ANDREA DWORKIN by Michael Moorcock

HEROES & VILLAINS The novelist Michael Moorcock pays tribute to Andrea Dworkin, feminist, radical, and anti-porn campaigner

When I read Andrea Dworkin's Our Blood in the early Eighties I was impressed, but it was her Right-Wing Women which convinced me that a substantial new voice had joined those of the other innovative feminists I admired. With its brilliant insights into the Right's anti-feminism, why women often choose conservative politics contrary to their specific interests, the book offered an advance in feminist political thinking almost as radical as Sexual Politics.

It wasn't only Dworkin's intellectual brilliance, originality of thought or analytical powers which made her my heroine - it was her eloquence, the persuasiveness of her language, her willingness to take all kinds of risks, to ask questions most of us would rather not ask and be brave enough to propose answers. Like Bea Campbell, she was a genuine left-wing radical thinker, at least as original as Orwell and sometimes as quirky, and just as inclined to get up the noses of the established Left. Her critics were prepared to disagree with her rather than villify her until Pornography: Men Possessing Women really upset them. In it, she argued that porn was an issue of equality and sexual exploitation.

Like Dworkin, I'd campaigned for civil rights in the Sixties and Seventies. I'd fought for the abolition of censorship practices which banned Lady Chatterley, Ulysses, The Well of Loneliness and The Naked Lunch. I went to court and risked jail in defence of free speech. I was part of a movement which achieved the Race Relations Act, legal abortion and all kinds of egalitarian advances. When I eventually met Andrea in the mid-Eighties, we discovered much common experience. We'd known "street-life", the realities of the sex and drug trades, the protest movement. We'd both been arrested and discovered powerlessness in the hands of brutal authority which, you learn, actively hates you. We had also come up against puritans like Mrs Whitehouse and ferociously opposed their definitions of obscenity and their efforts at censorship.

Apart from a perverse enthusiasm for rowdy cowboy music, it was probably this shared experience which made my wife Linda and me become such firm friends with Andrea and her companion of 20 years, the writer and civil rights activist John Stoltenberg. Dworkin's radicalism came directly from personal experience of being a seriously battered wife in Amsterdam, without support from family or friends. She's known the despair and terror which makes you do almost anything for even a moment's release. As a result, she has earned an extraordinary grass-roots constituency amongst poor women. While she has successfully discouraged attempts to deify her, she hasn't been able to control a vicious demonisation which began when the likes of Playboy saw her as a threat to their fortunes and invoked the American Civil Liberties Union.

Dworkin's analysis of porn as propaganda and exploitation contained no references to obscenity or conventional sin. A Bill she and Catharine MacKinnon, a lawyer, prepared defined pornography in terms of civil rights, not obscenity, arguing that it led to violence against women in the way that racial propaganda leads to violence against minorities. The Baby Boomer liberal notion of porn as a safety-valve was questioned and ideas about its social value reversed. Dworkin asked why pictures of Asian women bound and hanging in trees (Penthouse) were "speech" and how they were "free". When she suggested, in Intercourse, that the conventional sex act might contribute to sexual inequality, a great many reviewers reacted as if she'd proposed mass castrations.

Dworkin argues that sexuality can be confused with power, how pleasure can be confused with power. I'm by no means a New Man, and have no background of abuse, but all my life I've been conscious of the unequal condition of women and wanted men, including myself, to stop hurting women. Dworkin gave logic, insight and language to those feelings. Yet currently she is being so successfully caricatured that the New York Times, The Nation or the president of the ACLU will cheerfully print lies about her and misquote her wildly but refuse her any right to reply. Liberal publishers forbid their editors to buy her books; much of her best work (including Right-Wing Women) is out of print.

Her first novel, Ice and Fire, drew heavily on her own experience, containing a moving testament to her love for one particular individual. But it was Mercy which really confused her critics. Much of that novel, too, is auto- biographical. It is perhaps the most harrowing fiction I've read. Its violence and depiction of sexual abuse is vivid. It is, in the end, about systematic rape. Some critics chose to see Dworkin as a hypocrite writing porn while condemning it. They hadn't understood Pornography. She wasn't talking about "obscenity", she was talking about men possessing women, about power and its abuses, about propaganda and the profit motive.

In her writing and in person, Andrea Dworkin is consistent, logical, courteous and respectful of others. She has deep, committed loyalties, warm friendships, and persists courageously in the unfashionable idea that human society, even human nature, is somehow perfectable.

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'