Last Days at Hot Slit — Another Wave is Coming!

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.

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My Radical Feminist Story

I’m a radical feminist. In short, that means that I seek the liberation of women from male oppression. As Angela Davis said, “Radical simply means grasping things at the root.”  Radical feminists want to uproot male supremacy and patriarchy.

So how did I become a radical feminist? It started in childhood. I have a very clear memory of being about eight years old, sitting on the bus on the way to school, and having this profound realization that I, as a girl, thought boys were better than girls and that men were better than women. I realized that this was something I’d learned that was incorrect. In fact, I was appalled to realize that I held this belief. I resolved to root this belief out of myself.

In high school, we were assigned to write research papers on a topic of our choosing. I chose the subject of “women’s rights.” I had no idea what I was in for. In the high school library, I discovered horrors I had previously been unfamiliar with. I found out about the witch hunts, female genital mutilation, purdah, sati, and sex selective abortion. It made for an incredibly difficult research paper. There was far more material than I could reasonably cover. Most importantly, after researching this paper, I decided I was a feminist. At the time, I couldn’t tell you the difference between different schools of feminism, so I didn’t identify as a radical. I was just a feminist. I was definitely of the opinion that prostitution and pornography were harmful to women, so I was probably on my way to radical feminism even then.

Life went on and I didn’t think about feminism much except to call out men for their sexism on occasion. In my early twenties, I found myself in a relationship with a man who watched horrible pornography. I can’t even bring myself to talk about the kind of pornography he watched, but I have come to find out that it isn’t uncommon, despite it’s obvious depravity. His use of pornography bothered me deeply, but I told myself it was normal for men, and tried to maintain the relationship despite my increasing lack of respect for him and despite my steadily decreasing self-esteem.

While in this relationship, I found a radical feminist book in a used bookstore. It was called The War Against Women by Marilyn French. I read it in a single sitting and it disturbed me deeply. It changed my thinking. Soon my relationship blew up and ended. I couldn’t be with such a depraved man any longer.

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t become a radical feminist at that point. Instead, I put the book out of my mind and tried to go on with life.  I started to identify with liberal feminism. I called myself a slut. I tried to pretend I was cool with pornography and prostitution. I dated two more porn using losers in a row, one of whom would brag and joke about his porn use. I think he did that because he could tell it made the women around him uncomfortable. It was a show of dominance.  The next one convinced me to participate in BDSM, which was awful. Both of those relationships ended. Deep down, I couldn’t believe that these porn-using creeps respected me or any other woman.

So why did I embrace liberal feminism and try to convince myself that I was okay with pornography and prostitution? I thought that the days of radical feminism were over and I wanted to fit in and be accepted.  I wanted to date men, and I assumed, probably correctly, that I would never find a man who didn’t use porn. I also wanted to fit in with the liberal feminist women around me. But what was the cost? I went through the trauma of two more failed relationships and I felt horrible about myself because I wasn’t being true to myself.  Please learn from my mistakes, don’t embrace liberal feminism just because you want to be accepted. Be true to yourself.

One day, I was online, and I searched for anti-pornography feminism. I found several blogs by radical feminists. I was thrilled. I read these blogs and the books that their writers recommended voraciously and I started to identify as a radical feminist. I’m happier as a radical feminist. It isn’t easy, and people don’t understand it, but I’m being true to myself. I find radical feminism to be a great comfort. It’s comforting to know that others see what I see, that I’m not alone in my perceptions.