Last night, I downloaded an anthology of Andrea Dworkin’s work to my kindle called Last Days at Hot Slit: The Radical Feminism of Andrea Dworkin, edited by Johanna Fateman and Amy Scholder. I’ve already read most of the works included in it because I’m a huge Dworkin nerd, but they’ve included some new stuff that I wanted to read.
I haven’t even begun this book yet and I’m already pissed off. In Johanna Fateman’s introduction, she says, “But nearly four decades after the historic Barnard Conference on Sexuality, which drew the battle lines of the feminist sex wars–pro-sex feminists stalking out territory for the investigation of pleasure, while Women Against Pornography protested outside–and nearly three decades after the third wave signaled her definitive defeat, we hope it’s possible to consider what was lost in the fray.”
Why did they even edit this book if they consider Andrea Dworkin defeated? Why bother if they think women who are opposed to porn, prostitution and other forms of exploitation are “anti-sex” which is the clear implication of calling those at the Barnard Conference “pro-sex?”
Don’t they realize that second wave feminists were interested in “stalking out territory for the investigation of pleasure?” There’s an absolutely fascinating early interview of Andrea Dworkin in which she talks about the possibility of other forms of intimacy besides intercourse. It can be found here: Woman Hating Interview (1974) The discussion of intimacy is toward the end of the interview.
Other second wavers were also interested in forms of intimacy that could be more pleasurable for women. Intercourse, famously discussed by Andrea Dworkin in her book by the same title, fails most women spectacularly, but porn would lead you to exactly the opposite conclusion. As a meme I’ve seen somewhere says, “Don’t take sex advice from an industry that specializes in fake orgasms.” But the third wave does seem to take its sex advice from the porn industry. I’ve regularly seen those who call themselves third wave feminists accuse women who don’t derive pleasure from intercourse (purely a matter of anatomy), who don’t enjoy BDSM, and all varieties of heinous kink of being vanilla prudes and I’ve seen them shame women who won’t do exactly what their men want of them in bed. This territory that they claim to have stalked out for the investigation of pleasure appears to be a place where only male pleasure matters. Second wave feminists wanted to explore the virtually unknown territory of female sexual pleasure, but ironically, so-called sex-positive feminists put the explorations to a halt with their accusations of prudery aimed at anyone who wasn’t interested in the tired, boring old forms of sex based on domination and hierarchy.
But I digress. I don’t know why these women chose to compile this collection if they are opposed to everything Andrea Dworkin stood for, but I’m positively thrilled that they did. Andrea Dworkin was brilliant and no other author deserves to have her ideas re-introduced to the public as much as she does. Her writing had a harsh, brutal beauty and her ideas were revolutionary. She was one of the truly great thinkers of the twentieth century and if she were a man, she would be recognized as such.
To quote Julia Long, “If Andrea Dworkin was a man, there would not only be a conference, a single one-day conference to mark her death, there would be whole schools of thought. There would be conferences on a weekly basis. There would be Dworkin studies. There would be men inviting other men to speak at their Dworkin conferences at which they would all lionize that person in the same way that she talks about men lionizing pornographers such as the Marquis de Sade.” Julia Long
Ultimately, Johanna Fateman is wrong. Andrea Dworkin was not defeated. The revolution she theorized was simply put aside for a while, a victim of a backlash that called itself the third wave of feminism.
Women’s liberation movements are erased from the collective consciousness every now and then and must be rediscovered and reawakened. Sheila Jeffries, in her book, The Spinster And Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality 1880-1930 describes the struggles of first wave feminists for freedom from male violence and sexual depravity and how they sought connections between women. It also talks about how those struggles were erased and forgotten for a time. But the struggle was not lost forever. The struggle of the first wave feminists, which was about so much more than just suffrage, was continued later, in the 1960s and 70s by the second wave of feminism.
What calls itself the third wave of feminism was never a wave of feminism at all. It was a movement in opposition to feminism. But it’s time is over. Another wave is coming and it will continue the work of second wave feminism. We have an advantage this time. The second wave was never as thoroughly erased as the first wave. We’ve had access to the writings of our foremothers, even when we had to share them online as PDFs.
I’ve been involved in radical feminism online for a number of years. I’ve seen radical feminism grow by leaps and bounds in that time. It has grown from a few isolated bloggers to huge communities on facebook, twitter,and tumblr. There are also gatherings of radical feminists in real life. I wish I could attend those, but my health and finances don’t allow me to. Make no mistake, another wave of feminism is going to crash ashore soon. This new anthology of Andrea Dworkin’s work will aid its progress, whatever the editors’ intentions may have been.
Andrea Dworkin was right about pornography in ways perhaps even she didn’t foresee. Pornography threatens us all.