“A tangled web of mindfuck”: Andrea Dworkin and the Truth of Pornography

Magnus Ullén, Karlstad University
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Spring 2016), 145-171

This essay argues that Andrea Dworkin’s much derided argument against pornography may still prove productive if read in relation to her fiction. Taking note of the fact that Dworkin’s own novels have been accused of being pornographic according to her criteria, the essay explores the possibility that her radical feminist anti-porn stance, inevitably described as something of a moralistic backlash by sex-liberals, could be seen as a continuation of the pornographic imagination it so vehemently protests. Through critical readings of Dworkin’s novels Ice and Fire and Mercy, as well as her autobiographical works and theoretical writings on pornography, the essay demonstrates that the contradictions that beset her writings echo the contradictions inherent in our contemporary understanding of pornography. Much like the pornography she would resist, Dworkin’s writings invite a solipsistic mode of reading, the experiential rewards of which are not so much of an interpretive as of a sensual nature. In so doing, Dworkin’s fiction paradoxically proves an invaluable point of entry into the pornographic imagination, making evident its essentially monologic nature. While this circumstance may be damaging for her status as an agitator, it points to her continued—if as yet largely unacknowledged—importance as a writer.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]