kreutzer Sonata, of Tolstoy, on film
AD: You and I are going to decide. You don’t know the difference between a women being butchered and a film being made of her being butchered and a dramatization of a story. You can’t tell the difference.
LJ: I would say that obviously if a real woman was actually butchered and killed that that is no longer in the realm of expression, that’s a criminal act. Or a child being used as an actor in one of these films.
AD: Okay, that’s new American law about a child being used. It was the case, now look at this factually. I’m asking you to look at something that I know you don’t want to look at, that’s hard to look at. But I’m asking you to take in some information here. We have obscenity laws in this country. The Senate and the House were too cowardly to pass laws that said you can’t use children in pornography. Period. The State of New York passed such a law and said you can’t use children in sexually explicit material.
LJ: I support that.
AD: Yeah, except that I spent years fighting a New York State appeals court decision that overturned that law. And it’s only because the Supreme Court ultimately vindicated it that there are laws against child pornography. Now what I’m telling you is that when we’re talking about an industry that uses real people, the lives of those people have to matter.
LJ: Are you saying that the women in the snuff films were actually murdered and actually cut open?
AD: Yes. Yes. And I’m saying….
LJ: Have you ever seen one of these?
AD: No. I’ve never seen one.
LJ: Oh I haven’t either. I’ve heard about them and I’ve read about them but I’ve never seen one.
AD: I’m telling you that there are two men in California who are in prison because they made one of these films. The dead body was therethe woman was therethe film was made.
LJ: I mean there are women who commit broomstick rapes too, that doesn’t mean that women are in general rapists.
AD: I didn’t say anything about anybody in general being anything. I am asking you, what would you do about a real snuff film?
LJ: Oh that’s easy, that’s easy. Then the people who made it are criminals because they murdered somebody.
AD: The film. What would you do about the film?
LJ: I would say. And you’re not going to like this. I would say, and you’re not going to like this, I would say that I’m with Justice Blackmun. I’m a First Amendment absolutist; I do not believe that the government should prohibit the viewing or the speaking or the showing of anything, in spite of the fact that some people may be offended, and some people may be psychologically damaged.
AD: Be offended? We’re talking about an industry being built on human blood. This is not being offended.
LJ: I don’t think that Penthouse, for example, is built on human blood.
AD: I’m trying to be very specific.
LJ: You’re drawing a very extreme example.
AD: No, I wrote down the example that you gave me. You brought up the example of snuff and I’m trying to get from you, okay, you don’t think there should be any laws about any pornography. I’m saying to you, okay, Larry, let’s say you’re right. And the only issue that we have here is supposed somebody makes a pornography film in which a woman is killed as a sexual act. Now, what would you do about the film because under American law right now that film is protected speech. I think that’s wrong. I think that anybody who’s coerced into a pornography film should be able to get that film off of the market.
LJ: What do you mean coerced into it? You mean the actors.
AD: Yes, for instance, Linda Marchiano in Deep Throat, which she wrote about in Ordeal. I think anybody who is forced to make a film, a pornography film, and many women are forced, should be able to reach the film. Not just…
LJ: I have no problem with that. That is white [sic] slavery or kidnapping.
AD: What I am saying is that they should be able to get the film off the market.
LJ: No. I would say, that just as sometimes in our criminal justice system that the guilty go free because of the protections of the 5th amendment and the 14th amendment and the 8th amendment and so forth that similarly that that’s the price of the general 1st amendment privileges that once in a while one of those noxious films gets violated. I have a right not to see it to. No one is forcing me into a theater or into an adult bookstore to buy it.
AD: No, first of all, that’s not right. In the sense that we now have an environment that’s saturated with pornography; women see it in supermarkets, you can’t avoid it. But we’re talking about women being forced into doing it. Women being forced into doing it; we’re talking about women being forced into imitating it through sexual assault.
LJ: I want to….
AD: Just let me conclude. This means that it’s your constitution. Not mine.
LJ: All right. I want to say one thing though. I have gained a degree of sympathy for your point of view knowing from your novel and from other things that you have said and written that you were the victim of sexual assaults and abuse as a child. You have said that before you were 18 you were assaulted on three different occasions, and you have been brutalized and so forth. So for yourself, I have a great deal of sympathy, and I am not at all trying to ridicule you or put you down or obtain what you have to say. My only objection to all of this is that it seems to me that from these horrible experiences that you have had as one individual that you have generated a whole politics and a whole ideology, which reduces me as a man to a rapacious penis wanting to rape and subjugate every woman in the world and that is not who I am as a human being.
AD: I believe that is not who you are.
LJ: And if you want to know the truth, my problem in life is that I am surrounded by powerful women.
AD: That I can’t speak to, but I will tell you that there is no way that I would ever have spoken out as an individual if not for finding out how common what happened to me is and how often it happens to other women and how many other women have been raped and how many other women have been raped more than once and how many American women are beaten in their homes. There’s nothing I have written about that has happened to me that isn’t a common experience of women, and that’s why it’s a political problem and not a personal problem, and I invite you to try to solve some of these problems.
LJ: Well, in fact, we have made small amounts of progress. The fact that Willie Smith was indicted and tried is some kind of progress. The fact that The New York Times vilifies a woman who is a victim, published her sexual history and her name, to their everlasting shame. The fact that the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings happened, which was a result of the leak by someone on that committee, the staff of that committee, and the fact that a great number of Americans believed herincluding meand not him, and the reason he’s on that Court is because of the Black vote in the south that put heplin(sp?) and for that matter in the north with Simon that basically it was black men against black women and those white politicians on that committee were afraid of being voted out by black men, which makes the politics of the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill thing much more complicated than merely white men believing that this man could not have done these things.
AD: I think that it is much more complicated, and it’s much more complicated than Orrin Hatch’s suddenly becoming a Soviet psychiatrist. I think that in my introduction to this anthology Sexual Harassment, I talk about the Clarence ThomasAnita Hill hearings and also about the Willie Smith case because I think that sexual harassment and date rape are deeply connected as social and political phenomena and in the way that men view women.
LJ: And frankly there was a New York magazine piece after the Willie Smith trial, which basically said that the woman who claimed that Smith raped her was some kind of tramp who turned on him when he basically patted her on the backside and sent her away…
AD: That was said all over the place.
LJ: I don’t believe that, and I think that the fact that we have made some progress from Chappaquiddick to the Willie Smith trial that a man from such a powerful and rich family could be put on trial on television and with some possibility of being convicted.
AD: Oh I agree with that but what I am asking you to think about is the fact that it doesn’t help Mary Jo Kopechne and that what we’re trying to do is to stop women from being hurt by men, stupidly, foolishly to prove their dominance at the cost of a human life.
LJ: We have four minutes left in this hour and my guest is Andrea Dworkin who is the author of Intercourse and a number of other books and also is the author of one of the two introductions to a new book called Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out published by the Crossing Press in paperback. Hi you’re on Modern Times, go ahead.
Caller: Hi I’m calling from Los Angeles, and I’m shaking because this show is fantastic, it’s my life. It’s my life. I was molested as a child, I was raped when I was 13, and my self-esteem was so low after those experiences that I was attracted to men who were abusers. I am now happily married, I have a little baby girl. And I never wanted to hate men but I was attracted to really violent men and I was in a relationship with a man who was addicted to pornography, and I can barely talk because it was the most horrible two years that I have ever experienced in my life. He was so dysfunctional, he was so addicted to pornography that he couldn’t see women any other way that if a woman bent over in public to pick something up, it was, you know, a nasty comment about her. Anyway I became a part of this in a way because it’s a very dark, very, very dark powerful, violent… I’m sorry
LJ: You’re doing fine. And you have moved me tremendously, but I would ask you would you outlaw that pornography, would you have him arrested for possessing it?
Caller: That’s a really good question, because now that I have a little girlyou know I never wanted to hate menI have four great brothers, and I love my dad. The strength of not being an angry person, was to say I do believe in people, and not all men are like this, but it’s such a tough question. I don’t know if I believe in censoring totally anything.
AD: Well can I say to you, I mean it’s very important, because Larry you really can’t keep doing that, this has nothing to do with arresting anybody. We’re talking about a civil law that holds men responsible for specific kinds of behaviors that hurt people. And that’s generous.
Caller: Basically this man beat me up. I punched my hand Betty Blue-style through a glass window and almost lost my hand, and I’m an artist. I was forced to look at these pictures. I was a part of it too because my self-esteem was so low. It’s really hard, but, I think I would say yes. I think that, I wish something could have been done for him, not to him, but for him. He was sick, possessed. I mean just…
AD: Where is he now? Do you know?
Caller: You know, he’s a teacher.
Caller: He’s a teacher of children, and he’s an abuser and he can’t look at women in any other way. I finally left him, with nothing. I mean I walked out of the door after he beat me up. I had nothing, I didn’t care. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
AD: I’m really glad that you left and I really, really thank you for calling. I hope that people will really listen to your voice.
LJ: I hope you have a good life.
Caller: I do have one.
LJ: Good, good. I’m glad.
Caller: So am I.
LJ: We’ll be back after the break with more phone calls and conversation with Andrea Dworkin, author of Intercourse and the introduction to Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out. Don’t go away.
Welcome back to Modern Times on the American Public Radio Network. My name is Larry Josephson, my guest is Andrea Dworkin, who is a radical feminist and the author of 10 books including Ice and Fire, Pornography, Intercourse, and is author of one of the two introductions to the new book, a paperback called Sexual Harassment: Women Speak Out, published by the Crossing Press. And your book, Intercourse, is published by the Free Press, which is part of Macmillan.
You know, the problem I have is that I feel that I and many other men have been caricatured, that there is no grey in your book, or color for that matter, it’s all men are [unintelligible] and women are victims, and I find that an utterly simplistic model. It is not…there are men as you describe, there are men as this woman describes, there are men who are worse, you know, Nicaraguan generals who use or Argentinean generals who use rape as a method of political coercion there’s all kinds of terrible stuff. There’s still slavery in the world, there’s horrible stuff that goes on but that doesn’t mean that every man who isn’t limp or impotent is a bad person, or part of this male culture of dominance and you know irresponsible penis power.
AD: Well, this is the part of what you are saying that I don’t understand. It seems to me that if a lot of people are being hurt, and you can identify that they’re pretty much most of them are women and a fair number of them are children, and a lot of people are doing the hurting and you can identify that a lot of those people are men. It seems to me that a man who is not doing the hurting would want to stop the hurting from happening.
LJL Yes, I would want to punish those, or I would want to get them some kind of help if you believe in therapy or if you believe in redemption I certainly would want to do that, but I would not want to brand all men as violence, rapists, beaters, murderers, snuffers, whatever. It’s a small point but it’s one I’m trying to get you to admit.
AD: I can’t admit to something that’s not true.
LJ: So all men are rapists?
AD: No. You are totally misrepresenting my work is what you are doing. As I keep saying, it is a very gendered reading of my work, and I don’t like it. No, I’m just telling you I don’t like the interpretation, it’s not a personal one, you’re not the only one who does it. I have spent 20 years writing these books. Had I wanted to say men are beasts and scream, that takes 30 seconds. The books are more than that, and I think that this whole business around victimization is a way of refusing to understand that when people talk about what has happened to them that has hurt them, that is part of their way of fighting back, especially for women, who have had to be silent through the worst of these atrocities. Now if you look at the statistics in this country, and they are a bare shadow of the truth, you will find out that it is very likely that in at least 50% of American homes women are being beaten. That is not some tiny minority of social deviants. When you look at the rape statistics, and you understand that most rape is committed by men who know the woman they rape, we’re talking about a social standard that is normal, not one that is deviant. We’re talking about a political reality here that has to be addressed, and for me to say, well listen Larry, you’re a good guy, you’re different, that’s not what my work is about. My work, it’s not everything, it’s one person’s contribution, it may not be worth very much but my work is about saying, “This is the atrocity, this is where you find it, this is what it looks like, this is what it feels like. Now do something about it.”
LJ: First of all I want to give the phone numbers again. We want to get as many people on tonight as possible…. I’m going to say something else that you’re gonna hate and may enrage you. In the area of violence that [unintelligible] in the home between husband and wife or lovers who live together, and I’ve said this before on this program, we talked about the Betty Broderick case in San Diego and other cases that I believe, hear me out, and then you’ll have as much time as you want to respond to it.
AD: Ok, okay.
LJ: The model of domestic violence that has the man being the violent one and the woman being only the victim, the man being the perpetrator and the woman being the victim, is a simplistic model because I believe and almost every man I know believes this. It does not [unintelligible] in every marriage, and I would say that 50% is probably too much, but who knows, but what I’m saying is that there’s also the phenomenon of women who for whatever social, psychological reason needle their men, or tie them in knots, drive them crazy, claim they’re inadequate sexually or financially or some other way, and I know this goes on, I’ve experienced it myself, and I’ve talked to other men who have experienced it myself [sic], and all I’m saying, I’m not saying therefore the man has a right to slap his wife around or to beat her up or throw her against the wall. All I’m saying is that to understand it, to get beyond it, to help these men and to help these women who are victims of the 99.99% of the cases it is the man who visits the violence on the women. We must understand that in these relationships there is a woman in power having to do with guilt, withholding of sex, and a lot of other mechanisms, which can sometimes make some men crazy, some of this also has to do with economics, has to do with men who are not able to make enough money to support their families in a way that they and their woman and their children would like, and some of those men turn to drink and turn to violence. All I’m trying to argue, whatever the model is, it’s much more complicated and sophisticated than the one that you’ve adduced.
AD: Okay, I listened, and you’re talking about something frankly that I’m the worst person in the world to talk to about because I was a battered wife, and I was tortured, and the only reason I didn’t die is for some random act of luck I didn’t. I think that, yes, relationships are complicated and some of them are cruel, and I wish people didn’t feel compelled to be married, and I would like women to have economic independence so that women don’t need to be with men unless women want to be with men, and I think that the quality then of relationships would be very much better than they are. All of that is very important, but there is a line, and the line is that when you start beating someone up, you are in the slow act of killing them. And it is impossible for me--I invite other people to do it--but it is impossible for me to worry about the batterer. I do not care about him. I want the woman out of the house and safe. That’s my limit, but there it is.
LJ: As a first offense I would agree with you, but the fact is that if you don’t care about the batterer then in effect you don’t care about solving the problem because there isn’t enough money…..
AD: You, you, can’t say that to me, because I’ve spent, I have spent the last two decades trying to solve the problem. What I’m telling to you is that when we look at a prison cell where somebody is being tortured, yes, there is a long history that brought that person who is the torturer into that cell to do what they’re doing to the person who is the prisoner. Maybe that person had a terrible life, maybe that person has no other economic options. Maybe it’s not pleasure, maybe the person goes home every night and tears his hair out and beats his breasts and he is distraught beyond belief, but the fact of the matter is that somehow he gets up in the morning, and he goes into that prison cell and he tortures that person who is a prisoner. For the prisoner, the only issue is, how do you stop the beating?
LJ: No, but the economic system as it exists in reality does not allow the woman, at this point, to maintain, particularly in the working classes and the under classes, a household by herself. What I would say, how I would address that is a combination of tough law enforcement against batterers at the same time ways to reach out to those men through whatever, self-help, therapy, 12-step programs, understanding of what goes on in the dynamic of the family, which causes some men to flip out and do that or to reenact what went on in their family, in their family’s family, and so forth. That’s all I’m trying, I’m arguing for the kind of complexity that you and others and many, many women writers and women novelists express is the complicated nature of relationships, then and now. And I’m arguing for complexity, but I’m not saying therefore make it open season on women.
AD: No, I don’t think that that’s what you’re saying, but I think that that’s a little bit the result of what you’re saying. I don’t think that’s what you want, but I think that we the women on the wrong end of the fist will get. And let me, let me, say it to you this way, your insights about what makes the batterer be the batterer seem to me to be valuable. I think that you have a contribution to make by acting on them. That doesn’t mean that that’s what my job is. My job is different because I’ve been on the other end of it. And it seems to me that no matter what picture of violence we paint and no matter how true it is and no matter how much men know that it’s true, that we still get no assumption of responsibility. We still get told what we’re doing wrong, we’re not being told what you can do to make what we’re doing even more effective.
LJ: What I’m saying to you Andrea, and I’m talking to Andrea Dworkin, is that unless you broaden your compass, your horizons, to include that man in your whole analysis and in your political program, that you’re going to fail because you cannot succeed merely by isolating those women from those men because there are too many of them. There’s not the money in the system to take care of those women and all the AIDS babies and the crack victims and all the other stuff and the people in the LA ghetto and every other ghetto. There isn’t, it won’t work. It must work on men as well as women.
AD: I agree with that, but what I think we need to do, and what I am going to do and what you are in effect, when you talk about pornography and protecting it, what you repudiate doing is to deal with all of the institutional supports in this society that promote violence against women, that legitimate using women as if women are less than human. If you don’t make an attack on the institutions that say, “Women are worth nothing,” then you have no way of reaching anyone. You can’t reach the woman who is being hurt, and you can’t reach the man who is hurting her.
LJ: I would join you in an attack on those institutions, but I must tell you that in my own experience that I have been psychologically tortured by women in my relationships some times, that I’ve had women come on to other men in front of me, I’ve had women needle me with guilt and tie me in knots to the point where I’ve took a chair and threw it across the room or threw a hot pumpkin pie at my first wife and unfortunately it missed. Not because I believe I have a right as a man to do that, because I was driven crazy. I think there are women who do that for whatever reasons of impotence or frustration or lack of any real power, there are women who do that kind of stuff, who drive men nuts, or run off with other men or whatever. Women are not saints!
AD: I don’t think that women are saints, and I don’t think I’m a saint but I will tell you that I was beaten up for not cleaning the refrigerator the right way. Now, if you want to talk about whose been hurt and why they’ve been hurt what I think is that women are born into the world like everybody else with all kinds of capacities and possibilities, and that the ways in which women are trained to be subservient to men are very effective, but the fact of the matter is that human beings really resent being subservient to other people. They really resent being dictated to, and yeah, there’s a lot of psychological cruelty because women have no other way of fighting back. I don’t like it, I don’t defend it, and frankly, I don’t do it. But the fact of the matter is that if women can’t be straight forward, for instance in the way that I am talking to you now, what you get are the subterfuges and what you get are the nasty little paybacks in response to not being able to say, You’re wrong; This is what I think, treat me with respect.
LJ: You know what’s going through my mind when you’re describing the way some men think of some women is that in my own case, I like women who are smart and independent, able to make a living, can stay up all night and talk, work, and make love, or offer nurturing and accept it, which is another problem, as equals. I don’t want somebody…. I’ve had women who were sort of submissive and bovine, and I have found myself uncomfortable in such relationships. So maybe I’m the only one in the world like it, but I don’t fit your…I mean I fit your stereotype in the sense that I am capable of great anger and am capable of manifesting that verbally and psychologically and I have done that in response to what I believe are coquettish acts of torture by women. I certainly don’t come to this table with totally clean hands. I am a consumer of what I would consider straight pornography at times when I don’t have anybody, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I’ve never seen a snuff movie, nor do I want to or kiddie porn or any of that because I am also the father of children, and one of my greatest fears in the world is that something terrible along the lines of what you describe would happen to someone I love, and in fact it did. And I do not support any of that, and I do not think it’s a man’s macho right to do that and I believe that if a woman says, “No,” whether she’s a teenage girl or an 80-year-old woman that means no, that’s what I believe, but I also believe that you have in response to the terrible things that have been visited on you created a caricature of men and of the male-female relationship, which is so off base that most people, men and women can’t recognize it.
AD: I mean, it’s so off base that in fact people throughout this country are finally organizing against violence against women.
LJ: I will join them.
AD: It’s so off base that my work is translated into languages all over the world and seen as a major support for the international women’s movement. It’s so off base in fact that women call up and say, yes that’s exactly what happened to me. That’s how off base it is. What I need to say to you is that my work is an analysis of male power, it’s an analysis of what men do to women in a social sense. I wish that men would stop. I hope that you all will stop. As far as I am concerned you can stop right now, right this minute, and I can go home and listen to music. My point is, that, most women, including myself, who are fighting various kinds of predations against women, do it because we want the world to be a better place, not a worse place. What I think that you are refusing to look at is how much your concept of your own freedom has to do with taking humanity from women in a way that’s institutional, not in a way that’s personal. And when you finally are with that woman you want to be with, in that home and you have equality functioning, she still has to go out into a world where she’s treated like garbage, and yes she brings it home. And either you’re her ally or you’re not her ally.
LJ: Again, I think, I can’t go into my relationships in exquisite detail, I would do it for myself, but there are other people involved. And I can’t do it.
AD: That’s true of all of us.
LJ: In my case, the relationships that I’ve been in, and it’s probably my own hang up, I feel relatively powerless. I feel in some ways in the woman’s position in many ways because many of the women I want are independent and capable of earning their own living and capable of making their own homes and having their own children, and I feel almost unnecessary as a father and a husband and a lover, but that may be my hang up. Let’s take some more calls.
Hi you’re on Modern Times. Where are you calling from? Hello, you’re on, pick up. Let’s go to another one.
Male caller: I’d like to ask Ms. Dworkin a couple of questions.
LJ: Shoot. Where are you calling from?
Male caller: Iowa.
Male caller: I’d like to ask Ms. Dworkin about first she seems to raise an x,y relationship: pornography thus violence against women. The question I have first is whether or not violence against women is as much in communities such as Southern Baptist communities where pornography is illegal, and the second question I’d like to ask is about someone like Annie Sprinkle, who is a performance artist whose performance is sex. Who makes a lot of money out of what she does, she’s very good at what she does, and as far as I know most of the people who go to see Annie Sprinkle don’t go out and rape people. I’d like to ask Ms. Dworkin if she’s not making a simplistic correlation about violence against women, when violence against women is inherent in the system of capitalism.
AD: To answer your question I just guess I can say no, and we can go on from there. But I probably should say more than that. The fact that something is against the law or it’s against people’s ethics or mores doesn’t mean that they don’t use it, and what we have on the right usually is a model of men who prescribe a certain morality and treat their wives one way, which is to say usually not very well. There’s no difference between, in the statistics in populations of men who batter and men who don’t. It’s not a matter of right-wing men do and left-wing men don’t, right-wing men don’t and left-wing men do. But what you have with Southern Baptists is a model where they proclaim one thing and do something else so that the use of pornography is as commonplace among morality preaching-believing people as it is among secularists and leftists and so on.
LJ: You have Jimmy Swaggart as a good example.
AD: Well, he’s a good example. And what it means is that women’s lives are devalued, both by the ways in which they are protected supposedly as wives and then the ways in which they are exploited in prostitution and pornography. And what the left tends to do is just to say, let’s get rid of the pretense, let’s just do the exploitation, we’ll forget about the protection. So all I can tell you is that there’s nothing simple-minded about the conclusions that I’ve reached. What is true is that the conclusions come from women’s experience and that if one is not willing to listen to women’s experience and believe it, then it will not make any sense because there’s nothing in the mainstream culture that will give you the information about the ways in which pornography is used in hurting women. As to Annie Sprinkle, she’s a performance artist, and I don’t know who in her audience rapes and who doesn’t.
LJ: Thanks for calling. I would also point to some of the countries in Northern Europe where prostitution, pornography, sex shows, and even soft drugs are legal or at least not terribly illegal. Amsterdam is an example. I don’t think that the rape and the battering ratio in Amsterdam or the incidence of it is any worse than this country, and I think it’s better. It’s certainly safer. I lived there for a while in the 70s and walking down the streets in Amsterdam I feel none of the fear I feel in New York or that women feel walking around this place as a matter of fact. I guess what I’m trying to say is what the problem that you describe of various types of violence against women whether it’s rape or battering or exploitation in one way or another is very real and it’s something that I would join you in trying to fix, but I think you are in some ways draining off, to use the catharsis-masturbation model of pornography, I think you’re draining off political energy to fix these problems by linking them causally to pornography when in fact the violence against women comes historically from the bible, it comes from frustration of men who because of the economic situation we have can’t make a decent living to support their families, it comes from, it’s passed down from generation to generation. It’s very complicated, which doesn’t mean we’re therefore impotent to do anything about it, but it’s much more complicated than your porno-causal model. That’s the only disagreement that we really have.
AD: Well, no, this is a pretty big disagreement because, it’s also, I feel I really have to say this, I mean the condescension involved in making the point absolutely extraordinary. As if somebody like me who has written these books and taken the risk, really, in standing up against the pornography industry, would not have thought through whether or not this is really such a simple-minded thing. We’re talking about not just causality, all right. I mean, let’s get this straight. We’re talking about a system of exploitation. Pornography is a specific system of exploitation. It is exploiting the women who are used to make it. It is used in hurting women once it’s a product. It very much affects the way men see women and it does increase, according to laboratory tests, male aggression against women.
Now, I lived in Amsterdam. You picked the wrong place. I lived in Amsterdam for five years. That’s where I was married. And I want you to know that you don’t know anything about violence against women in Amsterdam because the social system in Amsterdam is organized differently than here, and a lot of the violence against women is privatized and hidden. The red-light district is a way of keeping women basically captive; they have no where else to go. The women who aren’t in the red-light district, like myself at the time, a working-class wife of a Dutch man, are being hurt in the same ways that women are being hurt here. I also was in Sweden this last November. If you want to make a group of Swedish women laugh, stand up and tell them that you really admire the equality they have in their country, and they will burst out laughing.
LJ: I think they have more equality than American women.
AD: Well, you may think so but they are fairly perplexed to know why they are being beaten, and Catharine MacKinnon and I were invited over to Sweden by the battered women’s movement. There is basically no women’s movement in Sweden. I think it was bought out, frankly, by the childcare that Swedish women got.
LJ: I don’t follow that.
AD: Swedish women got childcare, and the feminist movement sort of disbanded at that point.
LJ: I see.
AD: Women in Sweden, for instance, are totally segregated in the marketplace in the low-paying jobs, and there are 110 battered women’s shelters in that tiny little country, and we were invited over by the women who run the battered women’s shelters because they kept seeing injuries on women that came directly from the pornography. They’re not feminists, they have no ideology, it was strictly empirical and practical. The Norwegian feminist movement has done everything it can to recriminalize pornography because of seeing the way pornography is being used in sexual abuse against women. Now if we’re all so totally simple-minded and completely misunderstand the world we live in in the way that you’re suggesting, all I can tell you is that all of these delusions are not limited to me but they seem to be everywhere where women and pornography are trying to coexist.
LJ: I would say also that as a practical matter that criminalizing the making sale or possession or viewing of pornography is an impossible enforcement probably and will just drive it further underground.
AD: Well, I agree with that and that’s why we created a civil law that is based on a woman bringing a lawsuit when she has been hurt.
LJ: Okay. We’ve got some faxes here. This comes from a man in Los Angeles. “Dear Mr. Josephson: As far as I as a mere man can tell you are blowing it. As excellent an interviewer as you are, you are once more faced with a dynamic intelligence and instead of giving Ms. Dworkin free rein you keep falling back on your own issues of uncertainty and determination. Allow your audience to listen to her viewpoint. I may not buy her book but I listen to your show because you have fascinating guests. Allow her to explore the issue. As for myself, I have an ongoing battle with attempting to deny myself pornography in my life. I am surrounded by it. I resent it; I dislike how it represents women. I hate the dark images that appear in my mind when I am lonely and want to be with a woman. I do not believe I am creating only my own fantasies. I believe they are manipulated and presented by outside forces by the pornography industriesand don’t forget advertising. Of course, the First Amendment is an absolute legal need, but I can’t hear Ms. Dworkin overriding the First Amendment. I hear her saying that women’s rights are being denied and they deserve a right to their equality and freedom and ability to move freely through the society, as do men, without fear of assault or misunderstanding or provocation by men. Much better than your cat show, pal.” This is from Emanuel Coleman in LA.
The problem with a civil model is that that can be used just as the RICO statute have [sic] been applied to many other kinds of alleged white-collar criminals besides mobsters, and I think RICO is a constitutional disaster myself. That you want to use it against makers of snuff movies, for example. You don’t know what Jesse Helms is going to do to someone who is putting on Dionysus in ’69 in a garage in Wooster Street. That’s the problem with this, that it can be used as a blunderbuss, and used in a way, or for example, another way. I mean I was at WBAI all through the sixties and seventies. I went not as a participant but as a manager and a viewer, as someone part of the staff there. I saw the whole development of the women’s movement as it came in and out of WBAI, and I also saw a period where in order for women to experience their own sexuality… Not only the examination of vaginas with speculums and all that stuff, but the actual cultivation of women’s fantasies through the use of women’s erotica, which Nancy Friday is the ultimate end, and I think, satire of it. But the fact is that there is a respectable part of the women’s movement that sees, for example, rape fantasies or domination fantasies as a legitimate expression of a woman’s sexuality. How do you deal with that?
AD: Well, gently. I think that it’s very hard for people to live with the kinds of experiences that women have, the kinds of brutality that women are subjected to and that a lot of women’s fantasy life is basically a way of coming to terms with things that have already happened to you. Just as I think it’s pretty clear that with men they frequently reenact bad things that happened to them, for instance, when they go to prostitutes. It is true for women that women have a lot of rape to deal with and very few social means to deal with it.
LJ: What do you mean by that?
AD: That women have the experience of rape going back into childhood but don’t have very many ways of trying to work out what that means. Some of the stuff that’s been going on with women’s so-called fantasy that involves rape and sadomasochism simply has to do with continuing to reenact the trauma of sexual abuse that’s already been experienced. My own view is that I want to see these kinds of hierarchies dismantled. I don’t think that it’s good enough for us to keep reenacting the things that have hurt us. I think that we have to create some kind of zone of freedom where we take what we’ve learned from the pain that we have, and we try to have mutuality and reciprocity and a sensuality that doesn’t hurt people. That’s my view. Other people disagree with it. As I said to you before there’s no reason that all feminists have to think the same way.
LJ: Okay, let’s take some more calls. By the way, I, you know, don’t treat you unseriously. By the way, your books are literate and with great scholarly depth to them. I’m not saying they’re tracts or, I think they are over simple, but I’m not saying that you’re an inconsequential person, and I hear your personal pain, and I respond to that, but I also don’t like the way that I am lumped with all men and caricatured. Let’s take some calls. Hi, you’re on Modern Times. Where are you calling from?
Caller: Hello, oh finally, I’ve been on hold for an hour.
LJ: I’m paying 25 cents a minute for it, and it hurts me too.
Caller: I know you are, and God bless you for it. I’m calling from West LA and I just want to thank, first of all I’m a staunch first amendment person, ACLU, etc., etc. On general principles I don’t think that pornography should be prohibited; however, I do disagree with you Larry with reference to the snuff film, and I think that Andrea was appropriate in pressing you on it. I guess the way to sort of bring it home is, if you were gang raped and killed, don’t you think that your surviving children should be able to prevent the resulting film from being shown for profit.
LJ: Well, what about, for example, members of the gay community and lesbian community who violently objected to this film, what’s it called, the Sharon Stone-Michael Douglas film. What’s the name of that?
Caller: Basic Instinct. Okay, you’re not…
LJ: I saw it, and I thought it was a poor movie, but the fact is that there are people who would have prevented that from being shown for political or legal…
Caller: Totally separate issue. Totally different.
LJ: I don’t think so.
Caller: Sharon Stone was paid a lot of money to make that movie. That’s completely different. I’m talking about somebody who is, I’m talking about a crime being committed in order to produce the resulting movie, that’s what a snuff film is.
LJ: Well I certainly would go after the people who killed someone or forced anyone into one of those movies.
Caller: I mean if someone forced your daughter into sex and then murdered her and filmed the whole thing, don’t you think that you should have a right to have that film not shown for profit. I mean, you know, I can imagine that it would be shown for, you know, documentary reason for testimony or whatever.
LJ: Well, you could certainly under those Son of Sam laws, which I think were just struck down.
AD: They were just struck down.
LJ: But in general, under laws like that prevent someone who was found guilty of doing that act from profiting from it, and maybe even be able to seize it and to destroy it. You know you’re asking, you’re setting up such an example. What do you want me to say, that yes, I think that the First Amendment requires that the government not censor such a film. Of course I’m going to give you, I’m not Michael Dukakis. I mean, I’m not going to say that well yes, I think that even in that case the First Amendment would prevent the government from seizing and destroying that film and prosecuting… The question is do you prosecute people who purchase it and use it for their own sick pleasure. That’s the question and I would say, I would have to say because…
Caller: The purchaser, no, absolutely not. And you know, I think that Basic Instinct also. I think that should be protected, I mean that’s the classic First Amendment protected…
LJ: Well, the Supreme Court has already said that kiddie porn is not protected. That the government can move to, and in fact, this case with this poor farmer in Nebraska or wherever he was who was entrapped over and over and over again by postal agents until he finally accepted some pictures of nude kids frolicking, and then they moved in and arrested him. And that’s craziness. That’s the same kind of Puritanism that unfortunately I think Andrea practices. I mean that guy was living in the plains of Nebraska not hurting anybody, not really interested in this stuff and the government made him a criminal.
AD: Do you understand what you just said? I mean, what you just said is that you think that what I do is the same as what the government does when it entrapped this poor man who then bought the kiddie porn. I’m not putting things out there and making people buy them. What I do is I work with women who have been hurt, I work with women that the pornographers have hurt. Now how is that the same thing as using a criminal law to entrap someone.
LJ: Because once you set something in motion you can’t control the line. The RICO statutes are the best example where RICO has been used against law firms that represented some of these junk bond people…
AD: Can I ask you then why aren’t you responsible? If I’m responsible for that ‘cause I can’t control what happens once I begin to agitate against pornography, why aren’t you responsible for all of the abuses of women that come from pornography when you protect it?
LJ: Because I don’t agree that it comes from pornography.
AD: But if it did, then you’d be responsible?
LJ: I would sooner blame capitalism for the violence against women, or the Bible.
AD: Yeah, but this isn’t “Pick an Answer,” this is…
LJ: I don’t agree with you that pornography is responsible for violence against women. I believe that violence against women comes from a number of causes and should be penalized and also those...
AD: And can pornography be one of the causes?
LJ: No, I don’t believe it.
AD: It cannot be one of the causes.
LJ: I don’t believe it. It has not been proved, and I don’t believe it.
AD: Well, it has been proven but aside from that. What then is the value? Why do we protect written and spoken expression if it has no effect on people. Now I’m not talking about pornography, which from my point of view is a specific system of exploitation, and the definition of pornography that I think is appropriate: it’s like a formula for a Molotov cocktail. If you take away any one of those elements you don’t have something that’s going to explode and hurt people.
LJ: Well, the Supreme Court…
AD: But, what I’m saying to you is, why is it if there are women who have been forced to make the films, if there are women who say that they’ve been hurt by men acting out these films on them, why doesn’t that matter to you? Why doesn’t it compute?
LJ: Then you should go after the people who produce those films and allegedly force those women in them and punish them severely.
LJ: However, I would not extend that to punish the consumers of those films.
AD: Well, this has nothing to do with the consumers. If the consumer commits a sexual assault, then he’s responsible for the sexual assault. But there’s nothing in this civil bill that in any way touches on the right of a consumer to consume. Nothing.
LJ: Well, I think that potential misuse of that law by Puritans aiming at artists, for example, or someone like Mapplethorpe or Annie Sprinkle or people who, Karen Findlay, I think is great, and I would say that I would let unfortunately someone, even if there was such a person where you could prove absolutely there was causality between pornography and some horrible act that I would say that that unfortunately has to be tolerated as the price that having a robust First Amendment, which no other country including England has.
AD: No, that’s okay. See, I want you to say that. I think that’s important.
LJ: Well, that’s why I said it.
AD: Fine. Because I think that everything else is equivocation. And that what you are saying is that when you look at women’s lives you find the First Amendment more important. I don’t.
LJ: No, it’s not more important than protecting women from actual violence or actual rape or children from actual violence. I’m not saying…
AD: What you said is that if some women get hurt that’s the price we have to pay.
LJ: But I don’t agree with you, and I’ve [sic] never been proved to me at all, and I’ve never seen any evidence that isn’t refuted by other evidence that there’s a causality between pornography and acting out.
AD: I mean, you can keep saying there’s not, and I can keep saying that there is. I understand that you believe it. But what I’m saying to you is that when a lot of people tell you that they’re being hurt, I don’t understand the kind of person who makes claims to humanism who’s not prepared to listen. In other words, it’s not happening to you, and it’s not going to happen to you because you are a white man of a certain age. It’s not going to happen to you.
LJ: What’s not going to happen to me.
AD: You’re not going to be raped, you’re not going to be battered. These acts that we’re talking about that have to do with pornography are not going to happen to you. So when people to whom they have happened tell you that there is a connection and tell you what has happened, I don’t understand why it is that you think you are entitled not to even listen.
LJ: Because they may be wrong. They’re certainly not wrong as the first caller said that her lover who was addicted to pornography was also violent and abusive to her and so forth and other women. She’s right about that. She may or may not be right about whether pornography was causal or whether that was an artifact another artifact of his sickness.
I wanna get some more calls in and I wanna get some of these faxes in. This is a fax from a women in Los Angeles: “The depictions of women in pornography hurts men in many ways, too. Men learn sexual behavior from pornography in the same way they learn to settle scores with guns. I don’t believe men feel good about it either. More men than women are addicts, more men than women are in mental institutions, more men than women are in prison.” Whatever that proves. “There is something wrong with all of us. Little girls learn through media that their worth is defined by their sexuality. Boys learn that to trick a girl into sex makes them mature and cool. Pornography is in the supermarket, and the worst of it is in the corner liquor store. It creates an oppressive atmosphere for half of us. It cannot be tolerated by the communities. Laws for the sales of this materials may have to be limited. Because,” that is, the sale must have to be limited. “Because our TV and movies are so sexually violent that seems to be real, but the human soul knows that is wrong. We need to feed our souls. I have no easy answers, but would like to keep the dialogue going. Larry, get real. Women are half of the human race. Your reality as a white male is not the majority. Listen and open your mind. Stop protecting self by denying women’s stories. For God’s sakes, you are afraid of Black men because two of them hurt you. Open your heart.” Angie from Los Angeles.
Let me also say that a stronger case could be made for the violence in movies and television creating a situation where drug dealers and gang members can wipe out each other and innocent children by essentially not caring about their victims and shooting at random and all that kind of stuff, and a stronger case could be made for censoring all of these car chases and AK-47 battles in movies than I think the depiction of sexuality. And I certainly wouldn’t support such censorship, but frankly, violence directly depicted worries me more than the depiction of sexuality whether soft core or hard core.
AD: Well what I’m talking about is sexuality that is demeaning, dehumanizing, or injurious to the person who it’s done on. In other words, we’re not talking about here any kind of reciprocal sexuality. We’re talking about a sexuality that is practiced on a person because they’re basically taken to be inferior and not human enough. And it seems to me that what the women wrote to you is really important. She’s saying you should really listen to this and try to understand it.
You’re wrong. A better case can’t be made about TV violence and drug stuff, but the United States is probably the most violent country in the world, so a lot is going wrong here.
LJ: That comes from, I think, our frontier traditions and many other historical things. There’s a lot of people waiting on the phones and I wanna get them on. Hi, you’re on Modern Times. Go ahead. Where are you calling from? Yo. You’re on Modern Times. Hello. You’re on. Let’s go to another one. Hi, you’re on Modern Times. Go ahead.
Male caller: I’m calling from New York City.
LJ: Okay, shoot.
Male caller: I basically came in with a position against Ms. Dworkin on First Amendment grounds, but I have to say I am very impressed by her arguments and am now leaning towards her position, and Larry I think you failed to keep me on your side from listening to you. There are three basic, there are many things I disagree, but I’d like to mention three things quickly.
LJ: All right.
Male caller: You talk about the slippery slope of legislation and having it be used for things other than it was intended. Well, that can happen with many laws. The Civil Rights Voting Act is currently being used by the Republican party to carve out all-white probably GOP districts, and I don’t think there’s any civil rights leader, even the people being hurt by this redistricting that don’t think that the Civil Rights Voting Act was worth it. That was one. Two, earlier you wanted to have Miss Dworkin qualify saying not all men are dominating women, not all men are evil, etc., and I think that kind of misses the point. The reason why is that with pornography and with other parts of our culture, men are socialized into viewing women in a certain way. Domination as a women earlier said her, a woman’s, worth is based on her sexuality, etc., instead of some more intrinsic value. Now the fact that not all men or that society hasn’t been successful in socializing every single man to the same extent is irrelevant because it’s still a problem common to men and to being a man in our society and it should be approached from that perspective.
LJ: Okay what would you do? Would you criminalize possession of some of these really offensive snuff movies and kiddie porn, or would you just criminalize the making and the selling of them? And would you support her bill and Catharine MacKinnon’s bill, which provides civil recourse for women who feel they have been injured by pornography?
Male caller: Yes, I would.
Male caller: And then the final thing is quickly that you mentioned that society was getting better. Willie Smith was put on trial, a lot of people believed Anita Hill. I don’t think we as men should pat ourselves on the back for believing Anita Hill, unless we’re prepared to do something about it any more than as white men we should pat ourselves on the back for believing that Rodney King was beaten without then going ahead and pushing for reforms in the police system.
LJ: Okay, thank you very much.
AD: Thank you.
LJ: Here’s a fax from Los Angeles from a man named David, he says: “Dear Larry, the ACLU has pretty consistently argued, as you do, that criminal acts committed during the production of a film ought to be vigorously prosecuted, but that there should be no restrictions placed on the distribution or sale of the finished movie. That seems a perfectly sensible position to me. But even if the sellers and distributors are to be prosecuted, why not sidestep the question of obscenity and avoid setting a noxious precedent, and why not go after them as accessories after the fact to specific crimes committed?” I think he means the possessors of these things. “In other words I detect a hidden and much larger censorial agenda lurking not so much behind Ms. Dworkin’s views and behind her ominous legal tactics.” I think the syntax is a little tortured but I think he’s anti-censorship.
And here’s another, here’s a fax from New York, it says: “Larry, it seems to me that Ms. Dworkin is confusing people and their tools,” no puns intended I assume, “or cause and effect. Pornography no more commits rapes than guns commit robberies. Rapes and beatings are committed by bad, evil people who should be locked up for a long time or perhaps in extreme cases executed. But leave my Playboy and my Penthouse alone. What else can I read in the barbershop? A few questions for Ms. Dworkin, Should…
END OF TAPE