Saturday, 11 August 2007

Dworkin and sexual submission

The following is a collection of Dworkin quotes. To me, they suggest that AD may have, before her relationship with her husband turned brutal, have had a penchant for erotic submission and perhaps even for BDSM.

This is not a fleshed-out theory, but rather something I always found intriguing. I'm not asserting it in any serious way. But the idea that she's an ex-BDSMer, someone who had erotic submission go bad in her personal life and that fed into her theories of what sex meant, what intercourse meant, what porn meant, what submission meant, intrigues me. So I thought I'd share.
I was happier when we moved from dolls to canasta, gin rummy, poker, and strip poker. The children on the street developed a collective secret life, a half dozen games of sex and dominance that we played, half in front of our mothers' eyes, half in a conspiracy of hiding. And we played Red Rover and Giant Steps, appropriating the whole block from traffic. And there was always ball, in formal games, or alone to pass the time, against brick walls, against the cement stoops. I liked the sex-and-dominance games, which could be overtly sadomasochistic, because I liked the risk and the intensity; and I liked ordinary games like hide-and-seek.

(http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/AutobiographyI.html)
Also, O [as in, the character in The Story of O] is particularly compelling for me because I once believed it to be what its defenders claim--the mystical revelation of the true, eternal, and sacral destiny of women. The book was absorbed as a pulsating, erotic, secular Christianity (the joy in pure suffering, woman as Christ figure). I experienced O with the same infantile abandon as the NEWSWEEK reviewer who wrote: "What lifts this fascinating book above mere perversity is its movement toward the transcendence of the self through a gift of the self . . . to give the body, to allow it to be ravaged, exploited, and totally possessed can be an act of consequence, if it is done with love for the sake of love."

(http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/WomanHating.html)


And these, from a work of fiction... not sure how much they reveal, but they seem consistent with the other two:

I was a person who always had her legs open, whose breast was always warm and accommodating, who derived great pleasure from passion with tenderness, without tenderness, with brutality, with violence, with anything any man had to offer.

I was a person who always had her legs open, who lived entirely from minute to minute, from man to man. I was a person who did not know that there was real malice in the world, or that people were driven--to cruelty, to vengeance, to rage. I had no notion at all of the damage that people sustain and how that damage drives them to do harm to others.

I was a person who was very much a woman, who had internalized certain ways of being and of feeling, ways given to her through books, movies, the full force of media and culture--and through the real demands of real men.

I was a person who was very much a woman, accomodating, adoring of mens bodies, needful, needing above all to be fucked, to be penetrated, loving that moment more than any other.

I was a person who was very much a woman, who loved men, who loved to be fucked, who gloried in cock, who called every sexual act, tender, violent, brutal, the same name, "lovemaking."

....I was happy. I loved you. I was consumed by my love for you. It was as if I breathed you instead of the air. Sometimes I felt a peace so great that I thought it would lift me off the earth. I felt in you and through you and because of you. Later, when you were so much a part of me that I didnt know where you ended and I began, I would still sometimes step back and marvel at yr physical beauty. Sometimes I would think that my life would be complete if I would always be able to look at you.

(http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/FirstLoveI.html)
These few snippets -- and again, I'm not saying they paint a whole picture of a whole person -- suggest to me that maybe AD was particularly fulfilled by a certain sort of submission to men. A fulfillment and a joy that fell apart when her dominant partner turned abusive. Here's the novel again:
I dont know exactly when or why yr anger took explicit sexual forms. You began fucking me in the ass, brutally, brutally. I began to have rectal bleeding. I told you, I implored you. You ignored my screams of pain, my whispers begging you to stop. You said, a woman who loves a man stands the pain. I was a woman who loved a man; I submitted, screamed, cried out, submitted. To refuse was, I thought, to lose you, and any pain was smaller than that pain, or even the contemplation of that pain. I wondered even then, how can he take such pleasure when I am in such pain. My pain increased, and so did yr pleasure.

Once you stopped speaking to me (had I resisted in some way?). When finally (was it a day or two?) you came to me I waited for an explanation. Instead you touched me, wanting to fuck me, as if no explanation were necessary, as if I was yrs to take, no matter what. Had I been strong enough, I would have killed you with my bare hands. As it was, you were weak in yr surprise, and I hurt yr neck badly. I was glad (Im still glad). We fought the whole night long, with long stretches of awful silence and a desperate despair. In the course of that night you told me that we would marry. It was towards morning, and after you had raped me as is the way with men who are locked in a hatred which is bitter, and without mercy, you said, thats all thats left, to get married, isnt that what people do, isnt this the way that married people feel. Bored and dead and utterly bound to each other. Miserable and sick and without freedom or hope. Yr body moving above me during that rape, my body absolutely still in resistance, my eyes wide open staring at you in resistance, and you said, now Ill fuck you the way I fuck a whore, now youll know the difference, how I loved you before and how I hate you now. I said, numb and dead and dying, no, I wont marry you, I cant stand this, its worse than anything. You said, we cant be apart, youll see, it wont be so bad. I remember that then you lay between my legs, both of us on our backs, and we didnt move until dawn. Then you left.

(http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/FirstLoveI.html)
All this suggests to me that maybe she was someone who really liked domination and submission, at least as a sexual game or spice, and that someone using that to abuse her destroyed a part of her spirit and she's writing from that hurt: "Don't you other women see where this led me, and will lead you, no matter how good it feels now?"

To me that gives a quite plausible explanation for why she'd be so against it the rest of her life: that it IS in fact attractive, but brought her misery, so her role is to warn everyone of the hidden horror.

53 comments:

Numi said...

Man, having that theory in mind does put a whole new spin on things. And what a horror to have happen at that. Ugh.

Trinity said...

Yes.

I mean, the bits I quoted about the abuse are from a novel... but from what I gather, they are close to what actually happened with her violent husband. I've definitely heard that the "anal as weapon" stuff really happened to her.

Numi said...

See, I've never actually read any of her books. I've only heard about them in the form of buzzwords and the occasional snippets. Now, reading the Wiki and such I'm left with a kind of lingering 'there but for the grace of' feel. Everything from the scars-trauma-hate to the adrift in a foreign country to the death from weight.
...
Yep. Definitely very grateful for my life right now. Brr. Thank you for the thought provoker, trinity!

Trinity said...

"Now, reading the Wiki and such I'm left with a kind of lingering 'there but for the grace of' feel."

I'm sure I'll lose Feminist Points for this, if I'm not already in the red :) but: also, life is what you make of it.

There are people out there who have survived HORROR who come out the other side fiercely loving life and believing the world is good -- or at least that they can fix it.

There are people who have survived very little in the grand scheme of things who believe the world is hell and never stop shouting about how much life hurts.

Part of the "there but..." may be that you're stronger. As much heresy as it is to claim she wasn't strong.

(And yes, I do think she has done some very admirable things and that it takes some guts to shout like that about DV and even about the ills of some porn. But she seems a person who wanted life to be hell, too.)

Joan Kelly said...

I have such a different, and specific, reaction to Dworkin that sometimes I wonder if I'm even reading the same work others are. (Purposeful misquotes to serve bullshit ends notwithstanding, which I am not claiming you do here, but which goes on a lot with Dworkin's writing and speeches.)

I don't think talking/writing about harm and struggle and heartbreak is the same thing as believing life is hell, or wanting it to be. I think loving life is actually a motivating factor for many people who do what she does - and wanting life to be lovable, worth loving instead of dreading, for yourself and others.

I have never found her writing and what she has to say about sex and BDSM and porn threatening to my personal orientation of sexual kink. I don't feel like it diminishes my abilities to fuck and play the way I want to when she talks about the way heterodominant sex and porn and BDSM get forced on people. There is a difference between that force, and its effects, versus my own arousal and pleasure and orgasms. It's like, I get it - fucking believe me I get it - some adult women consciously choose to get tied up/be 24-7 submissive to a man/get spanked/whateverthefuck. To me, it's as relevant to what Dworkin talks about as someone saying to anti-rape activists "But I CHOOSE to have sex with a man where we pretend like he broke into my apartment and he's rough with me and to an outsider it would look like rape! If we condemn rape, my man might feel guilty about what we do and stop doing it and now you're in my bedroom policing my sex life!!!!!" I mean, seriously, wtf? My bone-deep fetish for spanking does not lessen someone else's forced exploitation/subservience/oppression in any way. And IF the circumstances that led to me being the kind of pervert I am are the same circumstances that led to someone else being not a pervert but a person who gets that shit forced on her/him, then it is still true to say that the system that makes both things is a fucked up system. And it may even be fucked up that I AM this way, and/or fucked up how I got this way. *I* have to deal with what I have in the best way I can for myself. I do not understand how, if I come to feel like I'm happy doing whatever the fuck it is I do on the kink front, that should transpose to being relevant in any way to what Dworkin has to say about BDSM as a culture and as an individual practice. She so does (did) not care about me having orgasms in paid sessions where someone spanked me. She would not have taken time out of even a slow day to try and "liberate" me from that. She cares about women - of which I was one briefly, long before I quit a stable job to do kinky sex work for fun - women who are forced to submit to BDSM-themed acts, and the forcer takes pictures, and the pictures get sold or given away as part of the forcer's plan for humiliation. This goes on, and other kinds of force go on in porn, and even in consensual BDSM exchanges, and the fact that it is not ALL that goes on - because hey I'm over here look at me I like this shit and it turns me on so stop saying it's bad for women or bad, period - does not dilute its darkness. People who give a shit that it's going on, and who do whatever they can to try to get it to stop - that is one of the only things that lessens, in any tiny way, the horrible load. That is why I get tight around what Dworkin did or didn't think of BDSM, what her judgements were, what kind of sex she herself was into at any point, whether she would have seen things differently if she'd only had a "good" dominant partner. ?? I take umbrage to that because I have had - not lately, but still - partners who were so good it is beyond description, and it did not alter one bit my feminist take on this shit.

Joan Kelly said...

And I don't even know if I spelled umbrage right, to boot!

annalouise said...

You've probably read a lot more Dworkin than I have but the gist I get from what I've read doesn't lead me to believe that she ever wholeheartedly embraced sexual/emotional submission.
I think what twists Dworkin's work from passionate, in-your-face feminism to something distateful is the way she feels about other woman. There's so much misogyny in her work, especially that novel/memoir thing that I've forgot the name of. I think she's speaking on behalf of other women, her mother especially, who didn't fight against the abuse and oppression they felt; I think she's searching for an explanation as to why so many women endured such horrible treatment for so long when she was willing to give up everything to escape that treatment. Unfortunately, I think that her explanation tends to be that those kind of women are contemptible, that they have this image of themselves that invites abuse and contempt.
I know you said somewhere around here that you'd read a few pages of "The Sadeian Women" and couldn't get into it. You should really, really give it another go; it's one of my favorite books of feminist theory ever. Anyway, Angela Carter how Justine is this kind of proto-feminist charicature of the perfect women in patriarchy: a sweet, honest, bourgois virgin who will take any abuse with a smile hoping she can stop the abuse with the power of her own goodness. She's totally contemptible, even the readers want to beat her/rape her/torture her after a while. Men hate Justine because they secretly hate themselves for creating her. I think Dworkin (who is a strong woman who didn't just sit there are take abuse her whole life), does the opposite: in hating the men who rape and abuse women she ends up secretly hating the women who are abused.
I guess the two theories aren't totally incompatible; she could also be expressing self-loathing about that times when she didn't embrace that kind of attitude.

Joan Kelly said...

It is puzzling that you would make that assertion, annalouise. I have read a great deal of her writing, and the way she feels about women comes across exactly the opposite from what you talk about. Even and especially women who are not only abused but who consider themselves not-abused in the subservient relationships they choose with men. RIGHT WING WOMEN was the first thing I read that made me question my OWN feelings of judgement and anger towards other women, for not being what I considered feminist, and/or for fighting against feminism. I fucking hated women like that when I was in my angry youth, and Dworkin's work had a great deal to do with my coming to see my own hatred as being the same kind of illegitimate as anyone else's.

Trinity said...

annalouise:

Totally. Dworkin never seemed to really care about women at all to me either. She's so overwhelmingly focused on the men in her life, on how MUCH she LOVED them and how could they OH OH BETRAY HER SO...

...honestly she strikes me as more "male-identified" than just about any other feminist.

The whole thing rankles so much and is just so disgusting. It's like bathing in slime.

Trinity said...

"I have never found her writing and what she has to say about sex and BDSM and porn threatening to my personal orientation of sexual kink."

And I do, because she tells you "this is what eroticizing dominance is and this is what it does." She doesn't offer some special pocket for us to fit in. She thinks we're the most deluded of all.

Trinity said...

I mean, just look at this:

"here was a big bed, one room, a huge skylight in the middle of the room, one large table in a corner: I put the bed under the skylight, water condenses and drips on it, but there I teach him, slowly. I have understood. He has too much respect for women. I teach him disrespect, systematically. I teach him how to tie knots, how to use rope, scarves, how to bite breasts: I teach him not to be afraid: of causing pain. It goes slowly. I teach him step by step. I invent sex therapy in this one room somewhere in the middle of Europe. I am an American innocent, in my fashion. I forbid intercourse. I teach him how to play games. You be this and I will be that. Rape, virgin, Queen Victoria. The games go on and on. There are some we do over and over. I teach him to penetrate with his fingers, not to be afraid of causing pain. I fellate him. I teach him not to worry about erection. I tie him up. Dungeon, brothel, little girl, da-da. I ask him what he wants to do and we do it. I teach him not to be afraid of causing pain. Not to be afraid of hurting me. I am the one there: don't be afraid of hurting me, see, this is how. I teach him not to be afraid of piss and shit, human dirt. I teach him everything about his body, I penetrate him, I scratch, I bite, I tie him up, I hit him with my hand open, with my fist, with belts: he gets hard. He does each thing back to me. He is nearly hard. Water condenses on the skylight and falls. We move the bed. I am disappointed. I liked the extravagance. I do everything I can think of to help him: impotent and suicidal: I am saving his life."

Note that the "I" character is the one who is introducing BDSM. Note that the "I" character claims to like it.

The fallout?

"He became a husband, like anyone else, normal. He got hard, he fucked, it spilled over, it was frenzy, I ended up cowering, caged, catatonic. How it will end finally, I don't know. I wanted to help: but this was a hurricane of hate and rage let loose: I wanted to help: I saved him: not impotent, not suicidal, he beat me until I was a heap of collapsed bone, comatose, torn, bleeding, bruised so bad, so hard: how it will end, I don't know."

And again:

"The bed: I show you everything: every wild game: soon we drop the scripts and just tie the knots: how to penetrate: how to move, when, even why: every nerve: pretending to pretend so it isn't real: pretending to pretend but since we do what we pretend in what sense are we pretending?"

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/IceFire.html

She hated all of us, Joan. Take whatever useful things you can from her theory -- I have as well -- but don't pretend she didn't despise you.

Trinity said...

gah. i shouldn't even have looked at that again. i'm shaking with rage now.

human dirt.

human dirt.

what i do is not dirt. what is dirty is hatred.

you did a lot for women, AD. why bring so much hate and contempt along with it all?

Joan Kelly said...

I'm not pretending. I strongly disagree with you.

I haven't read any of her fiction, but I will say that all the fiction writers in my writing group talk about how weird it is for them when people assume any first person narrator is actually the autobiographical version of them. I only write nonfiction so far, and don't have a lot of understanding of how the hell people write fiction. I can express my differing opinion on her love for women, even women who hated her (and many did), but I cannot debate what you believe you glean about her from a narrator in her fiction novel(s). That's what it says to you, then that's what it says to you. What bothered me enough to comment on this thread is that your theory resembled - to me personally while reading it - the comically mistaken but oft-repeated idea that all an angry feminist really needs is a good fucking, that it might make her in a better mood than where she seems to be at with all the complaining and whatnot.

I do believe that she knew what it was like to be turned on by pronounced BDSM. (I also feel that BDSM is not an "alternative" lifestyle, but rather an exaggeration of the so-called "vanilla" ways that patriarchy expresses itself sexually - and yes, I do include my queer kinkiness in that definition as well.) I don't know what explains why you see her thoughts on it to be hateful towards you and I see it to be a matter of her basically intellectually shrugging and saying, yeah, of course you're turned on by dominating or submitting - you're paying attention, how could you NOT be turned on by those things in some form, including in so-called extreme forms?

I don't experience someone's hatred of patriarchy and anything they think are its symbols as being hateful towards me as a person if I manifest any of those symbols. Whether I agree that the things they're labeling symbols are actually symbols or not, I still don't care, it still doesn't bother me, because it still isn't about me being rejected. I am aware of the fact that Dworkin was decidedly rejecting towards people who wanted to defend and/or advocate kink as being completely unrelated to a patriarchal system. I don't blame her for being cranky about that - pisses me off, too. I don't need for kink to have come via my genes or via a god given template of universally acceptable sexual choices in order for me to a) engage in it or b) get why others are fearful/angry about it. It does resemble dynamics that suck. I don't convince anyone that "it's different for me!" by refusing to acknowledge the shit in triggers in people, and why. To me, we have a common enemy: patriarchy makes horrible conditions for people, and patriarchy makes my good time look like a horrible condition to someone else. The fact that Dworkin and/or others may think I'm in denial about it actually BEING a horrible condition is simply that - something they think. They can't make it horrible if it's not, and they can't make me in denial if I'm not. Somebody else's vehement misunderstanding is still not equivalent to them despising me.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

The thing that got me in what Trin quoted was

"I teach him disrespect, systematically. I teach him how to tie knots, how to use rope, scarves, how to bite breasts: I teach him not to be afraid: of causing pain."

Teaching kink is equated with teaching disrespect.

Fuck that noise.

I'm so sick and tired of the notion that responding to my sexuality as itself is 'disrespectful', is 'degrading'. That sort of marginalising, oppressive bullshit is all through that mind-controlling all-pervading monoculture that's supposed to be oppressing me, right? Fiction or argument, it's all out there (and I think "it's just fiction" is a cop-out if one's concerned about cultural influences at all). And I odn't think it's liberating or supportive to be told, yet again, that the stuff that I value is corrupt, misogynistic, whatever else.

No, it just tells me that I'm a Bad Woman, the Wrong Kind of Woman, that I need to Conform Or Be Shunned. That I'm Sick, perhaps in need of Rescuing.

I don't see any hatred of patriarchy in that text. I see the thing itself, pretending to be good for me while wanting to wipe me out of existence, because it's wrong for people to be like me.

I'm a Bad Woman. The Whore. A proper Madonna would not have knowledge of BDSM, would be pure, not human dirt.

Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.

Won't get fooled again.

Annwyd said...

This is rather tangential from the original post, but...

What really disturbs me in that text Trinity quoted is that while Dworkin was supposed to be decrying the patriarchy--there's no anger at the patriarchy there.

There's no sense that the man himself is to blame when he turns on the narrator. Instead we get the sense that the narrator took this pure, innocent man, with such great respect for women, and degraded him, destroyed him with her kink.

In other words, it's her own damn fault. That doesn't sound very feminist or healthy to me.

Joan Kelly said...

Wow. So I guess it couldn't be used to illustrate horribleness, and how women get blamed and blame themselves for abuse - wait, you know what, like I said, I haven't read that piece of fiction. I have read the nonfiction Trinity quoted where Dworkin talks about liking D/s games as a kid, and it also left me with a feeling that of course she understood/believed that people really get turned on by that stuff. It does make it difficult for me to feel like I'm actually discussing her actual work when people quote almost exclusively from her fiction and then comments are along the lines of "I haven't read her, but I heard that..."

Again, I don't know why what you get from Dworkin is oppressive woman-hating and what I get is completely the opposite, as both a former sex worker and a current pervert of massive proportions. Her work helps/helped me feel safer and more hopeful and stronger in the world, helped me feel more on the side of other women, even women who got the fuck on my nerves, and helped me set aside the notion that hating men was necessary or useful. So. We differ.

Trinity said...

"Teaching kink is equated with teaching disrespect.

Fuck that noise."

Yes, yes, YES! I don't see how anyone could NOT see that in the quoted bits. It's right there. It's as obvious as a punch in the face.

Trinity said...

"There's no sense that the man himself is to blame when he turns on the narrator. Instead we get the sense that the narrator took this pure, innocent man, with such great respect for women, and degraded him, destroyed him with her kink."

Yes. He was pure and sweet and impotent and she taught him sex. And learning sex means learning to abuse.

The thing I do think Dworkin is saying that takes a bit of sting out of that is that this woman is, if you follow the theory, most likely only kinky herself because the patriarchy teaches her that sex is about domination and submission.

But if you buy that, there IS NO untainted kink. We're broken droids, parroting what we've been told, desperate and pathetic because we can't break free. We're so duped we think orgasms are good for us.

Etc., etc., etc.

I've had enough of life-denying bullshit, thanks.

Trinity said...

"It does make it difficult for me to feel like I'm actually discussing her actual work when people quote almost exclusively from her fiction"

Why assume that her fiction isn't about sending a message? That's the thing I can't understand.

Because yes, it is true that sometimes people write from points of view that aren't theirs. I know that. I write. I don't endorse everything my characters say.

But my writing often has a message. I'm very often trying to make a point about how I see the world. About what people value. About where that goes wrong and where that goes right.

I don't see why we should assume someone who devoted her entire life toward getting the word out to the world that eroticizing domination and submission is destroying the world is... not claiming so in her fiction, somehow, when both her fiction and her nonfiction say it over and over again.

Joan, can you explain to me where the POV shift is happening that's supposed to prove to me that there's no didactic purpose to her fiction? Because I really don't see it at all.

And also, I don't at all see where I, at least, have said it doesn't "illustrate horribleness." Of course it does. And I've said here before that I think Dworkin has done some good for women. What I disagree with is that that horribleness, for her, flows and stems from eroticizing domination and submission.

Since you're unwilling to even entertain the possibility that the fiction piece is designed to demonstrate that (I guess this means the most didactic novels out there are Just Stories that don't have a message, too), look at the bit I quoted on Story of O. She says she believes that O's role (extreme submission to men) was fulfilling to women, and that now she's learned that was all a lie.

Here's more from that Story of O bit, though I doubt it will penetrate a mind that's completely made up:

"Literary pornography is the cultural scenario of male/female. It is the collective scenario of master/slave. It contains cultural truth: men and women, grown now out of the fairy-tale landscape into the castles of erotic desire; woman, her carnality adult and explicit, her role as victim adult and explicit, her guilt adult and explicit, her punishment lived out on her flesh, her end annihilation--death or complete submission.

Pornography, like fairy tale, tells us who we are. It is the structure of male and female mind, the content of our shared erotic identity, the map of each inch and mile of our oppression and despair. Here we move beyond childhood terror. Here the fear is clammy and real, and rightly so. Here we are compelled to ask the real questions: why are we defined in these ways, and how can we bear it?"

How is there room for another BDSM -- for your BDSM, for my BDSM -- in this theory? Because I know you see it, but I don't.

I'm providing quotes, you're taking issue with them -- but where are yours?

Cite.

Listen to us. We're all saying the same thing, and you're getting angry. Why is it threatening to understand what we see, why this feels threatening to us?

"I was battered--genuinely tortured--when I was married, but I thought I was the only woman in the world this ever happened to. I had no political understanding that I was being beaten because I was a woman, or that this man thought I belonged to him, inside out. I came to pornography, which I had both read and used, just as I came to fairy-tales: to try to understand what each said about being a woman. There was the princess, the wicked queen or witch; there was O, there was the Dominatrix. I had somehow learned all that, become all of them; and figured I'd better unlearn some of this shit fast or I was going to be dead soon but not soon enough."

http://www.nostatusquo.com/ACLU/dworkin/MoorcockInterview.html

"I better unlearn all of that." O and the dominatrix. How is that inconsistent with the fiction? Why does the fiction mean something else?

As math tests say, "show your work."

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I don't see how having my sexuality used to "illustrate horribleness" is not hostile to me, personally, as an individual of that sexuality. I mean, when the preacher in the pulpit brings up same-sex couples as an illustration of how horrible the world is today, I don't see much, "But it's just a symbol" discussion so gay folks shouldn't react to it; I see people saying "Okay, that's homophobia."

There's not only no meaningful difference to me, there's no perceptible difference. We have one person in a position of respect and authority to some saying people whose sexuality is Like That is root and proof of evil; we have another person in a position of respect and authority to some saying people whose sexuality is Like That is root and proof of evil. The only way I can see someone distinguishing between the two is if one believes that one of them is right and the other isn't -- and anyone who thinks either of them is right is no friend to me and mine.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Trin --

I don't even care about whether or not the thing is didactic. I think it's a sound case to argue that it is, but even if it were unconsciously chosen themes or a blind reflecting of the kink-hostility in overarching culture, it would still piss me off.

Dworkin noted it herself -- the stuff in fiction is a shaper and maintainer of culture. It's part of the overarching mediator of cultural assumptions, stuff that not only creates cultural context but preserves what's there.

Which means that that kink-hating stuff is out there, influencing and encouraging more kink hatred, equating it with abuse, suggesting that it corrupts. And, y'know, it's not being read by the people who told me when I said I was buying some Dworkin to read that I absolutely shouldn't, because someone Like That doesn't deserve the royalties and support, but it's being read by someone, and it's too much to expect that every single instance of that someone is immune to effect by fiction, especially by fiction that speaks so directly to the kink=evil narrative that is present in surrounding culture.

This stuff matters. I've been watching a bunch of writing folks discuss how it matters to include people of a variety of racial backgrounds in their work the past week and a half or so, what level of emphasis to put on the presence of skin with melanin, how to describe that in ways that make it clear without making it come across as a didactic There Are Black People Here or There Are Asian People Here or There Are Hispanic People Here or .... And this stuff matters, because too many people will just presume that the entire population of stories is white, and perpetrate the subtler intrinsic racism of surrounding culture by doing so.

For one of the things I've written, I have a biracial character, and talked to a biracial friend of mine about things like, "What sort of care do her dreds need? Is the symbolism she assigns this something that is responsive to real-world beliefs?" And part of why I was going for that level of detail was because of this whole ... what assumptions are encoded in the fiction? How do I make a complete world, and incidentally how do I make a world that isn't contrary to what I believe in?

If I were more skilled on stuff like race issues, I could do this stuff without thinking about it. But I had to think about it, because when I was writing that I was deliberately working on expanding my writing to reflect ethnicity.

Someone whose fiction presents kinked sexuality as an unmitigated evil is, at best, neutrally recapitulating unexamined assumptions to the detriment of kinky people. For someone who is consciously aware of fiction as vehicle for the influences of culture who makes the same choice of imagery, as Dworkin clearly is, cannot be neutral. If one believes that the fiction is intended rhetorically -- that Dworkin's fiction work is didactic -- then that same choice achieves open, active hostility.

Trinity said...

"I don't see how having my sexuality used to "illustrate horribleness" is not hostile to me, personally, as an individual of that sexuality."

Yes, yes, YES!

Exactly.

When we're the bad example, that is supposed to affect us.

"I don't mean those kinksters" (which again I don't think AD ever said, and if she did I want the citation, AGAIN) is exactly the same as "well, I don't mean THOSE queer folk, I mean the FREAKY ones."

Fuck that noise with a large, Sadeian stick.

And yeah: it doesn't so much matter to me either whether her stuff is didactic. But, well, it IS, and that's one of the best ways to counter "Fiction is trying on being someone else!"... because sometimes it absolutely is, and sometimes it clearly is not.

Cassandra Says said...

Trin et al - I see the same things you see in Dworkin - Someone who may have had submissive tendencies, someone who felt personally hurt and betrayed when kink was used as a weapon against her, someone whose fiction is reflecting those feelings in a fairly straightforward way - and yet my gut response is completely different. I feel sorry for her. This was a woman who lived a horrible life and died mostly alone and unhappy. How else can one feel? I still think that she was wrong in a very basic level - she took her own experiences and extrapolated them on such a grand scale that she ended up seeing demons even in places where none existed - but I really don't think there was any active malice there. She was hurt. She was unable to see that her reality wasn't universal.

I think that the stuff she wrote was true for her, and it's true for a lot of people. It's not true for me, or for most of you, but that's not malice on her part, it's...a huge, tragic error. The inability to see beyond one's own self.

The problem that I have with isn't even really with her, it's with the way in which her theories have ben uncritically accepted as reflective of some univeral truth. It's the universalizing, you know? The insistence that her truth was true for all women everywhere. So, the problem isn't so much her, IMO, as the way in which the feminist community has enshrined her and her work as if it were Biblical truth. She deserves compassion, and part of that is recognising just how hurt she was and the ways in which that tainted her theories.

Joan Kelly said...

I already said I haven't read her fiction. You used her fiction to present the theory that she hated women, hated women who were happy in their kink, and that the reason for all this is because she was a kinky woman who didn't find a good dominant but instead had a dominant partner who turned abusive. You say my mind is already made up, when actually what I've said is I think it's possible for the characters and scenes you quote to be descriptive of something besides the hatred you talk about - and then I've said, but you know what, I haven't read the whole work, so it's useless for me to speculate. You are asking me to cite examples of her not hating women, or not hating kink? RIGHT WING WOMEN is one of many pieces I can cite, the whole book, towards the former. The latter? I haven't claimed that she didn't hate kink, have judgements about it. I've said I don't take that in the same way you do, and also I've said that I don't have an answer for why I get *this* from her writing and you get *that*. I haven't said "I don't get why you are having such wrong thinking about this." I agree to some extent with Cassandra, that Dworkin, to me at least, seemed to believe she could apply her analysis of where kink comes from and what function it serves to every single person who ever engaged in it, and that it seemed to leave no room for some of the good experiences I've had. At the same time, I don't take that as personal rejection or oppression or hatred. You seem like you're taking it personally that I don't see it that way, that I'm "pretending" things to myself, and your tone towards me in this thread has felt patronizing to me. I took issue with your thesis here - Dworkin hated women, Dworkin was a sub whose hatred came from sexual frustration - because I have read almost everything else she wrote, and her non-hatred is overwhelming. And the angry-feminist-who-needs-to-get-laid-properly supposition is pretty fucking gross. And is different than saying - something I do believe and have said so here - that she, like many people, may have known what it was like to get turned on by dominance and submission and sadomasochism, and her horrible experiences with it may have, or even seemed to you for sure had, caused her to shut her mind to the possibility of any other type of experience with it. If that is in fact what you are saying, than I am misunderstanding you. It sounded like what Cassandra is saying. I read your posts and your comments here to say that what you can extrapolate from that is that she hated women, and especially hated abused women, and I have ALSO said, again, that I don't debate that you got that from her fiction - since I didn't read it, I can't debate that that's what it says yet - but that I certainly can debate that the whole of her work represents what you say it represents. And I have said that. And I have gotten back basically a scolding - "don't pretend she didn't despise you, I am a teacher demanding citations from you". Which I do not appreciate.

Trinity said...

"The problem that I have with isn't even really with her, it's with the way in which her theories have ben uncritically accepted as reflective of some univeral truth. It's the universalizing, you know? The insistence that her truth was true for all women everywhere. So, the problem isn't so much her, IMO, as the way in which the feminist community has enshrined her and her work as if it were Biblical truth."

Hmm.

I don't really feel sorry for her, in the same way I don't feel particularly sorry for some of the radfems that are getting a rough deal lately (though I must say, looking up BB's personal information is not on). I think to some extent you reap what you sow.

I think people who universalize like that... eh, okay, you're suffering, that sucks... EVERYONE EVERYWHERE IS SUFFERING THE SKY IS FALLING AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!

well, that I don't have much sympathy for. I think part of the reason we're put here is to see and acknowledge that others live their lives in different ways.

Don't have to like it. Don't have to not be squicked by it. But you do have to acknowledge it and leave people alone, bare minimum.

But what the kind of radical feminism MacKinnon and Dworkin advocate(d) is saying is: WE need to make you see how the world is. You don't know. Some of you are even, oh dear gods, having FUN while you burn! OHOHOHOHOHOHOHOHOH!!!

and really: noneya biz. they just don't get that some things are not their business.

And that I think is how a lot of the virulent hatred humans can display gets started: what THOSE people are doing is MY BUSINESS, even if it's "private." There is no private! The personal's political!

which, when used that way, means just the same thing as "there is no private! God doesn't like it when you..."

rather than a useful tool to show how a certain sphere of experience leaves oppressed people unprotected, which is what it ought to mean.

I don't know. I have sympathy in the sense that she was a tormented person and that's always sad, but I don't see her as a tragic figure. I see her as someone who got really fucked up and then got celebrity, which made her whole life and her whole message about how fucked up she was.

To quote Belle: I'm cold. Put on a sweater.

Trinity said...

"And the angry-feminist-who-needs-to-get-laid-properly supposition is pretty fucking gross."

Where did I say this? You're putting words in my mouth that I didn't say.

I said that from those pieces, it seemed to me that she deeply enjoyed submission and that someone taking advantage of that destroyed her spirit.

Where exactly in there do I suggest she just get laid?

Who are you reading? I'm sure it isn't me.

"You seem like you're taking it personally that I don't see it that way, that I'm "pretending" things to myself"

I think you're ignoring something that's there in the work -- or at least that you were until you admitted

"I agree to some extent with Cassandra, that Dworkin, to me at least, seemed to believe she could apply her analysis of where kink comes from and what function it serves to every single person who ever engaged in it, and that it seemed to leave no room for some of the good experiences I've had."

I don't know why you were doing this, as I never said there is nothing worthwhile in Dworkin. I think there IS, and said so.

What I also said is that I believe she also speaks from a place of hatred and distrust of other women, particularly women who she thinks are invested in "the system."

I don't think that means there's nothing worthwhile in what she said. Tolkien is worthwhile despite racism. CS Lewis is worthwhile despite being one long evangelizing for Christianity. Nietzsche is worthwhile despite misogyny and racism and all sorts of other things.

But with Dworkin, it's especially notable (and especially "take this with a grain of salt" inducing) because it reveals mistrust and prejudice against the people she's hoping to save.

It's a very common sort of paternalism and something that I encounter over and over from people who pretend to have no interest in dominating others... insisting that you know better, that you see the world clearer, that REAL c-r reveals only what you see, is a very common way of making your domination and bids for it seem anti-authoritarian.

Doesn't mean she didn't notice some really important stuff -- note where I said in the comments above

"And yes, I do think she has done some very admirable things and that it takes some guts to shout like that about DV and even about the ills of some porn. But she seems a person who wanted life to be hell, too."

Trinity said...

"I also feel that BDSM is not an "alternative" lifestyle, but rather an exaggeration of the so-called "vanilla" ways that patriarchy expresses itself sexually - and yes, I do include my queer kinkiness in that definition as well."

And honestly, I believe that this is a mess. I believe that this theory comes directly from allowing others to dictate what our experiences are and mean, and I believe it's deeply damaging to all of us.

I reserve the right to understand my self, my needs, and how my environment has or has not shaped me in my own way. I reject other people's assertions that they know why I am the way I am and can name and categorize my experience for me.

I reject wholly, utterly, entirely the notion that allowing others to do this is anything but an outgrowth of the same sort of thinking that supposes homosexuality needs a social explanation.

It's just the same as conservatives saying men are gay because they aren't close enough to their fathers. There's just as much evidence for the one as for the other.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Ngaaaaaaaaahg.

Paragraphing, please. Long masses of text are literally unreadable to my eyesight.


Cassandra Says -- I really, honestly, truly have no opinion of Dworkin, whether or not she deserves compassion or vilification, or any of that stuff, and no interest in making one. I consider it a courtesy to not get involved in the personal lives of strangers; I also consider that a courtesy that her theories do not give me.

I don't consider my kink some sort of possessing patriarchal entity that needs to be exorcised with bell, book, and candle; I resent the threads of feminist theory that wish to afflict me with demons because they consider me a Fallen Woman.

This has nothing to do with Dworkin's personal life and whether or not she deserves compassion -- it has to do with being colonised and invaded by her theories.

Trinity said...

"Paragraphing, please. Long masses of text are literally unreadable to my eyesight."

Agreed. To me it's not unreadable, but it requires me to read it piecemeal, which isn't always conducive to getting the, as the English teachers say, "main idea."

EthylBenzene said...

"And honestly, I believe that this is a mess. I believe that this theory comes directly from allowing others to dictate what our experiences are and mean, and I believe it's deeply damaging to all of us.

I reserve the right to understand my self, my needs, and how my environment has or has not shaped me in my own way. I reject other people's assertions that they know why I am the way I am and can name and categorize my experience for me.

I reject wholly, utterly, entirely the notion that allowing others to do this is anything but an outgrowth of the same sort of thinking that supposes homosexuality needs a social explanation."

This is my kinky manifesto.

Also, I really have a problem with people claiming that we can't find out anything about an author from reading their fiction. This seems very...suspect. The author clearly seems to think there is an important story to tell. Why do they think it's important? What do the characters do? What does that reveal about what the author thinks? It must reveal something, because SOMEONE wrote it, it didn't just appear in a vacuum.

"Someone whose fiction presents kinked sexuality as an unmitigated evil is, at best, neutrally recapitulating unexamined assumptions to the detriment of kinky people. For someone who is consciously aware of fiction as vehicle for the influences of culture who makes the same choice of imagery, as Dworkin clearly is, cannot be neutral. If one believes that the fiction is intended rhetorically -- that Dworkin's fiction work is didactic -- then that same choice achieves open, active hostility."

ITA. Like you said, "this stuff matters."

You know what else? It doesn't matter what her fucking motives are for writing this stuff -- what matters is what other people do with it. If Dworkin's work is causing other people to oppress ME and tell ME I'm dirtywrongbad or broken or need saved or make me feel like less of a person, WTF does it matter what the original intent behind the writing was.

PS -- sorry for the swearing. This stuff gets my dander up.

Joan Kelly said...

Okay, first off - point taken about long paragraphs.

Second - I did not and do not mean to assert that Dworkin a) didn't have contempt for kinksters and/or b) that doesn't come across in her fiction that you quoted. What I disagree with is that she hated women.

What I do believe is, it sucks when people think they know other people's minds and then judge them for it.

Some of her work has that sense about it for me, much of it does not. But, some of this post and the comments had the sense for me as well, and some not.

I believe if I had ever met her in real life, she may have hurt my feelings and pissed me off. I know someone who was at a panel with her once, and Dworkin did just that - my friend felt very shut down and dismissed by Dworkin, because my friend was a stripper, and was trying to talk about conditions for sex workers.

What I get from that, and from *some* of her writing about BDSM, is that she believed she understood everything about how people get kinky, why they get kinky, what they get out of it, what it perpetuates, why it's always harmful no matter what anyone says.

I don't agree with that stance. At all. And, I was reading your other blog (live journal maybe?) and felt like - how strange that Trinity says things here that I totally fucking agree with, and yet I've felt so at odds with her on this other thread.

I'm having trouble reading through my own damn long paragraphs in earlier comments here - I think you referred to me saying something about BDSM being an exaggeration of regular old heteropatriarchy, I think I did say something to that effect. The larger truth is, things *seem* certain ways to me, but I really don't fucking know.

As an example - bear with me - my feelings about "god." My gut says surely there's some universal source out there that is good, that extends good, that sometimes seems to express intent and sometimes not. My dealing with life as I know it is, I'd be hard pressed to believe in anything like what other people refer to as a loving god, that's going to take care of me, or you, or has "got it all under control, and everything happens for a reason."

My conclusion - I have no fucking idea what is or isn't out there, in here, whatever. I don't expect I will know until I die, and I don't actually even expect that for sure I will find out then either.

BDSM and sexuality itself is similar to me. Okay, I get that babies get created by some kinds of sex, and I get the whole idea that people want to perpetuate the species. But hold the phone - where does every other aspect of sex fit into the coldly biological theory of heterodominance? Why would I love having sex with a woman so much when we can't knock each other up? Why would I love cock as much as I do, in some circumstances and with certain people attached to them, if you're either straight or deviation-lesbo? And on and on.

With BDSM, my main concern is wanting to be a voice that supports the right of anyone who wants that support to do it their own fucking way. No "you're a sub so you shouldn't talk to me that way," or "you're not old enough or experienced enough to be a dom" or "you have to take something because I said so, and you have said you want to be dominated after all?" If somebody *wants* to do it in those ways I just described, I support that too. But otherwise, no.

My other heart's desire is that it might one day be possible to have a culture of human beings where we get to find out whether people are born kinky. Where, in the absence of all the things that MAY contribute to shaping people's dominance and submission organizing principles, i.e. wherein d/s in any form is forced on people as just "the way things are," - in the absence of that, when kinksters still spring up, I will be relieved. Because some of the things that may cause it, in some people, to my eyes, fucking suck. I am using "seem" in this case the same as with the god example. I don't fucking know. How could I know? How could anyone know?

What I do know is that I AM this way. This is what I have to work with. I have an issue with anyone who thinks they have a right to challenge or disrespect the fact that I am this way, and the ways - like every human does with her/his own sexuality - I search and experiment and fail and triumph and connect while figuring out what makes me feel right.

Would Andrea Dworkin have been an asshole to me? Maybe, probably, I don't know. I would like to have had the chance to find out, but that option's off the table.

I hear that you feel attacked and hated by some of the things she wrote. I believe these are genuine feelings, and obviously the anger and hurt in response to that is absolutely appropriate. I don't feel hated by what I've read here of her fiction excerpts. I feel she may have thought she had the answer to what my kink is about, and given her beliefs about it, I understand why it made her angry and unwavering on the subject.

I don't agree with her. I dislike the way fear and anger sometimes cause people to shut out any new pieces to a world view they cling to so tightly. I know that some kinksters and some radical feminists have a history of being jackasses to each other. I can't explain why I have been spared that head-butting so far, but I have.

Certainly I have disagreed with people, even people super close to me, about their thinking they knew kink was "self destructive" and unhealthy and blah blah blah. Well yeah, I say, some of it is. Some of the things I'VE done in kink have been. But would you reduce your attraction to men to being necessarily self destructive just because you have had a preponderence of fucked boyfriends/relationships?

This is, to me, a sexual orientation. If anybody were capable of being "cured" of this, by god I know it would have been me. And frankly, I would not have minded being free of it, able to not be how I am with the kink. It is tricky territory, and sometimes I'm just like, fuck, can I just get it on with somebody who doesn't fucking SUCK ALREADY! I have encountered a high degree of entitlement-to-suckery in kink circles. Maybe it's a grass-is-always-greener thing that I fantasize there would EVER be a simple type of sex to have, sexuality to live in, etc.

Point being, it ain't going away. I am not ashamed of it anymore. I am not horrified by other people's preferences anymore. If anything, the exquisite vulnerability in other people's variety makes me feel more tender towards others, not less. The only reason it matters to me whether we're born this way or if some of it is a result of bullshit is because I don't want that bullshit getting to have sex with me, which I feel it does when I mess with power in this context without a critical eye towards it.

And god, do I have opinions on everyone and everything. I just also feel like, you know what, if I really can't know what the fuck is up with me for sure, how the hell could I know what the fuck is up with other people, and certainly where would I get the gall to insist to others that I know better than they do what's going on with them. If Andrea Dworkin was that way - and I don't have a personal conclusion about that yet but I think it's possible - then that was a serious failure on her part. I will likely never feel that failure as hatred the way you and others do. I don't think that means you're mistaken, or that I am. I do understand why, given that feeling, you feel like "fuck her, that's lame."

One other thing - I have never experienced oppression in connection with being a kinkster. Rejection, judgement, hurt, lameness of diffferent varieties, yes. But oppression as I understand it, no. I am uneasy with BDSM'ers claiming oppression, as more kinksters than not are white and middle class and sometimes it comes across as a way to say "see, I'm being kept down by The Man, too." I don't feel like every shitty thing people do to each other is oppression. Gay people not getting to have marital rights? Oppression. Lesbians raped and killed for being lesbians? Oppression. Somebody judging me and even disrespecting me? Bullshit, not oppression.

Trinity said...

"This is, to me, a sexual orientation. If anybody were capable of being "cured" of this, by god I know it would have been me."

Same here. But I think I gave it up because I realized the whole "why why why?" question is faulty, where you think it's fascinating.

There's a line from the Matrix, where Neo is saying something like "why should I listen to you?" and Trinity (heh) goes "Because you've been down that road, and you know exactly where it ends."

That's how I feel about examine kink. That it's as pointless as examine your queerness. Or examine your heterosexuality.

Or examine why you like to cut your hair short, or grow it long.

If you're kinda intrigued by the idea of answers, that's one thing. If "why" impacts what you think you should do -- well, that strikes me as reparative therapy territory, whether the leftist "egalitarian queer" is your ideal or the rightist "masculine head of household" or "feminine surrendered wife" is.

Loving Dworkin for getting to the bottom of eroticizing dominance -- which I now gather you're not doing, but which I thought you said -- well, to me that strikes me as just as wrong as loving NARTH for getting to the bottom of how family dynamics make boys gay.

Trinity said...

"And, I was reading your other blog (live journal maybe?) and felt like - how strange that Trinity says things here that I totally fucking agree with, and yet I've felt so at odds with her on this other thread."

I think the reason why is that I'm radically against "examine your desires" as an overarching thing. I think sometimes it's totally reasonable to say it to people we KNOW -- "Fred, the way you talk to and about femsubs indicates to me that you really do believe in this male supremacy shit and that's fucked up. Why do you want that so much, when you could just go for M/f relationships without all the baggage about what a woman is?" -- but to make it an overarching

"is THIS heteropatriarchy?"

when THIS is wildly diverse for all BDSMers...

it's like asking "is THIS fruit?" and pointing at anything that's edible and comes from a plant.

The only sensible answer is "Well, no. That over there might be/is."

Trinity said...

"I am uneasy with BDSM'ers claiming oppression, as more kinksters than not are white and middle class and sometimes it comes across as a way to say "see, I'm being kept down by The Man, too." I don't feel like every shitty thing people do to each other is oppression."

Oh, I agree with that.

It's not oppression.

That said, well, the major job of the NCSF is incident response for a reason. I don't like people calling that stuff oppression, but I definitely think losing custody of your kids for being kinky (for example) can turn your life upside down. I don't have any problem saying that some of us have it hard, and that it's not our fault.

Oppression, as I understand it, is a bit different, but the false dichotomy some people draw, where either kinksters have it fantastic or we're completely ground under the boot heel of the normals... I'm not for that.

Trinity said...

I mean, to my mind (ack, can't stop TALKING omg!)... forgetting that things like Spanner have happened and can AND WILL happen again is stupid and naive.

belledame222 said...

Dworkin noted it herself -- the stuff in fiction is a shaper and maintainer of culture. It's part of the overarching mediator of cultural assumptions, stuff that not only creates cultural context but preserves what's there.

You're right, that is particularly ironic: to talk of Dworkin's fiction as "only fiction" pretty much undercuts everything she's saying about the "truth" of porn, fairy tales, and other things that others might be more likely to, indeed, take as "just fantasy."

I mean, and then you have people like Beeb and her erstwhile partner reading Dworkin religiously and coming out with shit like "Please fantasize responsibly." I've no doubt that earlier influences as well as perhaps not being the world's most sophisticate dreader/thinker color that particular interpretation of the Gospel of Andrea; but, it's not a total coincidence that she, and -any number of feminists who cite her, as I've seen it-, are virulently anti-BDSM, anti-this, anti-that, sexually; anti-Wrong Thinking, even.

I think a better parallel than the preacher is more, yeah, there are a number of gay Christians. Some focus on the general message of Christ's love and figure the SSL thing is maybe part and parcel of the scribes n pharisees shit that can go on the ashcan; it's a legit if unorthodox interpretation (in my thoroughly pagan opinion, take with salt).

And then there are the ones who like to argue that you can't really see "thou shalt not lie with another man as with a woman" as anti-SSL; why, they might have meant it quite literally! or--here, a mistranslation! or...

it's sort of akin to the same process as when fanfic "shippers" of really unlikely couples go through all sorts of convolutions to explain why yes, actually, Neville and Malfoy had a burning hot seekrit love for each other. Yeah, fanficcing is part of the gospel (of all sorts) game, has always been; and Dworkin's a rich enough writer to allow for at least some good old fashioned Talmudic style fisking (how's that for mixed references?!) But, just, well, um, I think maybe some interpretations are -likelier- than others.

But hey, ultimately, the whole point of fanfic is that you can tell whatever story you want to; the author's just a springboard for your own narrative, really. twas ever thus.

belledame222 said...

but i mean, like, you only have to scroll down a few posts here to see an admittedly particularly loopy interpretation of a certain worldview, but, as ganked from elsewhere:

The true enemies, the enemy that can truly subvert are the enemies within, the women who are basking in the chaos that has happened here, the women who are implying and out and out saying that this is all made up, all a campaign to garner sympathy and the men who will attached themselves to those women, convince those women that porn is fun, being a submissive is fun, cool, and eventually, it will be the way of life for all women. Radical feminists fight this goal and are obviously putting a dent in their mission, making sense, being logical, gaining allies, —the works, if not, the opposition would not be interested in trying to retard us, hinder us, destroy us.

I mean, besides the charmingly Nixonian tinge, note:

1) radical feminism is OPPOSED TO porn, D/s, with every fiber of its little being

2) -other women- are the "true enemies."

This is not the first time any of us have seen this sort of thing, if less often quite this laughably over the top.

Trinity said...

"You're right, that is particularly ironic: to talk of Dworkin's fiction as "only fiction" pretty much undercuts everything she's saying about the "truth" of porn, fairy tales, and other things that others might be more likely to, indeed, take as "just fantasy.""

RIGHT ON.

"then you have people like Beeb and her erstwhile partner reading Dworkin religiously and coming out with shit like "Please fantasize responsibly.""

You know, if we didn't have such an elegant layout here I'd totally be for using that as a sarcastic banner on this site.

y'know down at the bottom of the page, hidden in some lengthy serious-sounding disclaimer about... something.

PLEASE FANTASIZE RESPONSIBLY.

;)

Trinity said...

"This is not the first time any of us have seen this sort of thing, if less often quite this laughably over the top."

Yeah. And well -- okay, so Dworkin hating women for it MAY be "fanon" to use your analogy (she did tend, I think, to assume women who claimed to like whatever were either still stuck in the Matrix with unfree minds or lying for survival), but if it is it's not a very odd 'ship. It's like Harry/Hermione: really, at first Ginny seemed a total lovestruck moony kid, surely just a comical crush, not the one to become his girlfriend!

Heck, Stoltenberg ran with it, and he dated her:

"It also sometimes gets to me when women smear Andrea--vengefully, spitefully, misogynistically--women academics, women journalists, even self-styled feminist ones. When I first began to identify as a radical feminist nearly 20 years ago, one of the hardest things for me to accept was that male supremacy gives so many people rotten characters--both male and female. I had to find a core feminist faith for myself that did not stand or fall based on any individual woman's character. I had to find for myself an inner conviction about sex and fairness and gender and civil equality that could withstand onslaughts even in the name of so-called feminism--pro-pornography, pro-prostitution, pro-sadomasochism "feminism," for instance."

Living With Andrea

There you have it, women who are the "wrong" kind of feminist -- and I qualify as all three on that list, thanks -- are people "given an awful character" by patriarchy. Enemies. The same as the patriarchally-invested men.

Fanon? Maybe, but not wildly so.

annalouise said...

Also, in the specific case of 'Heartbreak', it doesn't really make sense to defend it by saying the characters' opinions are not the same as the authors. That's what was so incredibly fucked-up about 'Heartbreak', to me, and why I couldn't get more than half-way through it. She's creating these characters who don't think like her because they are stand-ins for weak, brainwashed women who are so foolish that they don't fight back against the violence inflected on them because they don't understand that they are being harmed.
For all the Dworkin's idealogical nieces identify as 'patriarchy blamers', there isn't very much blaming of the patriarchy, or even of men, in the works of Dworkin's that I've read.
The chapter in 'Intercourse' that I really do like, that really made me go: "yes. this is right on" is the chapter on Joan of Arc. Yet, for all the insights she makes into Joan of Arc's behavior and how she tried to manipulate the way that these patriarchal insitutions viewed her, there is very little insight into what these patriarchal institutions were thinking.
Maybe in my old age I'm becoming an old-school marxist and I'm pissing at Dworkin for talking about sex too much and economics not enough, but I still think that's the root of what's wrong with her theories. She's obsessed with seeing patriarchal oppression only in terms of sexuality, an intimate and private relationships. So she ends up having no real language to talk about institutional patriarchy.
Sometimes she seems interested in what misogynistic men are thinking, but usually she has a simple answer that applies to all the bad behavior of all the individual men: they hate women and enjoy hurting women.
But you can't write a goddamn book that just says: "men hate women" over and over again. So by default she focuses her theory and her psychoanalysis on women, which means she starts asking the Wrong Damn Questions: what is wrong with women that they endure this? what kind of self-deluding fool would you have to be not to see what's happening to you? How can I convince women that everything they think about men is wrong?
There ain't nothing radical or feminist about focusing so damn much on what you think is wrong with women

annalouise said...

Stoltenberg and Jenson are rocking the same dumb-ass radical feminist man con: they get to be giant, frothing-at-the-mouth misogynists and exploiters of women but hide behind the excuse that those kind of women deserve it.

Trinity said...

"And then there are the ones who like to argue that you can't really see "thou shalt not lie with another man as with a woman" as anti-SSL; why, they might have meant it quite literally! or--here, a mistranslation! or..."

yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking Joan's earlier comments said, and why I didn't like them.

Not because "it's in there but I ignore it, as this is really affirming for me"

(though that does bring up emotions to hear, likely similarly to a gay person who's been ostracized by his community's Religious Right might be hearing gay Christians claim that the stuff people used to justify attacking him is affirming -- doesn't mean it isn't or shouldn't be but is emotional and there)

is bad, but because hearing "It's NOT THERE!" just sets off my -- yeah, yeah, it is there. You don't have to care, you can even think she wasn't thinking clearly about it and it's not worth reading those bits, but don't tell me I'm not seeing something because it's NOT THERE. That's all.

It's like the "all intercourse is rape" thing. Did she say it? No, she didn't. And it's relevant that she didn't, I think. Because that wasn't her point.

But I also think the "she never said that I can prove it HAHA PWNT" neglects why people see it in there. Why it's not just Larry Flynt that thinks two concepts are being conflated and that that conflation is a problem, even if the general point about how intercourse often happens is good/right.

I don't have a problem with the people who comb the Bible looking for "what did malakai arsenokoitai" REALLY mean" and going "ah, it didn't mean 'gay' in the modern sense." I don't even think they're wrong. But I do think that the people who read the English translations and hear "God rejects you" and are hurt by that deserve more than "What? How can you SAY THAT? That's not there."

Because that minimizes the history of homophobia that does exist, and minimizes the reality that something like homophobia (and I only say "something like" because homosexuality in its current form didn't exist, though of course same-gender sex and love did) did exist in those times (yes, even among the Greeks -- read Foucault sometime) -- and minimizes the possibility that, wait, some of that COULD actually be enshrined in this text.

I don't think trying to make a text spotless in your own head (which sounded to me at first like what Joan Kelly was doing, but doesn't now) is necessary for the text to be inspiring, helpful, even life-changing.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I think the question of whether Dworkin was anti-woman or whatever's being said is a completely erroneous phrasing, and I don't think anyone has really said it in so many words.

I believe she was anti-me. (Among other things.)

I am not Class Woman.

For her opposition to the existence of me to be equated with Women strikes me as making the same category error as the one she was making in order to be anti-me: mistaking the personal for the universal.

When women have true freedom and access to choice, some of them will choose things that someone else disapproves of. That's one of the consequences of liberty.

"When people are truly free they will agree with me" is, shall I say, not sound reasoning. And when I run into people who want me to be free and enlightened so that I can be guaranteed to fall into lockstep with them ... I think they need to do a wee bit more examining.

Trinity said...

But you can't write a goddamn book that just says: "men hate women" over and over again. So by default she focuses her theory and her psychoanalysis on women, which means she starts asking the Wrong Damn Questions: what is wrong with women that they endure this? what kind of self-deluding fool would you have to be not to see what's happening to you? How can I convince women that everything they think about men is wrong?"

right on.

Trinity said...

"When people are truly free they will agree with me" is, shall I say, not sound reasoning. And when I run into people who want me to be free and enlightened so that I can be guaranteed to fall into lockstep with them ... I think they need to do a wee bit more examining."

Hahaha.

I'm not so sure that it's wrong to call it misogyny though. I think that misogyny involves, or least has as a major ingredient, believing that women would be better if they lived a certain way. The way they currently live is looked at by misogynistic people as poisonous, dangerous, harmful and corrupting. And I see that in Dworkin, or at least, as Belle put it, in her fandom. There's this notion that women need to have a particular consciousness lest women continue to allow the world to be polluted, even enjoy their own destruction.

To me, someone who believes that my consciousness needs a particular shape lest I help to destroy the world or irresponsibly prop up this destruction is not someone who likes me. Someone who protects me for my own good is not my ally. such a person is against me and all I stand for.

So the question of whether she is anti woman or just against me isn't the right way to word it either, I don't think. There's something going very wrong when we can talk with a straight face about being for a group, when defending the rights or humanity of the group means not respecting the members of that group find fulfillment or make choices that you don't believe they should. Actual respect means giving them that choice, and lacking rancor when they make it.

belledame222 said...

I was trawling around recently and just saw a radical feminist using the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin" wrt BDSM, without irony. Which...yeah. Fuck that "love." I didn't ask for your love in the first place, come to that. Just leave me alone.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I think the thing that I'm trying to point at is the difference between misogyny by intent and misogyny by effect, more or less.

I honestly do not believe that Dworkin's intent was to restrict the choices of women per se or to engage in a parochial sort of paternalistic, "No, dear, you'll understand that this is bad for you as soon as you grow up."

I suspect her intent was far more on the "Damnit, the kids shouldn't be playing in the street" end of things. In which, yeah, sure, one can say that in an ideal world the kids would choose not to play where they're in imminent danger of being flattened by an SUV and would agree to this if they were cognizant of the risks. I suspect that she would respond to the idea that this is restricting women's choices or expecting conformity (and thus misogyny) in the same way a parent that forbids a child from chasing a ball into traffic would respond to claims that this was age discrimination.

And I think she would have some understanding for, "We're playing in the street because the only other option is the vacant lot full of old tires and broken bottles, and this is safer", and think that what she was doing was agitating for people to clean things up and have public parks and the like.

I think she'd have major communication glitch with people who said, "This is a paved basketball court. What's your damage? Can't you tell a street from anything else with asphalt on it?"

And I'm off frolicking in some field somewhere and respond, "Just 'cause you're driving your Jeep here doesn't make it a street."

The problem I have with it boils down to -- let me see if I can get this complete and coherent:
- the paternalism of presumption of parental role (not necessarily misogyny; smug my-opinion-is-more-highly-evolved when-you-grow-up-you'll-understand crops up in far more than this)
- the lack of grasp of diversity leading to a false universalisation of personal experience
- the choice to viciously attack not merely the false-due-to-overextension characterisation of the kink world, but particularly those individual people who participate

The net effect is misogyny, because adult women are not children to be corrected and kept from running into the street; I suspect there was a gigantic "meet the new boss same as the old boss" shaped blindspot that's related to point #2, the inability to conceptualise outside of individual filter. If Dworkin were right, then women as they achieved maturity and liberation would stop running into traffic (or only do so in extreme circumstances) because they would recognise the problem and the risks.

The problem is that Dworkin was not merely wrong, but appears to have been unable to imagine the possibility that she might be wrong. And once that inability to recognise other people as real kicks in, the bigotry slides in sideways, sneaking into the accidental spaces left there.

Trinity said...

"I was trawling around recently and just saw a radical feminist using the phrase "love the sinner, hate the sin" wrt BDSM, without irony."

Link plz?

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Please pardon the incoherence of previous comment.

Trinity said...

"The net effect is misogyny, because adult women are not children to be corrected and kept from running into the street"

Yes.

And in most feminist circles it's not considered hellaciously important whether the misogyny is in intent or in effect.

But yes, I will amend: the sort of misogyny one does not recognize as misogyny. On par with all the other "but women submitting to their husbands is what God ordained! I'm only trying to ensure women do what really fulfills their unique spirit!" crap that isn't necessarily intended as misogyny by those who buy the theory.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

And in most feminist circles it's not considered hellaciously important whether the misogyny is in intent or in effect.

Hence the whole yummy irony supplements for the diet thing.

I tend to think it matters, partly because I have this habit of making more fine distinctions than anyone around me seems to think is rational, but also because I think effective response depends on selecting the tool that's most likely to shift the situation.

Calling the analysis misogynistic in the case where the misogyny is invisible like that is quite likely to get really defensive reactions, especially from people who want to think that they're speaking from a feminist perspective. It gets in the way of useful consciousness-raising, to steal some jargon, to back folks back up onto their axioms like that and make them cuddle them protectively.

I do, honestly if perhaps overoptimistically, believe that someone operating on the stop-the-kids-from-running-into-the-street model will more likely respond positively to something like "Are you aware of the paternalism in your behaviour here?" than they will to "That analysis is misogynistic." (I'm certainly wrong in some cases, as there are people who are self-confident enough to say, "Wait, what?" to the sharp slap in the rhetoric and actually look, but I don't bet on those people being common. I'm probably not one of them.)

I also do, honestly and pessimistically, believe that a large number of people are really profoundly invested in the notion that people who disagree with them are essentially children, and no amount of quoting Cromwell at them will change that. ("I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.") I see it too often, in too many different contexts, in too many different phrasings, for me to believe it isn't part of the human condition somewhere.

Given that I don't know what leverage will budge some of these folks off the conclusion that I'm deluded, damaged, or puerile, I'm quite content to say, "Neener neener thbbt you smell like doggie doo", stick my thumbs in my ears, and waggle my fingers at them. Better luck next incarnation.

Trinity said...

"I also do, honestly and pessimistically, believe that a large number of people are really profoundly invested in the notion that people who disagree with them are essentially children, and no amount of quoting Cromwell at them will change that. ("I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.")"

Exactly. And that's why I don't really have a problem calling it misogyny. They think of me as something that isn't quite a real person anyway.

Now if I thought they actually cared why I feel insulted and hurt by Dworkin that would be different. But a lot of them really don't. They're just so upset and shocked by you daring to say that some facets of their orthodoxy isn't worth the paper it's written on that they'll never listen, a lot of them.

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