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March 27, 2008
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Andrea Dworkin and Me

To most conservatives, Andrea Dworkin was an expletive to be deleted. But her recent death brought back the time when the infamous feminist invited me, the unknown young conservative, to tea, where we shared glimpses of the same truth.

Click here to order 'Enemies of Eros' by Maggie Gallagher


[Editor's note: This article was originally pubished in April, 2005]

Andrea Dworkin
died this week.

Maybe the name means nothing to you, but for women of a certain age, Andrea Dworkin's very name is "fighting words." A fiercely radical feminist, she (along with law professor Catherine Mackinnon) pioneered a blistering feminist attack on pornography and male sexuality in general. As a former battered wife, she fused these concerns with a broadside against male violence against women. Think "intercourse is rape," and you are thinking vintage Dworkin.

Andrea Dworkin's book Intercourse (which Germaine Greer called "the most shocking book any feminist has yet written") came out in 1987. At the time, I was a young editor, contemplating leaving National Review to write a critique of orthodox feminism, which was eventually published as Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution Is Killing Family, Marriage and Sex.

To most conservatives, Andrea Dworkin was an expletive to be deleted, demented, dangerous and probably lesbian. By rights, I should have hated her book.

What Dworkin observes is essentially true. Sex is not an act which takes place merely between bodies.
Yes, I received a gift from Andrea, the kind of gift which, intellectually speaking, you can receive only from someone with whom you profoundly disagree. From the opposite ends of the political spectrum, we had each glimpsed a piece of the same truth. Against the backdrop of a pornographic Playboy culture that tried to teach us that sex is just a trivial appetite for pleasure, radical feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote that "sexual intercourse is not intrinsically banal."

I was not alone! Andrea saw it, too. As I wrote in Enemies of Eros: "In sex, persons become male and female, archetypically, exaggeratedly, painfully so. And to us, corseted in modern sexual views, femininity appears incompatible with the personhood of women. ... What Dworkin observes is essentially true. Sex is not an act which takes place merely between bodies. Sex is an act which defines, alters, imposes on the personhood of those who engage in it. We wander through the ordinary course of days as persons, desexed, androgynous, and it is in the sexual act in which we receive reassurance that we are not persons, after all, but men and women."

And as I later learned, to a lesser degree, Andrea Dworkin received the same gift from me. Standing in the local bookstore in Park Slope in Brooklyn (where we both then lived), she thumbed through my first book. "At last, someone who understands my writing!" she shrieked excitedly.

As she spoke, it occurred to me that everything I had written was a deliberate and desperate attempt not to live in her kind of world.
Then she, the infamous feminist, invited me, the unknown young conservative, to tea. I found her soft-spoken, pale, intellectual, anxious, motherly. She seemed to me the kind of woman who has the peculiar courage of her fears. Andrea lived with a man whom she introduced as John. "Every day I wake up and realize that tomorrow John may not be there," she told me.

She was describing a kind of unmarital bond, endorsing the special kind of relationship produced when two people know they can leave and yet each morning still choose to be together. Once again, Andrea put her finger on my truth. For as she spoke, it occurred to me that everything I had written about (as everything I've done since) was a deliberate and desperate attempt not to live in her kind of world. I longed to find marriage ties as binding as the ties between mother and child. I wanted not only to get, but to become the kind of person who can give that kind of dependable love, the kind that can be taken for granted because it lasts.

According to Reuters, "Dworkin is survived by her husband, John Stoltenberg, also a feminist activist and author."

Maybe in the end, she found that kind of love, too. I hope so. Rest in peace, Andrea.

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October 28, 2005

MAGGIE GALLAGHER is a nationally syndicated columnist, the author of three books on marriage, including most recently, with University of Chicago Prof Linda Waite "The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better-Off Financially", and the president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy. Readers may reach Maggie Gallagher at MaggieBox2004@yahoo.com.

Taken from the MAGGIE GALLAGHER column by Maggie Gallagher © 2005 Dist. by UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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READER COMMENTS
12.02.05   dzongsar says:
I applaud Andrea Dworkin's work to try to get society to halt violence against women. I am a student of buddhism and have donated money to this Shared Hope project because of the great value of your works. Linda Smith is right, it is not only a women's issue. If 1% of males rape and a larger percentage of them use sex slaves it is imperative that males of all religions contribute. As a feminist (hushed silence here) it was my early belief that the Objectification of Women ought be condemned. Instead feminism got condemned. I am a feminist buddhist who supports your faith based program. I don't find many Christians who support programs of other faiths? As a former foster mother of a teen driven into prostitution after her stay with us, I am wanting to see more support for your group and efforts. THank you Shared Hope. I would have been very interested in more information on how the "tea" with Ms. Dworkin affected the writer of this post. It is by dialog and understanding that we will effect greater peace and find solutions to relieve suffering.

10.30.05   Godspy says:
To most conservatives, Andrea Dworkin was an expletive to be deleted. But her recent death brought back the time when the infamous feminist invited me, the unknown young conservative, to tea, where we shared glimpses of the same truth.

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