Andrea Rita Dworkin was an American radical feminist and writer best known for her criticism of pornography – a cause dear to my heart (please see my paragraph at the end of this blog). Andrea argued that pornography was linked to rape and other forms of violence against women. After suffering abuse from her first husband (whom she left in 1971), she was introduced to radical feminist literature by feminist Ricki Abrams, and began writing Woman Hating, eventually publishing 10 books on feminism.
Andrea was born in Camden, New Jersey on 26th September 1946. Her father was a schoolteacher and socialist, whom she credited with inspiring her passion for social justice. Her mother’s belief in legal birth control and abortion inspired her later activism. She had a happy childhood until the age of 9, when an unknown man molested her in a cinema. Shortly afterwards the family moved from the city to the suburbs, which she hated and likened to living in a penal colony.
After living and writing poetry and prose in Crete for a while, Andrea studied literature at Bennington College and participated in campaigns for contraception on campus, for the legalisation of abortion, and against the Vietnam war. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Literature in 1968.
In New York Andrea worked as an anti-war organiser, and participated in demonstrations for lesbian rights and against apartheid in South Africa. She joined a feminist consciousness-raising group and soon became involved in radical feminist organising, and gained notoriety as a speaker for events organised by local feminist groups.
After an abusive first marriage, Andrea met feminist writer and activist John Stoltenberg in 1974 when they both walked out on a poetry reading in Greenwich Village over misogynist material. They became close friends and eventually lived together, although both publicly identifying themselves as gay. They were married in 1998.
In 1976 Andrea, together with other leading feminists, formed a radical feminist anti-pornography group. Members of this group would eventually go on to found Women Against Pornography in 1979. In 1978 she joined 3000 women in a march through the red light district of San Francisco. She published Pornography: Men Possessing Women in 1981, in which she argues that pornography is implicated in violence against women through the abuse of the women who star in the films, and in social consequences by encouraging men to eroticise the domination, humiliation and abuse of women. Together with radical feminist Catherine MacKinnon, Andrea discussed civil rights litigation as a possible approach to combating pornography. With encouragement from community activists, the Minneapolis city government hired Andrea and Catherine to draft an anti-pornography civil rights ordinance, but this was eventually vetoed by the mayor.
On January 22nd 1986 Andrea testified before the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography (the Meese Commission). The Meese Commission successfully demanded that convenience store chains remove men’s magazines from their shelves. This spread nationally before eventually being quashed with a First Amendment admonishment against prior restraint by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.
Andrea was demonised by pornographers and liberals, whom she held in equal contempt. With her health failing, she continued her anti-pornography writing and campaigning until her death aged 58 from acute myocarditis on April 9th 2005.
If anybody is in doubt as to the effect of pornography on a marriage, they can check out my debut novel ‘The Porn Detective’, which is partly based on my own first-hand experience of being a reluctant porn detective for 30 years. Happily all our troubles are now resolved, but women need to be aware of the effects of this insidious, addictive cancer, which when I researched into porn addiction to try and help my husband I found out that it is the hardest habit of them all to kick, due to the one fact that looking at pornography works on the reward centre in the brain and makes the watcher feel extremely happy/ good. I also found out that the brain takes 18 months to recover from a porn addiction.