Porn again

By ANITA DIAMANT  |  May 31, 2006

At that point, one man got up, shaking his head, and left. The rest of the audience -- and a fair number of men was present -- stayed to hear her out. "In this system of male power," said Dworkin, "rape is the paradigmatic sexual act." Rape constitutes the theft of female sexuality, and prostitution represents its sale. "Because the sexuality of women has been stolen, this sexuality itself, it -- as distinguished from an individual woman as a sentient being -- it can be sold. It can be represented pictorially and sold."

Pornography, she said, is a reflection or a culture that is viciously male supremacist, one in which rape and prostitution are "not only well established but systematically practiced and ideologically endorsed.” Dworkin said, "Feminists are often asked whether pornography causes rape . . . Rape and prostitution generates pornography; and pornography depends for its continued existence on the rape and prostitution of women."

According to Dworkin, the word pornography's etymology ("the graphic depiction of whores -- specifically the lower class of whore, which in ancient Greece was the brothel slut, available to all male citizens") exposes its cultural purpose. "It justifies and perpetuates the rape and prostitution from which it springs." she said. "This is its function, which makes it incompatible with any notion of freedom, unless one sees freedom as the right of men to rape and prostitute women." And, she went on to say, the message inherent in pornography is "that the stealing and buying and selling of women are not acts of force or abuse because women (portrayed as brothel sluts) want to be raped and prostituted because that is the nature of women and the nature of female sexuality."

Dworkin scorned the notion of a "humanism" that has failed to make a distinction between the pornography of the past, which was entirely dependent on words and graphic rendering, and current pornography, which uses real live women. "Where is the visceral recognition, the humanist recognition that it is impossible and inconceivable to tolerate it -- let alone to sanction or to apologize for the tying and hanging and chaining and bruising and beating of women? I am saying what no one should have to say, which is simply that one does not do to human beings what is done to women in pornography." She ended with a challenge: "Now I ask you: what are we going to do?"

She sat down, mopping her brow. The audience was predictably enthusiastic, constituted as it was largely of women ready not only to agree with Dworkin as a thinker and theorist but also to embrace her as a sister.

Into this admittedly charged and hostile atmosphere walked, Alan Dershowitz, who, from the first moment, alienated a crowd that was suspicious but also prepared to listen. He decided not to stand at the podium to make his remarks. In fact, it appeared that he had not prepared a formal reply at all. Instead, he ad-libbed, taking a few pot shots at Dworkin's book, Pornography: Men Possessing Women, by quoting some strongly worded sections out of context and by calling the book "sexist" because of her use of the word "boys" to describe men.

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Related: Saluting the enemy, Parody flunks out, Flashbacks: June 2, 2006, More more >
  Topics: Flashbacks , Politics, Political Policy, Harvard University,  More more >
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