Are Andrea Dworkin's Instincts Anti-Authoritarian?
In his New Year's message, Roderick Long presses his call for a libertarian alignment with the Left. I encourage Roderick and Charles Johnson to make the text of their recent presentation at the Molinari Society meeting available for discussion. In the meantime, I have a few questions.
Of his reasons for favoring such an alignment, Roderick says:
For me the case is not primarily strategic, since I'm far more in inherent sympathy with the left's economic and cultural concerns than most libertarians are (and part of the point our panel were making in Boston is that libertarians have done too little justice to such concerns); but it certainly is at least strategic. The statist right, which now controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress, and much of the media, is, as Lew [Rockwell] rightly observes,"the most pressing and urgent threat to freedom that we face in our time," and it's in the interest of libertarians to build bridges with the left, who have been"solid on civil liberties" (at least by comparison) and" crucial in drawing attention to the lies and abuses of the Bush administration."
While there are, admittedly, plenty of authoritarian types on the left (as everywhere else), there are also plenty of people whose instincts are firmly anti-authoritarian but who have been lured into supporting state socialism because it's been sold to them as the only effective counterweight to state capitalism. These leftists are our potential allies, but no alliance will be forthcoming so long as we continue to confirm most leftists' impression of libertarianism as a variant of conservatism.
Concerning the Molinari Society talk, Roderick declares:
I got particular satisfaction out of the affinities we identified between Herbert Spencer (much maligned and mischaracterised by leftists who've never bothered to read him ...) and Andrea Dworkin (much maligned and mischaracterised by rightists who've likewise never bothered to read her...).
It would appear, then, that Andrea Dworkin is one leftist whom Roderick and Charles consider a potential ally. Is Dworkin"solid on civil liberties"? Is she one of those"whose instincts are firmly anti-authoritarian?" Is she perhaps neither--but her analysis of power relations in society is valuable to libertarians anyway?
Charles urges everyone to read Dworkin's writings and judge for themselves. Excellent advice.
Let's look at an essay that Charles has singled out for praise, "I Want a Twenty-Four-Hour Truce in Which There Is No Rape."
Here is one passage that I think might deserve comment. Keep in mind that the essay is not based on a speech that Dworkin gave to the tribal elders of Waziristan. It is based on a speech that she gave to the National Organization for Changing Men, in St. Paul, Minnesota:
We women. We don't have forever. Some of us don't have another week or another day to take time for you to discuss whatever it is that will enable you to go out into those streets and do something. We are very close to death. All women are. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating. And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.
A good deal more in this speech is worthy of comment, but I want to give priority to Dworkin's conclusion:
Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape.
I dare you to try it. I demand that you try it. I don't mind begging you to try it. What else could you possibly be here to do? What else could this movement possibly mean? What else could matter so much?
And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can't begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives--both men and women--begin to experience freedom. If you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong. You cannot change what you say you want to change. For myself, I want to experience just one day of real freedom before I die. I leave you here to do that for me and for the women whom you say you love.
Keep in mind, too, the definition that Dworkin puts forth in the same essay:
And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We're talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty.
I would like to hear those libertarians who believe that Dworkin is doing good and important work explain what her words mean to them. Readers of this blog know that I'm hardly reticent about expressing my opinion. My concern is that whatever I contribute to the present discussion will be dismissed with the remark that I've once again bogged down in some red-state fever swamp. And merely being told that has no information value at all. Please, I really want to know. What do you think is the correct reading, and why?
The same goes for Dworkin's views on sexual intercourse, which she insists have been so grossly misrendered.
Finally, I am curious to know what Roderick and Charles think of an op-ed from 2002, which praises the city council of Glasgow, Scotland, for enacting a ban on lap dancing. Including their interpretation of the final line.
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Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/13/2005
"I suspect the difference may stem in your Aristotelianism, whereas I confess I have developed an aversion for Aristotle- whose genius I respect, but whose teleology I must oppose as a humanistic and plausible but therefore misleading dangerous systematic incarnation of patriarchal ethics."
I'm not so sure about that. Granted Mr. Long is far more knowledgeable than me about Aristotle and his epistemology, but I don't see how Aristotle's teleological methodology necessitates Mr. Long's argument and conclusion. With regard to Isaiah Berlin's pluralism, I am inclined to give Aristotle's teleology a somewhat pluralistic bent in my work, particularly in ethics.
Jeanine Ring - 1/11/2005
Ah... here, Msr. Long, I believe we have a serious divergence of approach.
I am both a radical libertarian and a believer in the principle that there is wisdom in passion and value in cultivating all extremities of human experience, and I would defend sexual dominance and submission on these grounds, and also as voluntary and nonexploitive emotional specialization towards directon and reception in the general aspects of life. In my opinion the value of such things is not only contextual and rehabilitative or neccesarily as a problematic adjustment to patriarchy, though this is unfortunately common... I myself sight theoretical and practical value in the means themselves.
I suspect the difference may stem in your Aristotelianism, whereas I confess I have developed an aversion for Aristotle- whose genius I respect, but whose teleology I must oppose as a humanistic and plausible but therefore misleading dangerous systematic incarnation of patriarchal ethics. My own ethical position is closer to the pluralism of Isaiah Berlin; my admirations among the ancients extend more to Euripides and Aristophanes, Sappho and Heraclitus, and even (in elements) to the earlt Plato and Pythagoras, and of course a few lesser knowns, that to the 'Master of Those who Know'. And that is a title which I cannot recognize and must dispute, as would any lover of Wisdom.
But of course as a radical, it *is* my habit to take radicalism in its original meaning- 'to go to the root'.
Jeanie Shiris Ring
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
- Ludwig von, Choral Symphony
Roderick T. Long - 1/11/2005
I think we mean different things by "glamorizing rape." I don't think you have to *endorse* rape to glamorize it. (To roleplay rape is to glamorize rape.) I would say that glamorizing X is weaker than promoting X, but that it contributes to or has a tendency in the direction of promoting it. Does that make it absolutely forbidden and inexcusable? No, not necessarily; I do think it's weaker than promotion (I speak for myself here, Charles may disagree) and that difference is morally important. But it falls into the category of "dangerous" or "problematic," particular when it's *systematic*.
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/11/2005
"But what facts about the way sexuality is constructed in our culture make it sexier? What is the wider significance of those facts?"
I'm inclined to think that the psychological disposition to find pretended rape and/or S&M to be sexy is an unhealthy thing. But I still think, and here I'm primarily referring to Mr. Johnson's original comment, it isn't intellectually honest to call the scene in The Fountainhead rape when it is obviously portrayed in the novel as voluntary and something that Dominique likes. It would be more accurate to call the scene pretended rape or roleplayed rape. That it glamorizes rape is also not quite accurate, for it seems plain that that was not Rand's intention; at most you could say that Rand intended to glamorize pretended or roleplayed rape, i.e., that Rand intended to portray the notion that "being taken" was somehow desirable. I find it impossible to believe that Rand would glamorize actual rape, given her opposition to the initiation of physical force and coercion. You might argue that the scene has the effect of glamorizing rape to uncareful readers, but then you would be getting on shaky ground and committing yourself to blaming all writers for being misinterpreted.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/11/2005
OTOH, your citations of gangsta rap often _do_ glamorize violence against women -- but that's why they are frequently _criticized_ by critics and academics and the bulk of the general public -- because the treatment of women depicted in gangsta rap is not only reprehensible, but _not approved of_ by mainstream society -- in contrast to state coercion, which _is_ approved of by mainstream society.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/11/2005
Non-sequitur. _Depictions_ of rape are not identical with _glamorizations_ of rape. To take the most egregious example from your list, there' no sense in which _A Clockwork Orange_ can be said to glamorize, or even condone, rape.
Roderick T. Long - 1/11/2005
Charles amplifies some of Dworkin's views about the relation between intercourse and rape in his blog post today:
I just want to add that when Charles notes that Dworkin is talking not about the "biological act" but about "intercourse as it is consistently depicted in male supremacist culture, and as it is consistently acted out in a society where rape and male-centric sexuality are extremely defended and culturally excused or even valorized," there's an interesting parallel with what Proudhon and Tucker said about property. Their claim that "property is theft" generated howls of outrage -- plus charges of hypocrisy when it turned out that Proudhon and Tucker both defended something that looked a lot like private property.
Of course Proudhon and Tucker explained over and over again that by "property" they meant not a right of individual possession per se, but the form that right takes under a certain kind of oppressive society.
(Note that I am not here endorsing the specifics of Proudhon's and Tucker's views on property!! Merely ntoing an analogy.)
Roderick T. Long - 1/11/2005
Again, I think the question of whether the event in the novel is strictly rape or not is not decisive. Part of the mythology of rape is precisely that rape isn't really rape; rapists frequently convince themselves and/or others, or try to, that the rape was really welcomed. So of course the glamorization of rape in literature is often going to take the form, in popular culture, of encounters that look as much as possible liker ape while being technically consensual. That's what I meant above when I said that the scene in The Fountainhead glamorizes rape regardless of whether it technically counts as rape -- so that latter question, while worth discussing, is to some degree a red herring.
In the novel Dominique describes her experience this way: "He was working in a quarry. He didn't ask my consent. He raped me." And again: "I've been raped... I've been raped by some redheaded hoodlum from a stone quarry.... I, Dominique Francon.... Through the fierce sense of humiliation, the words gave her the same kind of pleasure she had felt in his arms." Wendy McElroy argues, in her contribution to _Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand_, that Dominique doesn't literally mean that she was raped, and is using that description only because it's sexier. Well, okay -- but *why* is it sexier to call it rape or pretend/fantasize that it's rape? I'm not denying that it's sexier. But what facts about the way sexuality is constructed in our culture make it sexier? What is the wider significance of those facts?
(I would add that the fact that our sexuality has been constructed a certain way is consistent with a number of possible views as to how we should respond to that fact. That is a further issue.)
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/11/2005
"Well, it's called rape in the novel."
I don't remember that; I'll have to go back and look for it. Admittedly, Dominique is protrayed in the novel as having a rather disturbed personality, at least for most of the novel. Leaving aside the psychological and ethical status of so-called "rape by engraved invitation," can it be equated with rape or a glamorization of rape when it happens to factually be the way the woman (or man) likes it? If so, then you and Charles are operating with a much broader definition of rape than I am. Certainly, in real life, the rationalization by men for their rape that the woman gave them an "engraved invitatiion" is problematic. But in a dramatized scene in a novel, in which it seemed rather unambiguously to me that Dominique wanted Howard to take her, I don't see that one can legitimately call it rape other than loosely metaphorically. Don't forget the full context of the novel and Rand's work. As I said, however, one can very well take issue with Ayn Rand's notions of sexuality and sex. On a somewhat related note: I think it is a legitimate question to ask, given our (humanity's) still rather limited knowledge of sex (biology) and gender (socially constructed), just how much of our sexual and other behaviors are a natural part of human nature?
"By the way, there's also the rape (still more unambiguous) in _Night of January 16th_."
I haven't read any of Rand's fiction besides her four novels yet. One of these days I'll get around to it.
John W. Payne - 1/11/2005
I consider myself a fan ot Hunter Thompson, and I can think of only two cases of possible rape glamarization in his writings (his personal life treatment of women is a wholly different matter and has been less than exemplary, to say the least).
The first is his depiction of the Hell's Angels who often participated in often in "gangbangs" and not were not infrequently charged with rape. These facts are portrayed in Thompson's "Hell’s Angels," but that is just a matter of pure fact. Pehaps it will be objected that Thompson glamorizes the Angels as a whole. To an extent I can see this, but I think it's more the case that there is something intrinsically intriguing about people and goups of people that break social mores and taboos at will. But in the end, I think Thompson portrays the Angels as something to be feared; he does almost get killed by them at the end of the book over a keg of beer, after all.
The other is in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" when he and his attorney go to the diner, and his attorney threatens and humiliates the waitress with a knife. I'm willing to be that actually happened, and I don't think Thompson considered it to be a good thing, but he isn't trying to tell a morality play, just the ugliest of thruths. Also, his attorney isn't glamorized in the book or the movie. He spends most of his time completely incoherent and idiotic, and at one point threatens Thompson's life as well. If the book or movie would make anyone want to become like one of the characters it would be Thompson himself, once again, not that he hasn't done some awful things to women, but his behavior in that work is far superior to his attorney's.
Roderick T. Long - 1/11/2005
Well, it's called rape in the novel. Outside the novel, Rand shifted between denying it was rape and calling it "rape by engraved invitation." Whether or not the incident was a literal rape (we needn't debate that right now), the fact that the *point* of the scene is its similarity (at the very least) to rape, and the scene is meant to derive its sexiness from that fact, surely makes it count as a glamorization of rape. (Especially since real-life rapists often *claim* to have received an "engarved invitation." and even if we dismiss it as consensual fantasy play, we can still ask why sexual fantasies so often take that form.)
By the way, there's also the rape (still more unambiguous) in _Night of January 16th_.
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/10/2005
Ayn Rand's Fountainhead? I believe Ayn would be the first to dispute the notion that the scene between Dominique and Howard at her home is an example of rape, much less a glamorization of it. If Howard had raped her, Dominique would hardly have stuck with him throughout the rest of the novel. One may disagree with Ayn's ideas about the nature of men and women and sex, but let's not get sloppy with our literary interpretation.
Roderick T. Long - 1/10/2005
The paper that generated this thread is now online:
Be the first on your block to read it!
(I've also announced this in the main section.)
Jeanine Ring - 1/10/2005
"This shows a considerable faith in the reliability of the criminal justice system that I don't happen to share. In point of fact I know that it's false, if intended as a universal claim or even a statistical generality: the vast majority of rapes, for example, go unreported and unpunished. (I, for one, personally know men who raped or otherwise assaulted friends of mine and walk the streets today.)"
So do I.
"Given how rape survivors have been and still are typically treated when they make allegations public--and, for that matter, given what I, as a libertarian, know about the workings of government law-enforcement--I don't find this at all surprising."
And some women have no legal protection whatsoever. It is common wisdom among sex workers that one does not call the police if raped- the police simply will not treat rape seriously when the victim as a prostitute- to the point that in a recent Florida case involving three men who allegedly raped a prostitute, the charge was immediately reduced to sexual assualt as soon as the victim's occupation came out.
As a result, the usual estimate is that only 4% of prostitutes physically or sexually assaulted contact the police; most consider themselves their basic line of self-defence- it's common for sex workers to carry pepper spray or other weapons and to take self-defense and martial arts classes. A basic problem is that, as an ex-colleague Veronica Monet put it, "the things you do to protect yourself from the police are exactly the opposite of the things you do to protect yourself".
Unfortunately, the result is that many sex workers- including myself- take it for granted that sooner or later we will make a mistake with the wrong client. The problem is that while most clients are quite respectful and one tries to screen out the rest, there are rapists who know perfectly well that a prostitutes will not call the police on them, and use sex workers' legal vulnerablity as a means to prey on them. Anarcho-capitalists here might find it interesting that sex workers maintain their own 'Pink Book' or 'bad date list' of clients which intelligent workers can check new clients against, and more successful escorts and professional submissived (as I am training to become) sometimes hire their own security guards.
One major problem is that police, who are among the mosre conservative members of our society, often view sex as divided not between coercive and noncoercive but between reserved and publically availiable women- the police simply don't see rape as hurting a woman who is sexually promiscuous since she had already 'put out' for strangers. Women are still viewed in term of purity, marriage, or as 'damaged goods.' (which is why when a married woman is raped, our culture stereotipically focuses on the *husband's* pain.) If you are damaged goods, our culture doesn't see what serious harm rape does, since rape is not viewed as a crime against a person's *will* or *choice* but against their *moral-sexual identity*. Considering that our government's general attitude towards sexuality is generally to protect marriage as an institution for the common good and not to protect individual rights, this is hardly surprising. After all, a society that doesn't want you to have it your choice to have sex is not going to respect your choice to not have sex either.
Jeanine Ring )(*)(
P.S. I can't help but find some rather dark humor in my comments here vis a vis the title of this thread.
Charles Johnson - 1/10/2005
I think two issues need to be separated here.
1. There's a *philosophical* issue as to whether or not class analysis of *any* sort involves premises that qualify as "collectivist" in some way that should make them objectionable to libertarians.
2. There's an *empirical* issue as to whether or not there is, in fact, a class system of male supremacy over women in the culture and society being discussed.
It's important to note that these are two different issues. Of course, if (1) goes against class analysis, then there's no point in going on to (2). But it doesn't go the other way; whether you answer (2) positively or negatively, (1) remains open; there are a lot of class analyses in the boat with feminist analysis based on claimed hierarchies other than sex (e.g. economic class, race, sexuality). Historically radical individualists such as Spencer, Tucker, Spooner, de Cleyre, etc. have been willing to apply class analysis in more or less all of these cases. You might argue that conditions have changed since the 19th and early 20th century in relevant ways, and that class analysis that was once factually well-justified no longer is. O.K.; I'd disagree, and we can argue about that, but if that is the response, then you have already conceded the ground on (1) by admitting that there are historical cases in which this sort of class analysis is legitimate and useful.
"As a man, if I commit a rape, or batter anyone for that matter, I will be prosecuted and imprisoned."
This shows a considerable faith in the reliability of the criminal justice system that I don't happen to share. In point of fact I know that it's false, if intended as a universal claim or even a statistical generality: the vast majority of rapes, for example, go unreported and unpunished. (I, for one, personally know men who raped or otherwise assaulted friends of mine and walk the streets today.) Given how rape survivors have been and still are typically treated when they make allegations public--and, for that matter, given what I, as a libertarian, know about the workings of government law-enforcement--I don't find this at all surprising.
I don't find the fact that violence against women is nominally illegal in the United States--as opposed to, say, some parts of Pakistan, or Afghanistan under the Taliban, or modern Europe and America up to the mid-19th century--tremendously reassuring. This only refutes the feminist class analysis if the only means by which a class system can be created and enforced is through State power. But why believe that? Lynch law in the post-Reconstruction South was nominally illegal too--it was conspiracy to commit murder--but I would not know what to make of a claim that that fact made lynch law irrelevant to the class relations between black and white Southerners. How much does nominal illegality mean when widespread, frequent violence can usually be practiced with impunity and with a considerable weight of cultural hostility towards the victim and sympathy for the attacker?
"If you really want to combat a system of male supremacy, then, sounds like you should devote your energy to pushing for liberalization of the Arab world."
There may be many things that feminists, in the United States and abroad, could be charged with, but I don't think that too little awareness or political commotion around the cause of women in the Arab world, East Africa, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc. is one of them.
I asked: "do you think that there are *any* prevalent libertarian complaints against radical feminism that are based on misunderstandings (whether through ignorance or misreading) of what radical feminists have historically said and done? And if you do, how prevalent do you find them to be?"
Aeon responded: "I haven't made an exhaustive study of this specific question, but my general sense is that most libertarian criticisms of radical feminsim, incl. those made by libertarian feminists, is that radical feminism errs by being, well, illiberal. But hang on, when you ask about libertarian criticisms, are you referring to cranky letters in Liberty Magazine, or to real work by libertarian academic philosophers and political theorists? My guess would be that the former may well be prone to misunderstandings and caricature, but so what? The latter is surely not."
Fair question; although I am interested in the "cranky letters to Liberty" (and "crude remarks at conventions") genre--since some of my interest on this point has to do with actual libertarian and feminist practice, and the attitudes and actions of the rank and file are relevant here--my main question was about academic libertarian theorists. For myself, I can think of several examples of serious misunderstanding of radical feminist claims--sometimes apparently from lack of acquaintence with the material, and sometimes apparently from misunderstanding material in spite of familiarity with it.
Here are some examples:
1. Murray Rothbard's 1970 tirade against WL, in which, among other things, he clearly mischaracterizes feminist arguments on pay equity and apparently misreads Robin Morgan as a lesbian separatist, among other things, in the course of an obnoxious polemic that ends up describing the "quintessence" of the WL movement as "a bitter, extremely neurotic if not psychotic, man-hating lesbianism."
2. The popularity, amongst libertarian academics, of the claim that Andrea Dworkin and/or Catharine MacKinnon claims that all sex is rape, a claim that neither one ever made and which they have repeatedly denied when asked.
4. Wendy McElroy's claim, in Liberty for Women, that class categories in radical feminism are not fluid because they are fixed by *biology* rather than the use of force.
5. The popularity, in some libertarian circles, of Christina Hoff Sommers' distinction between "equity feminism" and "gender feminism," a pair of opposed categories that--so far as I can tell--actually track no historical tendency of thought and no shared premise whatsoever. (I don't know what "gender feminism" is supposed to actually be, but I do know that if you put Kim Gandy, Andrea Dworkin, and Mary Daly into the same political boat, you are surely misunderstanding something.)
More examples could be mentioned at length, but a number of these are discussed in the essay, so maybe it will be best to just post the URI when it goes up momentarily, and ask for comments on what is said there.
Charles Johnson - 1/10/2005
"Actually, I haven't seen much glamorization of rape in the popular culture."
Aeon, what about: the works of Norman Mailer, Henry Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, John Updike's _Rabbit_ series, Eldridge Cleaver's _Soul On Ice_, _A Clockwork Orange_ in film or print? How about Hitchcock's _Frenzy_, Sam Peckinpah's _Straw Dogs_, or perhaps less enlightening fare such as _Revenge of the Nerds_? The musical stylings of the Rolling Stones ("Midnight Rambler," for example), 2 Live Crew, NWA, or Eminem?
Or, need I say it, Ayn Rand's _The Fountainhead_?
The glamorization of rape and sexualized violence is not exactly an underground phenomenon. Feminist works such as Kate Millett's _Sexual Politics_, Susan Brownmiller's _Against Our Will_, Susan Faludi's _Backlash_, Sut Jhally's documentary _Dreamworlds_ and others discuss the matter at considerable length and with plenty of examples from various domains and periods of the culture.
(Note also that this is also bracketing entirely the contents of pornography, which should not be set aside in a discussion of popular culture, but which is whole new can of worms to open.)
The cultural treatment of rape has improved, somewhat, since the heydey of windbags like Mailer and Thompson, or the age of (incredibly mean-spirited) 1980s sex "comedies." But there is still a lot to confront out there, and if there have been any substantial changes for the better it would be pretty hard to say what might have caused that if *not* the sustained critique of rape culture by folks such as Dworkin, Millett, Brownmiller, Faludi, etc. for the past three decades.
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/10/2005
"I do wish that the left would stop guilt-tripping 'white males' about patriarchy and racism and such and instead use reason and experience to actually show *how* oppressive assumptions *are* built into the language, social structure, poltiical discourse, etc., that we take for granted."
Well said, Jeanine.
Jeanine Ring - 1/10/2005
"I don't think class analysis implies collective moral responsibility. The fact that social structures give power to certain groups doesn't necessarily mean that those people are guilty of anything. Though I also think part of Dworkin's point is that men can be guilty of contributing to, or of failing to combat, a climate that facilitates rape even if the men are not and wouldn't dream of being rapists themselves."
I most agree with this also- though I would add two things:
First, that members of socially (or politically) privileged classes are not neccesarily culpabale, but they become so not only though the direct exercise of power but through tacit support for the worldviews which support the system. If they can, I would urge members of privilieded classes to speak up and speak out against such systems, but I do think everyone should first and foremost just try to be happy in their own life, and I also think power comes with a lot of strings, and it is often very costly for the priviledged to speak out against their system; one can easily become a target by association, and it doesn't help that those like feminists opposed to the oppression are often nopt so welcoming themselves, for both understandable and inexcusable reasons.
Secondly, it's a fact of life that those who are relatively priviged are usually the first to speak out against systems of oppressions, simply because they have the time, liesure, seciurity, and poltiical protection to do so safely and keep the idealism neccesary to take on the world. Members of oppressed calsses, by defintion, have less access to education and liesure and the microphone and so often themselves find it *easier* to slip into official worldviews and dogmas (that's *why* oppressors don't encourage education among the coolies)- though of course the privileged often find it easier to just not think too hard about the system where they just happen to be on top.
I speak from personal experience: the only reason that I can speak out brazenly in favor of sex worker rights and culture is because of a background of priviledge and a lack of social ties that makes me much better able to protect myself and leaves me in a far less risky position than most of my sisters. Although sex workers are an incredibly diverse set and plenty are intelligent and conscious people (the most common reason women become prostitutes is to support their children), most would pay a much steeper social and legal price for being an open prostitute. As a result, an existing social silence is perpetuated and few speak up against the persecution or degrading cultural image of sex work.
I can't say how many times people have said sometihing to me like: 'you must be the most well-read prostitute on Earth'; the sad thing is the more I try to show the worth of the Life my showing my own worth, the more people close up their moral categories behind me and act like I'm 'not like the rest of them'. Sigh... this is how social oppression works and becomes self-fulfilling. Well, one reason I try to make a point about being a whore is precisely because I'm *not* different in kind from other sex workers, just more fortunate. And for that matter, there are actually traditions of intellectualism within some segments of prostitute culture that go back thousands of years.
"Dworkin makes these points in a more provocative anmd extreme way than I would. But in part that's just a matter of emphasis and rhetoric."
Here I must somewhat disagree.
Dworkin has at times fantasized about how rape and war would likely end if the entire human race was female, and she at times can go positively absurd, for instance claiming that modern society is going to genetically remake females into domestic and sexual types to service men (yes, I realize she is keying into some real, serious, and troublesome if eclipsed pieces of Western history, but she is still writing conspiracry theories). And at one time she claimed that modern pornography was promoted by older males in authority in the 1970s out of fear that their angy and traumatized sons would do violence against them and provided women as a rape object as a substitute target.
I think Dworkin has more problems that being extreme; her theories reek of an moralized narratives of perpetual victimhood which accept and translate the very repressive patriarchal values of the oppressing stratum- there is way too much in common between her and female supporters of patriarchy who champiopn women's special duffering as a source of virtue, status, and cultural power. The kind of mirror-image Manichaeism, moralized history, and revengeful politics that results is hardly an accident.
That doesn;t mean that there is nothing to defend in Dworkin or that she has not been misrepresented, especially in contrast to libertarians who too often hastily dismiss the very notion of systemized social oppression. But I do think her writings contain essential errors not attributable to degree, and not all her errors are intellectually honest.
Jeanine Ring )(*)(
Charles Johnson - 1/10/2005
Roderick, regarding alcohol-prohibitionist abolitionists:
> would the fact that the person in question was
> un-libertarian on the alcohol issue be a reason
> *not* to quote him or learn from him on the
> slavery issue? I can't see why.
> Because it's cherry-picking at best, and misleading
> at worst. If the underlying reasons for the person's
> saying something that, on the surface, you agree with,
> are wrong, then it's IMO not much use to quote that
I don't get it. Does having anti-libertarian reasons to favor one position preclude having libertarian reasons to favor another? Are we supposed to treat any analysis written by someone who held a non-libertarian position as fruit of a poisoned vine?
Are you willing to apply the same standards to the author of this "cherry-picked" quote?
> We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men
> are created equal, that they are endowed by their
> Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among
> these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
> --That to secure these rights, Governments are
> instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from
> the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of
> Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the
> Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to
> institute new Government, laying its foundation on such
> principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to
> them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and
After all, he not only endorsed but personally practiced, on a large scale, crimes against liberty far worse than anything Andrea Dworkin has ever countenanced (and made the protection of those crimes a significant part of his later political career).
Jeanine Ring - 1/10/2005
"That said, it's certainly true that many non-libertarians, and I would include Dworkin here, overstate the similarity between nonviolent-but-morally-problematic pressure and literal violence. But I think libertarians are often guilty of the same error. Where non-libertarians tend to infer from "this is a case of morally problematic social or economic pressure" to "this is virtually equivalent to literal violence and needs to be restrained by legal force," libertarians often make the same inference in the opposite direction, from "this is not literal violence and should not be restrained by legal force" to "this is a case of unproblematic and fully autonomous choice."
Beautiful said, Msr. Long. I would furthermore ass that the 'morally problematic social or economic pressures" are, like statism, undergirded by often unconscious ideologies as to the natural order of things, often among people who are formally opposed to oppression but contunue to performatively enact it in their manners of address, speech, and mental classification that determine their interactions.
I think one of the hardest obstacles in fighting patriarchy and similar systems of oppression is that many people's- men's and women's- basic sense of self and self-esteem is tied to images and values that are part and parcel of a patriarchal system, and any criticism of these values- which are the meat and potatoes of sexism- is un-individualist. The problem is that a certain kind of individualism is focused on a classically masculine defense of the 'self'- which is mistaken for pursuing one's own happiness, which sometimes requires a radical examination of the self.
Libertarians understand when looking at political correctness that even a leftist opposed to coercive implementing PC values may still be maintaining the hostile atmosphere of social and moral intimidation of PC, by their daily actions in life, and in the way they treat others; libertarians recognize PC as a *social* movement. But they don't do the same thing when looking to my the mind far more established and dangerous- but less overtly 'political'- similar customs and assumptions in patriarchal authority. But the problem is that the worldview of patriarchy, like the worldview of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, is largely taken for granted and built into the framework of institutions (such as marriage, family, corporate structures, the military, the sex industry, etc.) that it forms the kinds of goals and desires that many people reference for their basic sense of 'self'.
I think a large part of the problem is that many libertarians think individualism is about defending this 'self'. I know that my own attraction to libertarianism was largely that it put up a great deal of armor against leftist guilt trips, which constantly faulted me, as far as I could see, for the crime of existing^*. The problem was that in defense of my 'self' a large part of what I resisted were valid critiques of ways of being grounded in patriarchy and assumptions grounded in a priviledged position ehich were not only choking others- they were choking me into a repressive, angry, guarded, demanding and thus miserable person.
I do wish that the left would stop guilt-tripping 'white males' about patriarchy and racism and such and instead use reason and experience to actually show *how* oppressive assumptions *are* built into the language, social structure, poltiical discourse, etc., that we take for granted. Too many feminists who are willing to fudge principle to appeal to the worst women won't make the same effort for the best men. Of course, many feminist do take the high road- I personally recommend Ellen Willis more than any other- but unfortunately libertarians get presented with a horrifying composite picture of feminism patched in a gothic collage of MacKinnonite sexphobia, the silleist of postmodern, and the loopiest eco-feminism and generally read only the worst of the bunch (especially because the worst feminists are those most vocal on campuses). Most libertarians never read those with valid, insightful, and humanistic critiques that should appeal to men as well as women not primarily as a reproach, but as an opportunity for growth under the banner 'the unexamined life is not worth living.'
Jeanine Ring )(*)(
* As a transgender woman, I grew up as a straight white male, a child of priviledge in an upper-middle-class household; I was a defend-the-West Objectivist who hated the Left and whose Nietzschean elitism translated in alienation to a de facto bordeline conservatism. Coming out through the last two years has made me a bisexual transgender woman, a prostitute by profession, and by worldview sparked at the conjunction of Randian libertarianism, pro-sex feminism, and Straussian classicism... I'll just say it turned out to be a working and practical combination.
Well, you can never step in the same river twice.
As an individualist I thought changing sex wouldn't change me because it wouldn't change my mind. What I have found is that while changing sex indeed has left free will intact, it has changed so much of my perspective and experience in the world that I am very scarcely the same person.
Roderick T. Long - 1/10/2005
But are Dworkin's underlying reasons for opposing rape and violence wrong? How so?
Roderick T. Long - 1/10/2005
Well, I agree that there's a disanalogy, but I think the disanalogy actually helps Dworkin's case. In Congress, majority vote determines what the Congress does -- so Congress can't be oppressive unless a majority of its members is oppressive. Male supremacy in society doesn't work by majority vote, however; so the number of literal rapists doesn't have to be a majority of men. The effect of rape is to alter the balance of power between all men (rapists or otherwise) and all women.
I don't think class analysis implies collective moral responsibility. The fact that social structures give power to certain groups doesn't necessarily mean that those people are guilty of anything. Though I also think part of Dworkin's point is that men can be guilty of contributing to, or of failing to combat, a climate that facilitates rape even if the men are not and wouldn't dream of being rapists themselves.
Dworkin makes these points in a more provocative anmd extreme way than I would. But in part that's just a matter of emphasis and rhetoric.
M.D. Fulwiler - 1/10/2005
Dworkin never said all sex is rape. Here's what she said:
"Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. But I'm not saying that sex must be rape. What I think is that sex must not put women in a subordinate position. It must be reciprocal and not an act of aggression from a man looking only to satisfy himself. That's my point."
However, her statist anti-pornography and lefty feminist views are still noxious.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
"Look at the extent to which rape or near-rape is glamorized in popular culture."
Actually, I haven't seen much glamorization of rape in the popular culture. I don't know what you mean by "near-rape" -- either sex is consensual or it's non-consensual - but I certainly see no glamorization of rape - just the opposite, in fact.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
"would the fact that the person in question was un-libertarian on the alcohol issue be a reason *not* to quote him or learn from him on the slavery issue? I can't see why."
Because it's cherry-picking at best, and misleading at worst. If the underlying reasons for the person's saying something that, on the surface, you agree with, are wrong, then it's IMO not much use to quote that person.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
> "she holds that men, as a class, participate
> in a system of male supremacy"
> That's unlibertarian (it's collectivist)
>I don't see how it's collectivist, except in the >uninteresting sense of referring to a group.
Because it implies collective responsibility on all men for the oppression of women.
>substitute "men" for "political rulers" and "women" >for "citizens" in the above. Why does it suddenly become >inconsistent?
Roderick, most men I know have never beaten or raped anyone (my use of "most" here is purely out of deference to statistics -- to my personal knowledge, none has!). That's why it's a bad analogy. Ron Paul as a counterexample only proves my point -- he's notable because his shtick consists in reminding his colleagues that they are active oppressors, which is true. But you and I are not active oppressors of women -- and neither are most of our non-libertarian friends. So it's not like you're the Ron Paul of gender opporession. Ron Paul is admirable for fighting, from within, the _real_ and pervasive oppression and coercion of his instituion. But it's false that "male society" (= all men as a "class") is really and pervasively raping and battering women. Your analogy works in Iran, but not here.
Roderick T. Long - 1/10/2005
> This argument doesn't work either:
> "that patriarchal culture makes penis-in-vagina
> intercourse the paradigm activity for all sexuality"
> Actually, it's human phyisology that makes that
> the paradigm. No moral jugdgement on other forms of
> sex follows from that, of course, but that's rooted in
> biology, not culture.
Well, human physiology makes penis-in-vagina intercourse the paradigm of *reproductive* sexual activity; but presumably it's culture, not biology, that makes reproductive sexuality the paradigm for sexuality in general; and so it *is* culture, not biology, that makes penis-in-vagina intercourse the paradigm for sexuality in general.
> Non-sequitur. Our culture _disapproves_ of rape
> and violence -- they're crimes and are not considered
> correct behavior.
But surely it's more complicated than this. Our culture is deeply ambivalent about rape and violence; what's codified in law is not the whole story. Look at the extent to which rape or near-rape is glamorized in popular culture.
> And what does "vulnerability to extreme poverty"
> mean? In one (trivial) sense, everyone is vulnerable
> to extreme poverty. In any non-trivial sense, this is
> (a) no more true of women than men
I think statistically there's not much doubt that women are more at risk for poverty than men are. The income differential between men and women tends to cause a division of labour within the family; even when both the man and the woman work, the man, because he's usually paid more, specialises in his career while the woman devotes more time to housework and childcare. This fact reinforces the income differential that gave rise to it. When the couple splits up (as about half of all couples do), the woman is systematically disadvantaged in the workforce because she's invested less in her career. All this is old news, surely.
Roderick T. Long - 1/10/2005
Well, but Charles didn't say that Dworkin was a libertarian. What he said was that the main thrust of Dworkin's arguments, and the one most relevant to the present discussion, is the part that's consistent with libertarianism, not the part that's not.
Compare: in the 19th century, many abolitionists also favoured the prohibition of alcohol. Such folks thought slaery was worse than alcohol, and generally devoted more energy to the anti-slavery movement than to the movement to ban alcohol, but they did favour both. Now if we were to quote some good anti-slavery analysis from one of these folks, would the fact that the person in question was un-libertarian on the alcohol issue be a reason *not* to quote him or learn from him on the slavery issue? I can't see why.
Roderick T. Long - 1/10/2005
> "she holds that men, as a class, participate
> in a system of male supremacy"
> That's unlibertarian (it's collectivist)
I don't see how it's collectivist, except in the uninteresting sense of referring to a group.
> and as far as I can see false. First of all, I
> don't see any "system of male supremacy" in
> any non-question-begging sense. Our present
> "system" is ostensibly one of full equality
> before the law
Although Dworkin certainly has doubts about the extent to which the legal system is genuinely committed to sexual equality, it's also true that by "system" she doesn't *just* mean legal/governmental institutions, but social practices in general. One of the points we make in our paper is that it's a mistake to suppose that the only *systematic* or *institutionalised* social problems are the ones connected with the state.
> The analogy between "men as a class"
> and "political rulers as a class"
> doesn't hold. It's _true_ that all
> political rulers are participating
> in the coercion of the state, and
> it's _false_ that all men participate
> in rape and battery of women.
Well, it depends what "participate" means. Not all political rulers personally commit violence against citizens. Indeed, if members of Congress count as political rulers, then some political rulers (e.g., Ron Paul) are actively against such violence. Still, the system as a whole gives political rulers coercive power over citizens.
Libertarians have no problem seeing the above as consistent. So substitute "men" for "political rulers" and "women" for "citizens" in the above. Why does it suddenly become inconsistent?
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
"she holds that men, as a class, participate in a system of male supremacy"
That's unlibertarian (it's collectivist) and as far as I can see false. First of all, I don't see any "system of male supremacy" in any non-question-begging sense. Our present "system" is ostensibly one of full equality before the law, and the preferred libertarian, or even liberal, system is one in which this is actually the case. As a man, if I commit a rape, or batter anyone for that matter, I will be prosecuted and imprisoned. How is that a system of male supremacy? By way of contrast, Muslim countries typically _are_ systems of male supremacy: you can beat, and in many cases kill your wife or daughter merely for having offended your sensibilities. This is not only not a crime, but in fact socially approved. If you really want to combat a system of male supremacy, then, sounds like you should devote your energy to pushing for liberalization of the Arab world. This analysis makes some sense there, none here.
The analogy between "men as a class" and "political rulers as a class" doesn't hold. It's _true_ that all political rulers are participating in the coercion of the state, and it's _false_ that all men participate in rape and battery of women.
"do you think that there are *any* prevalent libertarian complaints against radical feminism that are based on misunderstandings (whether through ignorance or misreading) of what radical feminists have historically said and done? And if you do, how prevalent do you find them to be?"
I haven't made an exhaustive study of this specific question, but my general sense is that most libertarian criticisms of radical feminsim, incl. those made by libertarian feminists, is that radical feminism errs by being, well, illiberal. But hang on, when you ask about libertarian criticisms, are you referring to cranky letters in Liberty Magazine, or to real work by libertarian academic philosophers and political theorists? My guess would be that the former may well be prone to misunderstandings and caricature, but so what? The latter is surely not.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
This argument doesn't work either:
"that patriarchal culture makes penis-in-vagina intercourse the paradigm activity for all sexuality"
Actually, it's human phyisology that makes that the paradigm. No moral jugdgement on other forms of sex follows from that, of course, but that's rooted in biology, not culture.
"that penis-in-vagina intercourse is typically depicted in ways that are systematically male-centric and which portray the activity as iniated by and for the man (as "penetration" of the woman by the man, rather than "engulfing" of the man by the woman, or as the man and woman "joining" together"
Actually, the word "intercourse" really does have the mutualist meaning you're looking for. As to slang, note that both the genteel "making live" and the less-genteel "fucking" can be used by either sex about either sex.
"that the cultural attitudes are reflective of, and reinforce, material realities such as the prevalence of violence against women and the vulnerability of many women to extreme poverty, that substantially constrain women's choices with regard to sexuality and with regard to heterosexual intercourse in particular"
Non-sequitur. Our culture _disapproves_ of rape and violence -- they're crimes and are not considered correct behavior. And what does "vulnerability to extreme poverty" mean? In one (trivial) sense, everyone is vulnerable to extreme poverty. In any non-trivial sense, this is (a) no more true of women than men and (b) true only of a small fraction of women (and men). So how this "constrains women's choices" about sex is unexplained. I hope this isn't just code for some patronizing "poor women can't think straight" type argument.
"therefore, drawing the ethical lines in regards to sexuality *solely* on the basis of individual formal consent rather than considering the cultural and material conditions under which sexuality and formal consent occur makes it hard for liberals and some feminists writing on sexuality to see the truth of (4)"
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
"Why do I need to be "tactful" in dealing with a crazed woman with a warped mind?"
It's not a matter of being tactful in delaing with _her_, it's a matter of maintainig civil discourse in Liberty and Power comment threads. When you post a comment, you're talking to us, not her. So let's stick to substance.
"Answering her lunatic drivel is like trying to respond to "Mein Kampf" or trying to reason with an ax murderer."
Right, but you're not answering her lunatic drivel when you post here - you're answering Bob Campbell and Charles Johnson.
"An insane lesbian man hater who thinks most or all sex is rape does not deserve common courtesy."
Perhaps not, but we do. Civil discourse in comments threads, please.
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/10/2005
Charles, you say "there's no demand, from libertarian principles, that libertarian feminists abstain from calling for government action against rapists or batterers....in fact it's an issue where Dworkin is in agreement, not in opposition, to the libertarian argument."
You seem to be arguing: libertarians don't oppose calling the cops in cases of rape or battery, Dworkin wants to call the cops in cases of rape or battery, therefore Dworkin is in agreement with the libertarian position on calling the cops. That's fallacious. It's fallacious because there's much more to the libertarian position on calling the cops than what Dworkin would agree to, and there's much more to her view on calling the cops than any libertarian would agree to.
M.D. Fulwiler - 1/10/2005
Oh gee whiz!---people are offended! I insult some awful statist woman and you'd think that I just advocated that she be beheaded or something. Now I get called "bigot." Oh, that smarts!
I do indeed think that a person's physical appearance - to the extent that it is under one's control - does reflect on that person. Dworkin and ~many~ left-wing feminist women seem to go out of their way to be ugly. If you think that is just personal opinion and is somehow offensive---well, you probably think Jackson Pollack's paint splatters are just as artistically accomplished as the Mona Lisa, or that a man with 30 body piercings is attractive.
When I say Dworkin is insane, I mean irrational. I agree with Szasz that there is no such thing as literal mental illness. But if you can use the word coercion in a non-libertarian way, I can use the word insane in a non-literal way.
Lots of people who score high on I.Q. tests are "dumb" in my book. Very, very dumb.
I stand by my opinion that Dworkin hates men ~in general~ and pointing out that she is a lesbian was just descriptive. Pointing out that Ellen DeGeneres - who actually looks nice and has a pleasant personality - is a lesbian is not expressing an opinion on lesbians in general. I'm gay myself so I have no problems with homosexuality per se.
And I am aware that you can be a man and a feminist. Look, I believe women should have equal rights with men, OK? Do you imagine I want to bring back chattel slavery for women? I just detest the typical leftist feminist, because they are not feminists in the good sense of the term.
And do you honestly think that the term "bitch" does not apply to any woman? Frankly, a woman who wants to use physical force to ban lap dancing and adult films is a "bitch." If that makes Dworkin feel bad----great! She should feel bad.
If you think you can win Dworkin over to the libertarian cause, or want to talk to leftists, more power to you.
And if you folks want to insult me, go ahead. Hey, I can even send you my picture and you can comment on my appearance. Sticks and stones...
Roderick T. Long - 1/9/2005
I think it's interesting that when Robert C. raises the issue of how "feminists ... will take such remarks," M.F. automatically reads that as equivalent to "what other women think," as though all feminists were women. As a feminist myself, I certainly don't have to be a woman to find M's comments on Dworkin offensive.
Roderick T. Long - 1/9/2005
Hi all! I haven't commented in this thread yet because a) I've been too busy preparing for classes, which start this week, b) Charles and I will soon be posting a copy of our actual paper (and not just the 2-sentence summary that kicked off this discussion!) and most of what I'd say is already covered in that paper, and c) I don't have much to add to Charles' and Jeanine's comments here anyway. But I do want to amplify just a bit on the topic of coercion.
First, it's important for libertarians to recognise that the libertarian use of the term "coercion" is not standard English. There's nothing wrong with that -- every field needs its technical terms -- but we shouldn't confuse the technical libertarian use with the standard use, which is both broader and narrower than the standard use. In standard English "coercion" means something like: using intimidation or pressure to get someone to do something he or she wouldn't otherwise do. This is broader than the libertarian sense (since threatening to fire someone will then count as coercion in the standard sense but not the libertarian sense) but also narrower (because banging you over the head with a shovel just to hurt you, not to get you to do anything, will be copercion in the libertarian sense but not in the standard sense). So when a non-libertarian talks about being "coerced" by poverty, it's a mistake to treat that remark as though coercion bore its libertarian meaning.
That said, it's certainly true that many non-libertarians, and I would include Dworkin here, overstate the similarity between nonviolent-but-morally-problematic pressure and literal violence. But I think libertarians are often guilty of the same error. Where non-libertarians tend to infer from "this is a case of morally problematic social or economic pressure" to "this is virtually equivalent to literal violence and needs to be restrained by legal force," libertarians often make the same inference in the opposite direction, from "this is not literal violence and should not be restrained by legal force" to "this is a case of unproblematic and fully autonomous choice."
I would add that I'm not suggesting that libertarians should reach out to Andrea Dworkin as a "potential ally." (Nor am I suggesting that they shouldn't, for that matter. I just mean, that's not the point of invoking Dworkin here one way or the other.) What I would suggest is that libertarians can *learn* from Dworkin and incorporate her insights where she is right.
So I don't see the point of exclaiming with horror that Dworkin favours some unjust laws. Well, of course she does; she's not a libertarian, and all non-libertarians favour some unjust laws. It surely can't be the case that libertarians have nothing to learn from any non-libertarian theorist.
More broadly, I don't see our paper as a matter of libertarians reaching out to feminists, as though we're the libertarians over here waving to those feminists over there. We *are* feminists already. One benefit of making libertarianism more feminist would be that it'd be easier for libertarians to make alliances with feminists, but that strategic point is not, in my view, the *fundamental* reason for libertarianism to incorporate more feminist insights. The fudamental reason is that those insights are *correct*.
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/8/2005
My bad... I see that some of my questions are answered in "I Want a Twenty-Four Hour-Truce During Which There Is No Rape." However, it still seems as if (from the writings I have seen) her arguments are rather one-sided. She mentions that men are victims of the same socialization as women, that they are socialized in such a way that tends to encourage the unequal treatment of women. But her focus is mainly on the harm to women and what men to do women. What about what a patriarchal, chauvinistic culture does to men? What about men as victims of rampant false accusations of rape or sexual harrassment.? Or men as victims of domestic female violence and verbal abuse, which I take to be much more prevalent than commonly thought? As Dworkin seems to realize, these issues are two sides of the same coin. Granted my experience with radical feminist literature is limited, but feminism often seems one-sided in this way.
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/8/2005
I have only read Dworkin's essays linked to in the post above, so I can't speak for the rest of her work. I certainly won't disagree that libertarians may be able to find something of value in her work. I can find some elements of value in Hegel's work even though I disagree with his overall philosophy. Perhaps, as you say, she tends toward anti-authoritarianism, but is not sufficiently individualist. Her willingness to applaud and support government intervention on the issues she cares about is problematic for libertarians.
I am curious what her positions might be on the plight of men in a chauvinistic world. A chauvinistic culture harms both men and women. I have read, and it seems quite plausible, that men tend not to report female violence and verbal abuse against them (say from their spouses) for various reasons such as male pride. How does Dworkin feel about rampant sexual harrassment suits? Surely men are often victims of this as well and it seems to me that sexual harrassment laws are all too often taken advantage of by women. Is Dworkin also against male pornography and prostitution or just against female pornography and prostitution?
Jeanine Ring - 1/7/2005
"1) that patriarchal culture makes penis-in-vagina intercourse the paradigm activity for all sexuality; other forms of sexuality are typically treated as "not real sex" or as mere precursors to penis-in-vagina intercourse and always discussed in terms that analogize them to penis-in-vagina intercourse; (2) that penis-in-vagina intercourse is typically depicted in ways that are systematically male-centric and which portray the activity as iniated by and for the man (as "penetration" of the woman by the man, rather than "engulfing" of the man by the woman, or as the man and woman "joining" together--the last is represented in the term "copulation" but that's rarely used in ordinary speech about human men and women); (3) that the cultural attitudes are reflective of, and reinforce, material realities such as the prevalence of violence against women and the vulnerability of many women to extreme poverty, that substantially constrain women's choices with regard to sexuality and with regard to heterosexual intercourse in particular; (4) that (1)-(3) constitute a serious obstacle to women's control over their own lives and identities that is both very intimate and very difficult to escape; (5) that intercourse as it's actually practiced occurs in the social context of (1)-(3), and so intercourse as a real social institution and a real experience in individual women's lives is shaped and constrained by political-cultural forces and not merely by individual choices; (6) that, therefore, drawing the ethical lines in regards to sexuality *solely* on the basis of individual formal consent rather than considering the cultural and material conditions under which sexuality and formal consent occur makes it hard for liberals and some feminists writing on sexuality to see the truth of (4); that (7) they therefore end up collaborating, either through neglect or endorsement, with the sustanence of (1)-(3), to the detriment of women's liberation; and (8) feminist politics require challenging both these writings and (1)-(3), that is, challenging intercourse as it is habitually practiced in our society."
Msr. Johnson: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Thank you, and apologies to Dworkin for being impressed that anyone can reduce her rather... er... personal and circuitous writing style to eight succinct points.
I applaud, and totally agree with all of the above; you might know that here in San Francisco, where the anti-sex type of feminism is thankfully on the wane, sex workers and former sex workers are active in teaching sex classes that emphasize sex as a diffuse and potentially woman-centered erotic activity; Carol Queen's Good Vibrations (http://goodvibes.com) sells feminist pornography and erotic fiction and even formally rates videos for woman-centered sexual pleasure.
I even know several indiviudals, including one (hetero-) couple who teach Tantric Sex practice, who empasize the costs to *men* of sexual phallocentrism and goal-orientation, in that men in our culture are extremely constrained from enjoying sexuality outside of a power context that makes sex about egotism rather than pleasure. I have heard and come to believe the thesis that most men are in fact pre-orgasmic, in that men are taught to 'take' sexual pleasure is a way suitable for ejaculation but too rushed to allow for genuine orgasm; the procreative approach to sexuality handed down from Leviticus still robs men, as well as women, from really enjoying sex beyond release. We have as much mythology about male sexuality as we did in the Freudian 50s days of morallly mandatory 'vaginal orgasms'.
A significant number of sex workers of certain traditions actually see themselves as sexual healers of male pain in patriarchy, a perspective that is not my own (though it is a variant of my own), but from the actual experience of seeing how tortured many men are in their inability to sexually express, one I can easily understand. One very common reason for men to seek a prostitute is to finally find a nonjudgemental sexual context without moral or performance expectations, and it actually is common for men to let out tears and emotion to sex workers because it is the once case where they are allowed to be intimate without immediate criticism for masculine inadequacy. Men actually are sometimes sensitive to prostitutes in ways they never are to girlfirends or wives, simply because they don't have to keep up a front of being 'real men'. I've heard that a favourite joke among girls in massage parlours is the customer who wants to go down on them and amuses himself thinking he's the first man to ever so this with a working girl. But actually the punchline is that this is farily common- for the simple reason that a man risks his ego and moral status with his wife if he dares ask her to do the same sexually.
For the direct benefits to men of listening to Andrea Dworkin's criticism of penetration, I would recommend _The Multi-Orgasmic Man_, by Mantak Chia and Douglas Abrams Arava, whose title should reccomend itself... the authors use Tantric techniques removed from Western assumptions about sexuality (though Tantric Buddhism in its historical form has its own sexisms); the book can be found at Good Vibrations. I should say I cannot vouch personally for the authors' particular techniques, but I can vouch personally for the effectiveness of Tantric practices generally... I will leave it to the positivists and empiricists to fret over their theoretical troubles.
BTW, I hope you'll forgive me for some explicitness, but I consider myself a libertarian and a radical feminist, and do feel involbed in this sort of discussion and I hope it is not minded if I provide empircal backing to the principles here stated; I do have real experience here, for some of the same reasons as Dworkin herself.
Jeanine Ring )(*)(
Jeanine Ring - 1/7/2005
Again, thank you. I'm obviously, as someone who chose prostitution as a conscious choice in life, rigourously opposed to Dworkin's blanket condemnation of prostitution, though at the same time ideas like Dworkin's highlight a continuous experience that what I chose to do (in the context of being as a fairly naive transgender girl new to social pressures upon women), is on a continuum with things expected of most women every day. And even there, female sexuality is continuously scrutinized for moral purity in the face of a potential loss of social status-rights that may mean the difference between stable employment and the expectation of legal justice and the lack of it. I know other women tho love and enjoy the Life as I do, but few if any who aren't conscious of how social power-structures and virgin/whore standards of sexual propriety can influence the very existence of legal justice. I myself am very fortunate in one respect not to have recieved an initial female socialization which I've seen do terrible damage to female self-confidence, but even so, and even as someone with a personal stake at opposing Dworkin's politics, I can't completely deny all elements of her social analysis. (That said, I would prefer to recommend 'pro-sex' feminists such as Ellen Willis, Annie Sprinkle, Susie Bright, or Margaret Cho as the most likely rewarding allies for libertarians.)
On your points on 'private' coercion and government intervention, I'm also quite in sympathy. My own experience here has been more with issues of family coercion and authoritarianism; I've seen many libertarians sneer at the idea of the very idea of child protection statutes, but I can't see what's libertarian about giving adults the power to physically coerce children or what's individualist about turning a blind eye to young persons reared under systems of fear and authority. There are no people on Earth more addicted to control than parents who try to make their children into extensions of their own identity, yet many libertarians latch onto technical concerns about property and disregard entirely the effect of people who spend the first 18 years of their lives in conditions that would otherwise called simply slavery. The same things are as you point out done in cases of maritial rape and domestic violence- and having personally seen for more human ruin from such things than from any action of the state, I can't help but think that their are some affairs where libertarian images of 'every man his own castle' turn into ideologies of authority rather than liberty.
Sometimes what we need in answer to state sovreignty is not so much 'individual sovreignty' but a deconstruction and letting go of what it means to be sovreign.
Charles Johnson - 1/7/2005
Thanks, Jeanine, for your kind words about our essay. I think that you and I may disagree about many things at the end of the day but the need to bring vigorous feminist debate into the world of libertarian activism is certainly not one of them. I agree with you that there are many feminists--and, contrary to what many libertarians seem to take for granted, radical feminists significantly more so than liberal feminists--who are open to libertarian insights, if we will only take the trouble to acknowledge gender as a serious issue in its own right and talk about a respectful alliance of equals. There's a long history of feminist activism independent of, or directly in opposition to, State power and both libertarians and feminists would be wise to look to it.
Thanks also for your enlightening comments elsewhere in the thread.
Charles Johnson - 1/7/2005
My last general overview touched on a lot of things I wanted to say, but I realized that I spent enough time on it there that I never got around to directly answering Robert's direct questions. Again, speaking for myself; what Roderick agrees or disagrees with I'll let him say.
The essay that we presented at APA (with the sections we didn't have time to read restored for your reading pleasure) should be posted online as a draft-in-progress soon. I'll post a URI when we have one.
Let me start by saying that when I single out "I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape" for praise, I really mean it--it's an essay that fundamentally changed how I think about myself as a feminist. I don't think of it as a great piece of libertarian feminist writing, but as a great piece of feminist writing simpliciter. Which, I'd argue, is good enough on its own; the problems with patriarchy aren't all reducible to problems with sexist governments (although there are many such problems), and insofar as patriarchy is a system of oppression often allied with, but independent from, statism, feminist activism and theory can have independent merit without saying much or anything about the need for anti-statism on a particular occasion.
Of course, that's a raft of assertions that are contentious. I'll bracket the discussion of whether patriarchy *is* in fact real, pernicious, autonomous from statism, objectionable even when autonomous from statism, etc. for now; it's an important discussion to have, but right now let me put it out there as one position among many in the space of libertarian positions, and address to what degree Dworkin's work is compatible with that sort of feminist libertarianism. Here's what Robert mentions regarding "I Want a Twenty-Four Hour Truce During Which There Is No Rape":
"Here is one passage that I think might deserve comment. Keep in mind that the essay is not based on a speech that Dworkin gave to the tribal elders of Waziristan. It is based on a speech that she gave to the National Organization for Changing Men, in St. Paul, Minnesota:
'We women. We don't have forever. Some of us don't have another week or another day to take time for you to discuss whatever it is that will enable you to go out into those streets and do something. We are very close to death. All women are. And we are very close to rape and we are very close to beating. And we are inside a system of humiliation from which there is no escape for us.'"
How you react to this passage is likely to depend a lot on what you think about the prevalence and effects of male violence against women. Since Robert marks out this passage without any comment further than saying it deserves comment and that it was given in Minnesota rather than Waziristan, I'm not sure what he means to ask about it, but it seems that he might find it an overstatement. (If that's not what he meant to say, I apologize, and look forward to being set straight.) What I can offer is this: in a society in which (according to rather conservative measures of the CDC's National Violence Against Women Society), about one out of every four women has been attacked, in the form of battery or rape or both, by her husband, fiancee, boyfriend, or date, Dworkin is right. I think we know enough about rape and battery at this point to know that she is also right that they are part of a larger cultural system that denigrates women and proclaims men's right to control "their" women (wives, girlfriends, daughters), and that rape and battery are the nominally illegal but frequently excused expressions of that system in the form of violence.
The point of the passage is to urge pro-feminist men to take serious political action against gender violence *now*, because the problem is overwhelmingly large and urgent, and women who are facing the threat of rape or battery don't have time to wait on the sort of touchy-feely guilt politics that was somewhat popular in the "pro-feminist men's movement" of the 1970s and 1980s. I agree, and I think that the point applies quite broadly to a number of political tendencies that have urged feminists to hang out and wait until some magic bullet (e.g. overthrowing capitalism, ending racism, smashing the state, creating a culture of individualism, etc.) solves the problem.
Back to Campbell:
"A good deal more in this speech is worthy of comment, but I want to give priority to Dworkin's conclusion:
'Even in wars, there are days of truce. Go and organize a truce. Stop your side for one day. I want a twenty-four-hour truce during which there is no rape.
'I dare you to try it. I demand that you try it. I don't mind begging you to try it. What else could you possibly be here to do? What else could this movement possibly mean? What else could matter so much?
'And on that day, that day of truce, that day when not one woman is raped, we will begin the real practice of equality, because we can't begin it before that day. Before that day it means nothing because it is nothing: it is not real; it is not true. But on that day it becomes real. And then, instead of rape we will for the first time in our lives--both men and women--begin to experience freedom. If you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong. You cannot change what you say you want to change. For myself, I want to experience just one day of real freedom before I die. I leave you here to do that for me and for the women whom you say you love.'"
Well, what needs comment here? Isn't it true that if you have a conception of freedom that includes the existence of rape, you are wrong? Isn't it true that a society in which rape is extremely prevalent will therefore be seriously retarded in any attempt to practice both equality and love between those who are made to live in fear of rape and those whom they are made to fear? Shouldn't we long to experience a day of freedom from the threat of sexual assault?
Of course, no-one seriously thinks that a one-day "truce" like this is possible. I take it that if someone is reading this as a suggestion of political strategy for pro-feminist men rather than a visionary political fantasy intended to get the point across--that a commitment to freedom for women needs to include a serious commitment to *ending* rape--then that is a pretty curious form of uncharitable interpretation.
I comment a bit, briefly, on the issue of collective guilt and class analysis in reply to Aeon; Roderick's talked about the need for libertarian class analysis at somewhat more length elsewhere.
"Keep in mind, too, the definition that Dworkin puts forth in the same essay:
"And by rape you know what I mean. A judge does not have to walk into this room and say that according to statute such and such these are the elements of proof. We're talking about any kind of coerced sex, including sex coerced by poverty."
I think that Dworkin is mistaken to assimilate otherwise unwanted sex that results from economic necessity with rape. But I think she's right that the two have more in common than many people care to admit and that it's important not to lose sight of those similarities even as we insist that, from the standpoint of the law and the defensive use of force, the two have to be strictly distinguished.
As for the use of "coerced," well, I think there are two different ways the term is used, as I mention in my response to Mark Fulwiler, and that the important thing here is to give the standard libertarian arguments that violence is only justified as a defense against coercion in the narrow sense. But Dworkin's use of "coercion" here is not particularly unusual or any more egregious than the broad use of "coercion" by Leftists and conservatives alike (Leftists frequently use it in reference to harsh economic realities; conservatives often use it in reference to pervasive cultural pressures; I think that both have a right to use the word that way but that both are quite wrong to take that as a grounds for calling in State violence).
"The same goes for Dworkin's views on sexual intercourse, which she insists have been so grossly misrendered."
Dworkin's views on heterosexual intercourse have been grossly misrendered. Broadly, the theses of INTERCOURSE and similar work elsewhere are: (1) that patriarchal culture makes penis-in-vagina intercourse the paradigm activity for all sexuality; other forms of sexuality are typically treated as "not real sex" or as mere precursors to penis-in-vagina intercourse and always discussed in terms that analogize them to penis-in-vagina intercourse; (2) that penis-in-vagina intercourse is typically depicted in ways that are systematically male-centric and which portray the activity as iniated by and for the man (as "penetration" of the woman by the man, rather than "engulfing" of the man by the woman, or as the man and woman "joining" together--the last is represented in the term "copulation" but that's rarely used in ordinary speech about human men and women); (3) that the cultural attitudes are reflective of, and reinforce, material realities such as the prevalence of violence against women and the vulnerability of many women to extreme poverty, that substantially constrain women's choices with regard to sexuality and with regard to heterosexual intercourse in particular; (4) that (1)-(3) constitute a serious obstacle to women's control over their own lives and identities that is both very intimate and very difficult to escape; (5) that intercourse as it's actually practiced occurs in the social context of (1)-(3), and so intercourse as a real social institution and a real experience in individual women's lives is shaped and constrained by political-cultural forces and not merely by individual choices; (6) that, therefore, drawing the ethical lines in regards to sexuality *solely* on the basis of individual formal consent rather than considering the cultural and material conditions under which sexuality and formal consent occur makes it hard for liberals and some feminists writing on sexuality to see the truth of (4); that (7) they therefore end up collaborating, either through neglect or endorsement, with the sustanence of (1)-(3), to the detriment of women's liberation; and (8) feminist politics require challenging both these writings and (1)-(3), that is, challenging intercourse as it is habitually practiced in our society.
(Which is, I will add, not the same as declaring the anatomical mechanics of intercourse somehow antifeminist, or equating all heterosexual sex with rape, or coming out against sex.)
"Finally, I am curious to know what Roderick and Charles think of an op-ed from 2002, which praises the city council of Glasgow, Scotland, for enacting a ban on lap dancing. Including their interpretation of the final line."
Well, I think that she's wrong about the law and right about lap-dancing (and strip clubs, generally). But libertarian feminism broadly, and a libertarian feminist appreciation of Dworkin's valuable work on rape and battery specifically, is to some degree a separable issue from whether you agree or disagree with her about whether strip clubs and lap-dances are pernicious. "Libertarian feminism" as such leaves that question open for feminists to argue over, and only demands that whatever they decide, government force neither used nor be confused with cooperative community action.
As for the last line, I take it to be a pretty common form of rhetorical excess. People often talk about beating people that they think hold scummy positions, forcing them to read some important work at gunpoint, etc. as a way of sharply pointing out what a sleazebag or doofus they think the person is, without seriously meaning it. It is enough to point to Dworkin's endorsement of government force to find a point at which she is wrong; there's no need to make an uncharitable reading in order to manufacture others.
This is only the beginning of what should by rights be a vast discussion; but I hope that it's helped Robert understand my position a bit better.
Jeanine Ring - 1/7/2005
To M Fulwiler-
> An insane lesbian man hater who thinks most or all sex
> is rape does not deserve common courtesy.
She deserves no less that would an insane straight man hater- how kind and telling of you to drag Ms. Dworkin's sexuality into it. And Dworkin's not insane, though as a sex worker familiar with her writings I suspect she has an unusual personality formation as do many who get involved with the life.
BTW, 'insane' seems to imply she's not responsible, but then you clearly do hold her responsible. Strange how you can say she's too nuts to take seriously yet sane enough to deserve your personal pain as punishment (see below). Thinking of the libertarian Thomas Szasz, sounds like a technique of silencing to me.
> However, Dworkin could look like a Greek Goddess and
> she'd still be a dumb b***h.
Out of curiosity, which Greek Goddess might you have in mind? I reference Hecate, for instance; most depictors of the Goddess of the Crossroads praised her in manners other than her comeliness. Or I consider the Furies or the two immortal Gorgons? Perhaps it would not be unfitting to equate Sworkin with a Greek Goddess for such purposes.
And 'dumb'; do you truly believe she is unintelligent? Or is 'dumb bitch' (just spell it out, for Goddess' sake!) just a convenient term to short-circuit rational thought and slap down a woman with a specifically female image of intellectual worthlessness carrying cultural power? I string that to sound its note by itself
> As for "social justice" --- my philosophy is that if
> you take care of the means the ends take care of
This doctrine is convenient for those quite comfortable with the ends to which society is already structured. Those who are not comfortable with the present order of things may sometimes think it their place to take matters into their own hands.
My philosophy is that if you keep touch with your ends and take ethical care with the means that the method will take care of itself. But to paraphrase the terrible Bolshevik, sometimes herstory moves too slowly and needs a push- or at least ocassions for a theorization and a call to praxis. Generally: fight force with force, performative with performative, argument with argument- and I hold ignorance in power as no excuse.
> My comment on Dworkin's appearance is simply stating
> the obvious, and was intended to be insulting and
> hurtful to her if she ever reads this blog. And
> actually Dworkin's appearance does reflect on her inner
> ugliness. I've known plain looking women (and men) who
> were able to look reasonably nice, despite not being
> blessed with great genetics.
In other words, you write to cause pain for the purpose of causing pain, and justify yourself as best you can in judging a book by its cover; you actually think that it's people's business to make themselves attractive as a display of their moral worth. Mon dieu! And I thought *I* was spiritually obsessed with appearence. What a wonderful person you are!
For what it's worth, lesbian culture has its own cultural traditions of beauty which center about self-possession, athleticism, and/or ease of motion- you might call it a female-fashion modernism of 'form-follows-function', shades of Howard Roark. You might think individualists with their typically instrumentalist focus would find much to praise in the nusiness-first andro-dyke aesthetic. Of course, I'm just a bisexual femme with a reactionary personal style that might be tactfully called adapted feminist neoclassical, so what do I know?
>....but "coercion" has to mean the use force or the
> threat of force. I don't see any other libertarian
Msr. Fulwiler, please cut it out. I don't appreciate being told what definitions 'have' to mean or any other Aristotelian ways to velvet up authoritarian epistemological nonsense. If you want to say why we should use words in a given way, fine- but don't tell people about the one right way written up some Rand's or Rothbard's Thomistic Heaven. You're setting up a lattice of words and concepts which by dualizing the public and private make feminist concerns merely unthinkable. I confess I once to my shame did the same in a prior life, but the point remains that when libertarians hush up uncomfortable socail questions because they feel threatened in their individualism and social unanswerability, all they do is alienate those who care about real issues of social injustice and drive them to the Left. And of course prop of conservative structures of social injustice.
All right, I've said my bit. Msr. Fulwiler, you may in my book believe and do whatever you wish, but if you use socially-laden words against women to dismiss and hurt, don't be surprised to get the same treatment back. I suggest you either deal with those like Dworkin calmly or at least rationally or deal with the reasons you can't, instead of slapping them around as ugly, hysterical, man-hating, lesbian bitches. And cut this disingenious I-also-hate-some-men business ('I have many German enemies'); brother, it's been done before. If you just happen to bring up every crude sexist stereotype while attacking a feminist you claim to be obviously irrational but spout insults instead of explaining why, then guess what: that makes you a bigot. And bigots deserve exactly the kind of treatrment which you are going to get.
* * *
That said, let me say in gratituse that many men, and some women, are not bigots and are sincere in standing for feminism; the collectivist injustice of patriarchy does not justify the collectivist injustice of which at least some feminists are capable, to my mind Dworkin (at times) among them.
Jeanine Shiris Ring
Jeanine Ring - 1/7/2005
I just want to thank you for many well said words. I myself have recieved an immense amount of inspiration from feminists such as Susan Faludi, Carol Leigh, Shulamith Firestone and Ellen Willis, and a personal debt to cultural feminist historians such as Merlin Stone, Diane Eisler, and Sarah Pomeroy. Thank you (and MSr. Long) much for what you've written; after many experiences of seeing libertarians dismiss feminism- icluding I must add in honesty once myself, I am glad to see a signs of a more open approach among libertarians. As a pro-sex feminist who's a member of SWOP- which has more or less succeded COYOTE which was the only libertarian labor union in the country- I just want to say that you *do* have allies and that other feminists I know will take libertarianism benevolently and seriously if libertarians care about gender issues on their own terms.
Charles Johnson - 1/7/2005
'And yes, I do understand that some women find themselves in difficult situations, but "coercion" has to mean the use force or the threat of force. I don't see any other libertarian definition.'
Libertarianism is a theory of political justice, not of lexicography. If people sometimes (as they do) use the word "coercion" to refer to circumstances in which a man's or woman's range of choices is constrained by human-created conditions other than the use or threat of violence, then it seems to me that the best thing to do is to acknowledge the usage and to make the distinction between coercion in this broader sense and coercion in the narrower sense of constraint of choices by use of violence or threats. We can recognize that cases of constraint in the broader sense have some important things in common with cases of constraint in the narrower sense well enough while still arguing that only coercion in the narrow sense can legitimately be met with defensive force.
"And btw, most victims of violent crime are men despite what feminists would have you believe."
I'm not aware of any feminists who disagree with this. However, what has this got to do with anything? The overwhelming majority of male victims of violence are attacked by other men, not by women. Further, the nature of the violence is different; most violence committed against men consists of one-off assaults committed by strangers; the overwhelming majority of violence against women consists of assaults committed by a man that the victim knows, often by a man that she lives with, and is frequently part of a persistent pattern of violence. And both violence against men--overwhelmingly committed by men--and violence against women--overwhelmingly committed by men--are horrifyingly common in our society (about 60% of men and a bit more than 50% of women are the victims of a violent assault in their lifetime, according to the CDC's conservative estimates). If you think that these facts pose a *challenge* to the radical feminist understanding of men and women's respective places in American society, I don't quite know what to say.
As for the rest of M's comments, I quote one of my favorite philosophical anarchists, J.R.R. Tolkien:
'I have just received a copy of C.S.L.'s latest: Studies in Words. Alas! His ponderous silliness is becoming a fixed manner. I am deeply relieved to find I am not mentioned. [...] I think the best bit is the last chapter, and the only really wise remark is on the last page: "I think we must get it firmly fixed in our minds that the very occasions on which we should most like to write a slashing review are precisely those on which we had much better hold our tongues." Ergo silebo.'
M.D. Fulwiler - 1/7/2005
The following men are dumb p****s:
George W. Bush
Willianm F. Buckley
and most neocons
Charles Johnson - 1/7/2005
"I fully support the need to eliminate the amount of gender inequality based on irrational prejudices that still exists in America and the world, but libertarian feminists don't talk like Dworkin does (like victimized collectivists as Aeon Skoble points out). Nor do they call for government intervention."
I don't think that the charge that Dworkin is operating on collectivist premises in the passages cited is a just one, but I say more on that in my reply to Aeon above.
As for government intervention: I'm not sure what your target is here. It's true that Dworkin's applause for government intervention against, e.g., lap-dancing, or her advocacy for government intervention against pornography, cannot be endorsed on libertarian principles. (That does NOT mean, however, that her writings on the subjects of lap-dancing or prostitution are therefore without value for libertarian feminists; whether she's right or wrong about government intervention in response to a purported problem is a question distinct from whether she's right or wrong about the nature of the problem.)
But Dworkin doesn't just write on lap-dancing or pornography, and it's not her writings on lap-dancing or pornography that have, in the main, been cited in this discussion. A substantial portion of her work is on male violence against women, particularly in the form of rape and battery. And there's no demand, from libertarian principles, that libertarian feminists abstain from calling for government action against rapists or batterers. Now, it might not be strategically wise to put too much trust in government law enforcement as a solution to pervasive criminal violence; as an individualist I'd certainly agree. But that's a separate issue which can't be resolved apriori by reference to libertarian first principles. And in fact it's an issue where Dworkin is in agreement, not in opposition, to the libertarian argument:
"There is not a feminist alive who could possibly look to the male legal system for real protection from the systemized sadism of men. Women fight to reform male law, in the areas of rape and battery for instance, because something is better than nothing. In general, we fight to force the law to recognize us as the victims of the crimes committed against us, but the results so far have been paltry and pathetic." -- from Letters from a War Zone
M.D. Fulwiler - 1/7/2005
Robert and Jeanine:
My comment on Dworkin's appearance is simply stating the obvious, and was intended to be insulting and hurtful to her if she ever reads this blog. And actually Dworkin's appearance does reflect on her inner ugliness. I've known plain looking women (and men) who were able to look reasonably nice, despite not being blessed with great genetics.
However, Dworkin could look like a Greek Goddess and she'd still be a dumb b***h. I'm not trying to make friends here, so I couldn't care less what other women think of me. Why do I need to be "tactful" in dealing with a crazed woman with a warped mind? Answering her lunatic drivel is like trying to respond to "Mein Kampf" or trying to reason with an ax murderer. An insane lesbian man hater who thinks most or all sex is rape does not deserve common courtesy.
And yes, I do understand that some women find themselves in difficult situations, but "coercion" has to mean the use force or the threat of force. I don't see any other libertarian definition.
And btw, most victims of violent crime are men despite what feminists would have you believe.
As for "social justice" --- my philosophy is that if you take care of the means the ends take care of themselves.
Charles Johnson - 1/7/2005
"I have to say I don't see this at all. Just look at the Dworkin remarks excerpted in Bob's post: "You men" should stop raping -- the underlying collectivist premise here ought to be a clear signal that there's zero affinity for libertarian ideas here."
Aeon, this is surely stronger than can be justified. Herbert Spencer, in his old age, came to endorse military conscription; Thomas Jefferson, throughout his life, kept other human beings in outright slavery and used his considerable political influence to protect the institution. Neither position could be endorsed without collectivism of a far worse variety than anything Dworkin has ever employed, but that hardly means that either Thomas Jefferson or Herbert Spencer could be said to have "zero affinity for libertarian ideas."
As for whether she was right to address the men in the National Organization for Changing Men in the second-person plural about stopping rape, that depends on a further argument she makes. It is not that all men are collectively responsible for the fact that many men commit rape (although it is statistically *extremely unlikely* that, in an audience of several hundred men, she was not addressing, inter alia, some men who had committed rape). It is that she holds that men, as a class, participate in a system of male supremacy--an interlocking system of ideas, cultural practices, material conditions, government coercion, "private" coercion through violence, etc.--that, among other things, issues in the extraordinary prevalence of the rape of individual women by individual men. I think that there are similarly good grounds to say that there is a "political class" in the United States, and that not all the members of that class personally beat people up or throw them in jail for failing to live up to arbitrary government decrees; but they do participate in a system of oppression and exploitation that ultimately issues in, among other things, beating people up and throwing them in jail. And that it is worth while to point this out to them as one of the reasons why they should work to undermine the political class system that they participate in and benefit from.
Neither class analysis involves any attribution of collective guilt or collective responsibility; nor do they presuppose any kind of centralized command-and-control structure. (Lynch law in the post-Reconstruction South would be another excellent example). This is just class analysis. I think that the example of the 19th century individualist anarchists' writings on, among other things, racism, sexism, the exploitation of workers, and war, should be a good enough grounds for seeing that individualism is not incompatible, as such, with class analysis. If 20th century individualists mostly passed by class analysis then so much the worse for them, and the sooner we learn to do it again the better.
"I found it irksome that Roderick and Johnson assume that libertarian detractors of radical feminism are unfamiliar with the actual writings of radical feminists."
What we were trying to urge is not that all libertarian critics of feminism are unfamiliar with the actual writings of radical feminists, and if we suggested that I'm sorry for it. But let me try to make my presumptions and my aims a bit more clear indirectly with a couple of questions back to you. I agree with you that there are libertarians, yourself and Tibor among them, who have substantial experience directly with radical feminist writings; but do you think that there are *any* prevalent libertarian complaints against radical feminism that are based on misunderstandings (whether through ignorance or misreading) of what radical feminists have historically said and done? And if you do, how prevalent do you find them to be?
Charles Johnson - 1/7/2005
Thanks, Robert, for raising the issue. A full reply to some of all the points is way beyond what I can do in the scope of a comment, but that's no excuse not to get started with the space you've got.
"It would appear, then, that Andrea Dworkin is one leftist whom Roderick and Charles consider a potential ally."
I can speak only for myself and not for Roderick, of course.
I don't, actually, consider Andrea Dworkin a Leftist at all, exactly; in any case my recollection is that she rejects the term for herself. She's a radical feminist, and there are a lot of complicated historical and theoretical issues involved in positioning feminism vis-a-vis the traditional (male-dominated) Left, which may not be worth digging too deeply into just now. This is worth noting mainly because it may or *may not* be the case, in particular cases, that the reasons for urging an alliance with the (traditional) Left are the same as those for urging an alliance with feminists. What I have to say on behalf of SDS, for example, has some things importantly in common with and importantly different from what I have to say on behalf of Andrea Dworkin; Dworkin gets a lot of very important things that SDS misses, and SDS gets a few important things that Andrea Dworkin misses.
That said, what I think about Dworkin is that she is a very important, and very frustrating, figure. Important because of her contributions to radical feminist thought and activism, frustrating because of her failures to see the libertarian conclusions that her positions should ultimately lead her to. Broadly speaking, the purpose of taking a good look at the work of radical feminists such as Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, among others, is not because we consider them to be libertarian feminists (they aren't), or because we agree with everything they say (I certainly don't, and I take it that Roderick doesn't either), but rather to suggest that some of what they've written offers an important correction for the mistakes that have been made, both by some libertarian critics of feminism, and by those attempting some form of libertarian feminist synthesis. This may be sailing towards Scylla in order to avoid Charibdys, but there's a place for that in a fallen world, and I think that's actually overstating the problems with radical feminism as a whole pretty substantially. (As I mentioned in replying to a question from Tibor, most of the points at which, say, Andrea Dworkin's position is particularly problematic are points at which there are other well-established positions within the radical feminist traditions that are preferable.)
I guess part of all of this is a matter of emphasis, and of precisifying what we mean by quoting (e.g.) Dworkin or MacKinnon. It's a question worth asking, but I don't think that the answer really should be much of a head-scratcher once everything is said and done. Most libertarians wouldn't hesitate to pull a juicy quote from Thomas Jefferson; many if not most wouldn't hesitate to say that we can learn a lot from John C. Calhoun--even though both of them personally committed crimes against natural law far worse than anything Andrea Dworkin has ever done or countenanced, and even though Calhoun went so far as to defend holding other human beings in chattel slavery as a "positive good." Citing Dworkin or MacKinnon as sources of important lessons for a libertarian feminism shouldn't entail agreement with, or blindness towards, their real mistakes any more than citing Jefferson or Calhoun as sources of important lessons for natural rights and decentralist libertarianism should entail agreement with, or blindness towards, the monstrosity of American race slavery.
I think it's quite right to urge radical feminists towards more libertarian positions; I think one of the major points in our essay is that there are important things that libertarians can learn from radical feminists, too.
'Is Dworkin "solid on civil liberties"?'
Here I would say "No," but other Leftists and feminists certainly are. Also, though, that her position--problematic though it is--has often been profoundly mischaracterized by opponents, including civil libertarian opponents (it's bad, but it's neither as bad as they claim it is nor bad for the reasons they claim it is), and that opposition to it has been package-dealed with uncritical attitudes towards (e.g.) pornography that aren't actually justified by any argument from libertarian principles (or from any true principles, I think, but delving into that is something for another time).
'Is she one of those "whose instincts are firmly anti-authoritarian?"'
I'd say that they very clearly are--based on her essays and her memoirs, among other things; this may serve to point out that anti-authoritarianism is important and valuable but not always *sufficient*. She doesn't endorse government coercion, where she does, because she thinks a powerful government coercing people into a just cause is a great idea; she does it because she (rightly) thinks that the issue of violence against women and entrenched sexism is overwhelmingly large and urgent, and (wrongly) thinks that admittedly problematic and dangerous government interventions are justifiable in dealing with it, even though she is deeply and thoroughly suspicious of State power.
Is that a mistake? Yeah, it is, but I don't think it's a failure to be sufficiently anti-authoritarian. It has more to do with a failure to be sufficiently individualist. The two are related, but not the same thing at all.
'Is she perhaps neither--but her analysis of power relations in society is valuable to libertarians anyway?'
This much I'd whole-heartedly endorse.
More to come, here and elsewhere, I'm sure.
Jeanine Ring - 1/7/2005
>The woman is a grossly ugly, fat, evil b***h. That's all >I have to say
A wonderful argument, Msr. Fulwiler; logical and persuasive. Unfortunately; your approach has been anticipated in antiquity: by Thrasymachus the sophist.
> Sex "coerced" by poverty? ROTFL!
I disagree. I am a libertarian who thinks the term "coercion" is here dangerously imprecise, but the realities on the ground can be no laughing manner.
I've known women trapped in abusive marriages because of disability and a lack of support structure along in a society that treated their sexual access as normal; maritial rape is still not a crime in some states. I have known girls whose parents raised them traditionally feminine who were totally unprepared for independence and had little recourse to being taken advantage of by boyfriends and husbands. In the sex industry where I work in, I've known women doing prostitution for survival; transgender women kicked out by their parents, Asian women without linguistic skills, family backings, or legal proection, or artists who just had doors slammed in their faces for being too unconventional- who turned to the formal sex trade to survive. (That doesn't mean that the sex trade is per se exploitive or abusive- it's not- but considering the lack of legal rights and our society's moralisms which place sex work as most people's last resort, abusive can and does happen in parts of the industry, and this should be stopped because it's abusive and not out of hostility to the sex trade.)
This society is not a just one, both because it is not a libertarian society and because libertarianism is not enough to ensure social justice. Most women still live lives partially within *what* they are in relation to social reproduction and not *who* they are in relation to achievement, and in a society where access to economic independence is built around the assumptions of an achievement-focus, those not socialized to specialize in the public marketplace but instead in utterly neccesary emotional, sexual, or familial 'support functions' are at a decided disadvantage. Women in this society do have a relative lack of economic power, and granted the structure of sex-roles in this society which delinate desire as male and sexual embodiment as female, it is not surprising that the translation of sexual into economic power is a commonplace. In the more extreme cases of neccesity, this does lead to situations much like Dworkin describes; I have seen things in both respectable marriages and in my own Life that would make anyone queasy.
The principle of individual rights should not and need not blind us to the reality of social and economic injustuce in our or in any time. The day when we libertarians turn a blind eye to misery in our midst or declare that the misfortunate are precisely where they ought to be is the day we become what socialists have always claimed we are.
I myself am as opposed to Dworkin's views on sexuality as anyone here- her progeny recently used conscious dishonesty to defeat a resolution that would have moved Berekeley towards a simalucra of decriminalization of my own life (yes, to be clear, I am a prostitute). But that doesn't mean that I laugh at the idea of sexual exploitation occurring in our society, or at the idea that class or sex-class injustice exists is a reality. I think both can and do, and that libertarianism is partially the answer to end such injustice. Taking seriously the need to overcome other structures of oppression such as patriarchy is another.
Liberty and social justice don't have to be causes at ends; it is only the Andrea Dworkins- and the libertarian Charles Murrays in denial of or collobration with social injustice- that make them so.
Jeanine Ring )(*)(
Robert L. Campbell - 1/7/2005
Knocking a political opponent's appearance is a losing proposition. And feminists (they don't have to be radical) will take such remarks as instant proof of male chauvinism.
If Andrea Dworkin looked and dressed like Sela Ward, would that change the meaning of anything she said?
M.D. Fulwiler - 1/7/2005
The woman is a grossly ugly, fat, evil b***h. That's all I have to say.
Sex "coerced" by poverty? ROTFL!
Geoffrey Allan Plauche - 1/7/2005
Just from the excerpted paragraphs I can see that Dworkin has significant authoritarian leanings. And the linked essays offer more of the same. I fully support the need to eliminate the amount of gender inequality based on irrational prejudices that still exists in America and the world, but libertarian feminists don't talk like Dworkin does (like victimized collectivists as Aeon Skoble points out). Nor do they call for government intervention. To say that her words are disturbing would be an understatement. Might not an alliance with her sort do more harm than good to feminist and libertarian causes?
Aeon J. Skoble - 1/7/2005
I have to say I don't see this at all. Just look at the Dworkin remarks excerpted in Bob's post: "You men" should stop raping -- the underlying collectivist premise here ought to be a clear signal that there's zero affinity for libertarian ideas here. The analogy she makes is completely wrong: armies at war can have truces precisely because an army is, in the relevant sense, a collective, where orders are issued from the top. So if the General says "ok, everyone stop fighting next Tuesday," that's what happens. The class "men" isn't like that _at all_. There's no Boss Man who can "make" every other man stop raping. The collective-guilt, collective-responsiblity foundation here is anathema to individualism.
On a style note, I found it irksome that Roderick and Johnson assume that libertarian detractors of radical feminism are unfamiliar with the actual writings of radical feminists. Many of us are very familiar with them, and Tibor and I included a key selection from Allison Jaggar in our anthology after surveying many candidates.
Steve Burton - 1/6/2005
...to the Andrea Dworkin piece.
Do I understand correctly that certain guys who consider themselves libertarians consider her a potential ally?
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