Friday, April 11, 2014

Andrea Dworkin and Objectification

The lady most often credited with having made objectification an important feature of the Feminist lexicon is Andrea Dworkin.

Here are a few quotes attributed to Miss Dworkin:
  • Female knowledge of objectification usually stops at a necessary but superficial understanding: beauty is rewarded and lack of beauty is punished. The punishments are understood as personal misfortune; they are not seem as systematic, institutional, or historical. Women do not understand that they are also punished through sexual use for being beautiful; and women do not understand the lengths to which men go to protect themselves and their society from contamination by ugly women who do not induce a lustful desire to punish, violate, or destroy, though men manage to punish, violate, or destroy these women anyway.
  • We see a major trade in women, we see the torture of women as a form of entertainment, and we see women also suffering the injury of objectification—that is to say we are dehumanized. We are treated as if we are subhuman, and that is a precondition for violence against us. I live in a country where if you film any act of humiliation or torture, and if the victim is a woman, the film is both entertainment and it is protected speech. Now that tells me something about what it means to be a woman citizen in this country, and the meaning of being second class.  When your rape is entertainment, your worthlessness is absolute. You have reached the nadir of social worthlessness. The civil impact of pornography on women is staggering. It keeps us socially silent, it keeps us socially compliant, it keeps us afraid in neighborhoods; and it creates a vast hopelessness for women, a vast despair. One lives inside a nightmare of sexual abuse that is both actual and potential, and you have the great joy of knowing that your nightmare is someone else’s freedom and someone else’s fun.
  • Being female in this world means having been robbed of the potential for human choice by men who love to hate us. One does does not make choices in freedom. Instead, one conforms in body type and behavior and values to become an object of male sexual desire, which requires an abandonment of a wide-ranging capacity for choice.
...Dehumanization is real. It happens in real life; it happens to stigmatized people. It has happened to us, to women. We say that women are objectified. We hope that people will think that we are very smart when we use a long word. But being turned into an object is a real event; and the pornographic object is a particular kind of object. It is a target. You are turned into a target. And red or purple marks the spot where he's supposed to get you.
This object wants it. She is the only object with a will that says, hurt me....
...In pornography we literally see the will of women as men want to experience it. This will is expressed through concrete scenarios, the ways in which women's bodies are positioned and used. We see, for instance, that the object wants to be penetrated; and so there is a motif in pornography of self-penetration. A woman takes some thing and she sticks it up herself..... 

 ...There is also a specific kind of dehumanization experienced by women who are prostituted. Yes, all women experience being objects, being treated like objects. But prostituted women are treated like a certain kind of object, which is to say, a target. A target isn't any old object. You might take pretty good care of some objects that you have around the house. But a target you go after. You put the dart in the hole. That's what the prostitute is for. What that should tell you is how much aggression goes into what a man does when he seeks out, finds, and uses a prostituted woman....

...You, you--you have to weaken and destroy every institution that is part of how men rule over women. And don't ask if you should. The question is how, not if. How? Do one thing, rather than spend your lives debating if you should do this or if you should do that and do they really deserve it and is it really fair? Fair? Is it really fair? Darlings, we could get the machine guns out tonight. Fair? We break our own hearts with these questions. Is it fair? Don't respect their laws. No. Don't respect their laws. Women need to be making laws. I hope that Catharine MacKinnon and I have set an example. We have tried to. There is no reason for any woman, any woman in the world, to be basically performing fellatio on the current legal system. But mostly that is what one is in law school to learn how to do.
What I hope you will take away from here is this: that any vestige of sex hierarchy, any, will mean that some women somewhere are being prostituted. If you look around you and you see male supremacy, you know that somewhere where you cannot see, a woman is being prostituted, because every hierarchy needs a bottom and prostitution is the bottom of male dominance. So when you accommodate, when you compromise, when you turn a blind eye, you are collaborating. Yes, I know that your life is also at stake but yes you are collaborating, both things are true, in the destruction of another woman's life.
 I am asking you to make yourselves enemies of male dominance, because it has to be destroyed for the crime of prostitution to end--the crime against the woman, the human-rights crime of prostitution: and everything else is besides the point...
From her tome Intercourse:
...A human being has a body that is inviolate; and when it is violated, it is abused. A woman has a body that is penetrated in intercourse: permeable, its corporeal solidness a lie. The discourse of male truth--literature, science, philosophy, pornography--calls that penetration violation. This it does with some consistency and some confidence. Violation is a synonym for intercourse.
...Most women do not experience orgasm from intercourse itself...only three in ten women regularly experience orgasm from intercourse...They want men, love, sex, intercourse; they want orgasm; but for most women, seven out of ten, intercourse does not cause orgasm. The women want, even strive for, orgasm from intercourse but are unable to achieve it...
...Intercourse occurs in a context of a power relation that is pervasive and incontrovertible. The context in which the act takes place, whatever the meaning of the act in and of itself, is one in which men have social, economic, political, and physical power over women. Some men do not have all those kinds of power over all women; but all men have some kinds of power over all women; and most men have controlling power over what they call their women--the women they fuck. The power is predetermined by gender, by being male.
Intercourse as an act often expresses the power men have over women. Without being what the society recognizes as rape, it is what the society--when pushed to admit it--recognizes as dominance.
Intercourse often expresses hostility or anger as well as dominance.
Intercourse is frequently performed compulsively; and intercourse frequently requires as a precondition for male performance the objectification of the female partner. She has to look a certain way, be a certain type--even conform to preordained behaviors and scripts--for the man to want to have intercourse and also for the man to be able to have intercourse. The woman cannot exist before or during the act as a fully realized, existentially alive individual...
 ...Glasgow needs to be thanked. Through consistent and effective feminist organising for the equality and dignity of women over a 30-year period, a new lexicon has reached responsive politicians who are willing to ban lap-dancing because of its affront to the integrity of women.
Objectification is recognised for what it is: the dehumanising of a subordinated group for the purpose of civil and sexual dominance. Commodifying the sexuality of women is recognised for what it is: the abuse of women's bodies as if women were products for mass consumption. Lap-dancing is seen for what it is: living pornography.
The struggle for this consciousness has been long and hard. It is joined now by the Glasgow City Council, and a licensing board. The recognition that sexual exploitation is incompatible with equality is shared by a community of people in the mainstream. This community has demonstrated courage by refusing to give in to the pressure of those who organise lap-dancing and the johns who consume it.
The primary issue is the status of women, who are inevitably demeaned by being treated as less than fully human, as objects who can be used and misused. It is only when defending sexual objectification in prostitution and its sister phenomena (lap-dancing, stripping, pornography) that women get to be "consenting adults". Giving up one's body for money is the signature of a woman's consent....

...He's a greedy piece of work, this consumer of other live human beings. He thinks the females exist for him and the new game in town is that they come this close, so very close, to his erect penis without touching it and then he gives them money. In the game, as the rules are written, he flirts with the continuum between impotence and masturbation. Of course the implicit logic is that the females do touch it if he wants and then the women get more money (at that moment) and cross a line; no longer dancers, they become prostituted women, the genuinely marginal women to whom anything can and will be done.

Lap-dancing is a rung above the bottom.  Prostitution is the bottom....

...To accept a woman as a sexual commodity means the man has no brain, no heart, no life worth living....

...The big, brave men who want lap-dancing could use some lap-slicing in its place.
Regarding the use of the word "objectified", Miss Dworkin states "We hope that people will think that we are very smart when we use a long word."  And, it does seem that Feminists do use this word in hopes of appearing smart.  She raises an excellent point there.

Unlike other Feminists, Miss Dworkin seldom seems to use the term "Patriarchy",

perhaps because she wishes to emphasize that all heterosexual men, and not just a vague, elite subset of men, might enjoy a good lap-dance or find some sort of pleasure in vaginal coitus.

With men, Miss Dworkin did have some very unfortunate encounters, which she describes in a letter published in the New York Times.  She obviously did not take any pleasure in sexual relations with men, and believed her lack of orgasms to be consistent with the experiences of the vast majority of women.  She may have suffered the pang of not exactly conforming in body type "to become an object of male sexual desire" (although, there are some chubby-chasers out there).  For her, sexual intercourse is synonymous with rape.  Miss Dworkin does express quite a lot of hostility and animosity towards men, particularly with her calls for machine-gunning and lap-slicing, but also with her desires to deprive us even of our pornography.  Her misanthropic musings have had a profound impact on Feminism, even beyond the over-use and misuse of the term "objectification."  A non-Feminist who read much of her material might even end up agreeing with Pat Robertson that "the feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."  Some of those goals might actually be okay, but, making us give up our pornography and lap-dances is going too far!  We shouldn't have to give up everything that defines male sexuality!

Contrary to what a lot of Feminists think, at least one study showed that porn actresses had higher levels of self-esteem, positive feelings, social support, sexual satisfaction, and spirituality compared to other women.  The actresses enjoyed sex more, and there was no difference in incidence of childhood sexual abuse compared to other women.  Belle Knox considered her stint in pornography to be "empowering."  Feminists use the term "empowering" to mean "good", and "objectifying" to mean "bad." 

I'll conclude with a Gender Studies video on Objectification, taught by Andrea Dworkin herself.

And (why not?) a bit of Tom Jones in the great lady's honor.


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