Hard Cop, Soft Cop

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Editor: Janet Witalec
Date: 2004
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 3,033 words

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[(review date 30 May 1987) In the following review, Mullarkey derides both Andrea Dworkin's Intercourse and MacKinnon's Feminism Unmodified as sensationalistic, irrational, and polarizing attacks on the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.]

Is pornography a sex aid, like a dildo, hence undeserving of protection as speech? Is it a potent political message that should be denied protection before it leads to a Haymarket riot of rapists and pedophiles? By what criteria is an image determined "degrading"? Is the pet of the month a nastier purveyor of "bad attitudes" than Calvin Klein advertisements, rock videos, Harlequin romances or the New York Post? Is Screw an unusually dangerous product, like gunpowder, which places special liabilities on its maker? What effect will more laws have on the reasons isolated men masturbate in stalls at Mr. Peepers? Will they try it with chickens after they see Leda and the Swan? If Nazis can speak in Skokie and man-haters can speak anywhere, why can misogynists not speak in Indianapolis?

Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon are not interested in clarifying issues. Co-authors of the 1984 Indianapolis civic ordinance that declared pornography a form of legally actionable sex discrimination, they prefer obfuscation and shock tactics. Intercourse and Feminism Unmodified should be read solely for clues to the crudity of the authors' assault on the First Amendment. This is lock-step, völkisch theorizing spun from the tribal myth of male depravity. With the dictatorial arrogance of traditional censors, the High Command disdains information and truthful discussion. (At an April 4 conference at New York University, titled Sexual Liberals and the Assault on Feminism, Dworkin trashed "the free market of ideas" because it does not guarantee that "good" ideas will win.) They rely on demagogic pronouncements and sensationalism, calculated to induce reflexive responses and hysterical acquiescence. Both books are ritual performances, hokey rallying points for the real agenda: the polarization of women along lines of sexual preference. Pure feminists (lesbians and nice asexuals) on one side of the sex code, collaborators on the other. The pornography issue is a stalking horse for power--within the feminist bureaucracy and its twin in academia.

Both books travesty debate with a pornography of their own: the reduction of men to their erections and the depiction of heterosexuality as vicious and degrading. Their styles are different--Dworkin is Dzerzhinsky to MacKinnon's Lenin--but their substance is identical. Dworkin's lunatic pensées offer a glimpse at the hindside of MacKinnon's scholarly facade. These are the minds paving the way for censorship. The two take turns playing Hitler, The new "Jewish illness" is male sexuality. The world Jewish conspiracy is heterosexual intercourse (MacKinnon: "The institution of intercourse is a strategy for subordination"). The despised Jew-lover is any woman who prefers sex with a man. Implicit in their rhetoric is a condemnation of maleness itself, sub species aeternitatis.

Dworkin's strong-arm specialty is cunt-speak. Intercourse is a hate-mongering tantrum dolled up as a prolegomenon to the work of Tolstoy, Tennessee Williams, James Baldwin, Kobo Abe and Isaac Bashevis Singer....

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100053506