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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April 2005, 14:08 GMT 15:08 UK
Anti-porn crusader Dworkin dies
Andrea Dworkin, 1986
Andrea Dworkin helped draft a law against pornography
The American feminist author Andrea Dworkin has died at her home in Washington, aged 58.

Ms Dworkin sparked international debate by arguing that pornography was a violation of women's rights and a precursor to rape.

Her book, Woman Hating, published when she was 27, was the first of more than a dozen books on the subject.

Ms Dworkin also helped draft a law in the city of Minneapolis that recognised pornography as sexual discrimination.

Ms Dworkin, originally from Camden, New Jersey, had been ill for several years. She suffered from a number of ailments, including osteoarthritis.

Critics and fans

"Pornography is used in rape - to plan it, to execute it, to choreograph it, to engender the excitement to commit the act," she testified before the New York Attorney General's Commission on Pornography in 1986.

In 2001, Ms Dworkin won the American book award for writing Scapegoat: the Jews, Israel and Women's Liberation.

Some in the media liked to picture her as tough and hard and difficult, but she was soft and with a lovely voice and a good sense of humour
Elaine Markson, agent

At the time of her death, she was working on a book with the working title Writing America: How Novelists Invented and Gendered a Nation.

"In every century, there are a handful of writers who help the human race to evolve," said fellow feminist Gloria Steinem. "Andrea is one of them."

Her agent of 30 years, Elaine Markson, said: "Some in the media liked to picture her as tough and hard and difficult, but she was soft and with a lovely voice and a good sense of humour."

But Ms Dworkin's critics called her an enemy of free speech.

Ms Markson said Ms Dworkin had recently had knee surgery, and did not seem to have recovered very well from the operation.

"She was rather frail of late," she added. Ms Dworkin is survived by her husband John Stoltenberg, also a feminist activist and writer.

A public memorial is to be held for her in New York.


Your thoughts:

Ms Dworkin was a courageous revolutionary whose work was central to the women's movement in the US. Although I disagree with her goal to ban pornography, the extreme misogyny that her important work exposes is unfortunately all too real. Her uncompromising commitment to her cause is admirable.
Suzi Smith, San Francisco, United States

Ms Dworkin may have been a champion of women's rights, and that is respectable in its own right, but she was much too harsh on the concept of pornography. It does not accelerate rape; pornography does nothing of the sort. It is merely a sexual outlet for those experiencing various degrees of sexual frustration. Pornography is harmless, and it is certainly not as serious as the allegations that Ms Dworkin has put upon it.
Brendan, Williston, Vermont, United States

A great leader for women rights. On her pornography theory, many countries have outlawed pornography, yet rape still occurs there. Yes rapists usually talk about their addiction to pornography, but many things contribute to rape. One cannot isolate one area and treat it like it is the only factor. By her argument that porn is a precursor to rape, one could say criticizing the US is a precursor to becoming a terrorist. Terrorists frequently criticise the US; rapist frequently watch porn. Should people not be allowed to not criticise the US?
Reagan, Dallas, TX

Just like the foolishness of prohibition, I would hate to live in the result of a pornography-free world. Fortunately, I don't believe I will have to. Objectification, like empathy is a component of physical closeness. Ask a psychologist, not a sociologist. Those who are uncomfortable with objectification and apt to vilify it are perhaps seeking to excise there own insecurities at the cost of others' freedoms.
Ray, Washington, USA

Whether or not pornography promotes rape, it certainly promotes contempt for women and men. It diminishes us, because it encourages us to fantasize about each other as objects for our own gratification. Perhaps we should not ban it, given how precious is freedom of speech, but our cultural celebration of pornography is an indictment of our so-called respect for human rights.
Tim Jones, Corinth, MS USA

I think her views were fascist in nature and helped promote a return to Puritanism.
Yves Kerhoz, Paris, France

Rape is a serious crime, but to say the pornography leads to rape is jumping to extremes. The mentality to rape someone is not conjured by that of pornography, the creation of such evil must have more causes than that of rape.
James, England

The following comments reflect the balance of views received.While I disagree with Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon about pornography, I'm very sorry to hear she has died as I always value writers and thinkers who challenge the dominant power structures and who do so passionately. As for rape, nothing desensitises men to it and accelerates it more than alcohol.
Chuck Jones, Chicago, IL

The death of Andrea Dworkin is a great loss to everyone in the world who are working against men's sexual violence against women. She has put words to the rage we feel about women being used in pornography. We will keep on working in your spirit Andrea.
Angela Beausang, Gothenburg, Sweden

Andrea was a kind and caring person as well as a brave and inspirational speaker and writer. Her death is a great loss to the women's movement.
Kate, Manchester, UK

Ms Dworkin's dedication to women's rights was a wonderful thing and hopefully will be carried on. But I do not believe that making pornography - as long as it is between consenting adults - should be made illegal. Sex is the oldest trade in the world, for a reason. It's natural. We need to focus on all the desensitising agents in our culture that say women are just body parts for their taking.
Marie, USA

"Pornography leads to rape?" Is this in the same sense that watching a violent film leads to someone becoming a murderer? They are, after all, both intended simply as cheap thrills. Let's be realistic. A picture of two (or more?) people having sex hardly creates an urge to go out and force such acts on other people. In my book, this files alongside the claim that listening to heavy metal music "makes" people commit suicide or shoot people in schools.
Baz, Luton, UK

Dworkin's work was challenging and uncomfortable, but that's what made it essential reading. Whether you agreed with her or not, feminist debate would have been poorer without her contribution. In an age when plastic surgery is commonplace and eating disorders soaring, such an uncompromising vision was refreshing.
UF, London, UK

I am deeply grieved that Andrea Dworkin is dead. I am a moral philosopher. To my shame, I allowed myself to be put off reading Dworkin's work for many years by ignorant anti-feminist smears which portrayed her as 'anti-men', 'a victim-feminist', and 'an extremist'. When I finally read her work, I was surprised and humbled to find myself in the presence of a real genius. Dworkin's textual criticism, conceptual analysis and arguments are all brilliant and original. A couple of examples: her exposes of misogyny in 'Intercourse' and elsewhere, and her critique of de Sade in 'Pornography: Women Hating Men' are unprecedented in the history of philosophy, and unmatched for their clarity, rigour and determination in making unpopular, implausible but essential points in the teeth of the scepticism and affected boredom of a complacent patriarchal world badly in need of such critiques.
Soran Reader, Durham, England

I cannot respect someone who advocates a position, and public policy, based upon (at best) mistaking correlation for causality. Until there are studies showing that people exposed to pornography are more likely to commit acts of sexual violence later (and those studies are controlled for other factors), her assertion has no more weight than any other unsubstantiated claim. One might as well say that milk causes murder because many murderers drank milk as children.
Bill, US

People with mental illness, like Ted Bundy, often obsess over different media in our culture, porno and the Bible included. The fault is not in the media itself but our own evil. Those violent and obsessive persons will only find some other focus prior to committing their crimes. Ms Dworkin's work is a great piece of free speech that fires debate, but her position is flawed and wrong. The end result of laws based on her ideas would a complete ban on free speech and no effect on the number of rapes, excepting the censoring of their reports on the evening news.
Scott , Wharton, NJ, USA

While some people do take pornography too far, it is simply an outlet through which men and women can sublimate sexual tension that may otherwise be expressed in other forms, although I would still argue that rape is the product of a seriously sexually troubled mind, rather than the natural progression of pornographic obsession.
Pat Varine, Georgetown, DE, United States

All too often Andrea Dworkin's work was marginalized to her comments on pornography. Her message was broader but what she did say about heterosexual pornography was that it used stereotypes which encourage misogyny. Its depictions of female degradation reinforced prejudices of an 'inferior' sex to be used as a commodity and disposed. It is debatable as to whether this can be applied to all depictions of sex on film but nevertheless her argument is powerful and provocative. However, Andrea Dworkin's message was much broader. She challenged the way we think about how women and men relate to one another, how we think about power in society and how tradition had desensitised us to violence and oppression. She was not a hater of anyone, she did not advocate censorship, she was hopeful but realistic about the future. Above all, she wanted all of us to live in a just society and pointed out that each of us are responsible for creating that state.
Graham Watson, Glasgow, Scotland

While I feel her theory on the relationship between sexual imagery and sexual violence to be overly simplified and misdirected, I respect her as a human being and a feminist and I'm very sad to hear of her death.
Trevor , Athens, GA, USA

Andrea Dworkin's death is a great loss. Her work was provocative and interesting.
Thom Brooks, Newcastle, UK

Ted Bundy personally testified that his addiction to pornography was a major impetus for his serial killings. It really is a dangerous industry that exploits men and women. I'm thankful for Dworkin's work and I hope others will step up in her place.
Derek, Virginia, US

I greatly respect Ms Dworkin, as an individual and a feminist. But I must disagree with her theory that pornography accelerates rape. It provides a natural sexual outlet for men and women, which if not otherwise available sexual relief could be sought in a more violent and desperate form. I don't think pornography increases chances of rape, I feel it decreases the likelihood of such events by providing a safe and secure sexual outlet.
Katherine Quinn, Dublin, Ireland

I have never heard anything more ridiculous than her statement "Pornography is used in rape". Pornography is used by millions of men and women all over the world for nothing more sinister that a bit of fun. If she had any true desire to change society for the better she may have been better off focusing on the true reasons for rape rather than standing on a feminist soap box blaming an easy and incorrect target.
Daz, Guildford Surrey

Isn't stating that pornography promotes rape like saying that video games promote mass murder? With great advocates like her for women's rights, its no great mystery why there is a conservative backlash in this country. I think both sides in this country get it wrong when they let their beliefs trump reality.
Jason Forauer, Washington DC

Andrea Dworkin was a brave and noble woman whose death deserves far more attention than it has got. Anyone would be as angry and determined as she was in her writings if they took seriously the symbolic and actual violence that women are subjected to due to men's "rights" over access to women's bodies.
Samantha Lyle, Leamington Spa

Ms. Dworkin summed up pornography to a tee. Regardless of the vile nature of pornography, it desensitises men and women and therefore the act of rape is a natural consequence that men do to women.
Ann, Ohio

We never think or take seriously such topics and realities but Ms Dworkin was really a crusader in this respect. I deeply agree that pornography accelerates rape or sexual violation and feel she highlighted this well.
Sajjad Asghar, Faisalabad, Pakistan





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