Friday, 6 December 2013

163/11 - Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin

I first came across Andrea Dworkin when I was a sixth-form student at Kendrick. I studied Sociology as one of my A-levels, which was offered by a teacher called Dr Swale. I don't know which subject she was a doctor in, however I remember finding her to be quite odd when I was a teenager, but looking back now, seeing her as someone who 'marched to the beat of her own drum', as the cliche goes. A pretty inadequate phrase, but it will do for now I suppose. She was odd, but very measured and definitely knew what she was talking about. Very quiet and thoughtful woman.

One of the topics we covered in this class was Feminists theory and history, which I suppose was what really started to speak my interest in that area. Dr Swale mentioned these writers like Andrea Dworkin and Susan Brownmiller and Catherine McKinnon who had very radical views on what it meant to be female in the world we inhabit, and different ideas on how to radically change society for everyone in it. As a teenager, I suppose I was pretty intrigued by some of the more 'salacious' areas of their writings, such as that 'all sex is rape', and that 'all men benefit from rape', which are two ideas that have really stuck with me, although I didn't have any deeper understanding beyond those headlines.

The next time I came across Andrea Dworkin was when I was working for Waterstones, and we had a copy of her biography in stock, which was going on sale as it was end-of-line, or something like that. I didn't buy it at the time.

This time round, I have come across her work again through some recommendations through radical feminist blogs who have again put forward the ideas that men and women cannot have sex without it being exploitative to women, and that all sex is rape, and one of the comments from an author who was getting into a debate with a commenter was, first, go and read Intercourse, and then come back to me and we can continue with this discussion.

Although this comment wasn't aimed at me, I noticed a link for the PDF of the text and decided to download one of the books and try to give it a read, so as to better understand this position. As of writing this post, I am about a third of the way through Intercourse and I'm finding it to be quite a tough read. It reminds me a little of some of the Judith Butler texts I tried to read at Uni without much luck, as I found them to be too dense for me and I didn't connect with them much. I'm also finding this of Intercourse, and I'm not sure I'll be able to finish the book, which is guess is why I'm writing this post at the moment, as a sort of internal debate about whether I should continue with it. I want to understand the ideas put forward, but I'm just not sure that I do, which is a little off-putting. I'm not against working hard at a read, however I'm not sure that I'm getting it, which is pretty frustrating.

I think I might park this for now and read something simpler and work my way up to this kind of heavy theory, as I'm finding it a bit inaccessible. Not a comment on the content, more just that I'm not able to really take it in as it's so far removed from what I know, so I'm not really able to make a good judgement on whether I agree with any of the ideas yet. This kind of heavy theory feels like it requires translation from English into...layman's English?


I've decided not to finish this book for now. It's just too incomprehensible for me. I don't understand it and I think that there's an arguments to be made for texts being too inaccessible which is itself a form of privilege. I've got fairly good grades at school and I've got a university education, and I can't understand this book. There are also going to be many others who can't, which makes me question who this book (and others like it) is actually written for? For other academics? For other radical feminists? If its aim is to educate then it seems to fail at that somewhat because of the language and phrasing of ideas that are just too obscure. Perhaps this is the wrong text to have picked up for now, maybe something simpler to start with.

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