Interviewed on Dallas Radio Talk Show
(The mp3 audio version of this file can be found here.)
October 17, 1998
ANDREA DWORKIN: . . . The question is: Does one feel the freedom to express not just anger but outrage and passion and the demand for equality and justice.
INTERVIEWER (David Gold, KLIF): Most people, I mean, gosh, I mean the overwhelming number of people listening to this program -- we've talked about these subjects before -- would agree with you about rape, would agree with you about child molestation and abuse of . . . spousal abuse, in whatever form that it takes ah . . . but your writing goes one step further that, that bothers me a little bit ah . . . as a man first of all I guess it's natural that some of this is going to bother me, right?
DWORKIN: Ah, I don't know, I think it depends on what kind of
man you are, probably . . .
INTERVIEWER: Oh yes but . . . page 119 in your book, ah . . . was
particularly interesting to me. You correct me when I'm wrong. Essentially I
am paraphrasing now: Men . . . men conquer women, men take women for
sex. Women get back ah . . . food. Essentially, marriage is nothing but
prostitution. There is nothing different from rape and seduction with a bottle
of wine . . .
DWORKIN: Well yeah, that's quite a paraphrase . . . First, you've got
to understand that this book is a collection of writings over an 11-year period
and that most of the writing in this book couldn't be published in the United
States. In fact the book itself, Letters from a War Zone, was published
in England a year and a half ago. You could call this collection a collection of
suppressed writings and the particular piece that you are talking about is
about why women are poor and what poverty has to do with the fact
that we're women. Now you know that the largest population of poor people
in this country are women and that the Labor department says that, by the
year 2000, women and their children will be close to one hundred per cent of
the poor in the United States, so what this has to do with is the sexual value
that's given to everything that we try to do that we think has an economic
value and the economic value that's given to the sexual dimensions of our
personality. I think that for women it is true that what men consider
seduction we also consider to be tricks, manipulation, various forms of
coercion, ah . . . I don't think there's too much dispute about that. Germaine
Greer used to write about what she called the "little rapes" and she meant, for
instance, when a man takes you out on a date and he drives a hundred miles
somewhere and then says "Either put out or walk home" and you have to
decide between complying with his demands or facing the unknown dangers
of the walk home. I mean women are put in that situation a lot, that hasn't
changed. So what I am talking about in that essay -- which in fact was a
speech that was given to a bunch of workers at a publishing house in New
York -- is why it is that women keep being paid so little money for the work
that we do and keep being expected to barter sex in the workplace instead of
being paid a decent wage and being sexually autonomous, in other words
being left alone.
INTERVIEWER: But Andrea, I . . . I . . . I find that most women
today will say "I don't have to act as we did, or my parents did, twenty or
thirty years ago. I am free to be married or not be married, I am free to carry
on a career, I am free of this sort of thing so that I don't have to sleep with
somebody, if I want to go out and have an evening with a gentleman I can go
out and share the tab and I'm not in any way, shape or form beholden to him
and most men, I, I think, like that . . .
DWORKIN: Well you know, I think that the fact remains that
women still report, 80% of us report that we experience sexual harrassment in
the workplace and that means that when we go in to work, we're expected to
put out for promotions that we have already earned by virtue of our work, or
other kinds of coercion or blackmail are used in order to get sex from us and I
think that . . . in fact a study was just done in Rhode Island of high-school
students and the results were staggering, something like 75% of the male
high-school students believed that if you paid for a movie or you paid for a
woman's meal out on a date, she owed you sex and that if you forced sex on
her, it wasn't rape because she owed it to you, so I don't think that attitudes
have really changed very much and the fact of the matter is rape statistics are
going up, they're not going down. And you can talk to people who say I feel
this way and I feel that way and it's fine, I am sure you are right that everyone
in the world agrees that rape is wrong and that child sexual molestation is
wrong but the incidences of this kinds of violence increase, they're not going
down, somebody is doing that . . .
INTERVIEWER: (interrupting) Isn't that because people are
reporting these things and they're more out into the open now? And . . . .it
would seem to me that there's much more knowledge. For instance most
men calling this show don't fall into the trap that men fell into twenty or
thirty years ago saying that if you didn't dress seductively etc., etc. this
wouldn't happen. Most men realize that this is a crime of violence, it's not a
sexual crime, it's a crime against women, ah . . . I just think that it's more out
in the open now, that's why this, this thing seems to be going up.
DWORKIN: Well, some of it is true that it is more out in the open,
although we are finding that once again women are actually stopping from
reporting rape. In other words the reporting of rape went up -- the reporting
to police -- , it is now going down again because the actual rapes have become
so much more sadistic that women once again don't believe that they will be
believed and as a result, now that there are rape crisis centers -- for which
most of us are very grateful -- , they will go to rape crisis centers but they will
refuse to report the rapes to the police. The fact of the matter is that we have
proof, we know that the average age of rapists is going down. It used to be at
around the 18 to 22 year-old range, that is the predominant number of rapists
were in that age category. We are now finding that it is lowered to 16 and it is
continuing to go down so . . . it sort of doesn't matter what you think in the
sense that people say one thing and do something else when it comes to
INTERVIEWER: Let's hear what's on people's minds out there
about this too. Our guest is Andrea Dworkin, the book called Letters from
a War Zone, published by E.P. Dutton [Circa 1988] There are a couple of
things that, that strike me and you probably get this all the time. First of all, it
is really tempting, there was a . . . you have the transcript of an interview that
you gave . . . can't remember where uh . . . in the book, where people ask you
questions and you wouldn't answer ha ha ha . . .
DWORKIN: I don't know what you are talking about.
INTERVIEWER: Oh there's. There's, there's . . .
DWORKIN: What transcript?
INTERVIEWER: Aaaaaaahhhh . . . you had an interview, a
television interview at one point and somebody said: "Are there, are there
men you admire?"
DWORKIN: Oh, no, that piece is called "The Nervous Interview".
Every piece in the book has a little preface that says where it came from and
when it was given and under what circumstances it was written and that is an
interview that I did with myself, it's a parody of interviews . . .
INTERVIEWER: Aah, OK.
DWORKIN: In other words, when you go around year after year
after year and people interview you, after awhile all the questions start to
sound sort of the same and you find yourself in constantly comic situations . .
INTERVIEWER: OK, I . . . I wouldn't do that . . .
DWORKIN: . . . so I wrote a parody of all the interviews that I had
ever been throughXXXXXX
INTERVIEWER: hee hee hee . . . Well y'see, I didn't do that, I
said it's tempting but I didn't do that. But you know what, you know what,
you know what kinda bothers me and listeners who listen to this show
probably say that uh . . . that you and I sound a lot alike about . . . about one
issue here, this issue that we've been talking about, women and economics.
Living here in Dallas and Fort Worth, there's a phenomenon I think that
goes on more than any place I've ever seen: Women Trade Looks For Money,
Men Buy Looks With Money. And it's, it's extraordinary: if you see a, an
attracti . . . uh, a younger woman in a BMW or a Mercedes or a Jaguar,
whatever, more often than not she's very attractive. And . . . we talk about
this on the air and it's a phenomenon. And men of course wear the Rolexes
and drive the Porsches and use that almost like barter. I, I don't know if I'm
capturing the essence of this . . . (long pause)
DWORKIN: Well I think, probably we may be looking at the same
phenomenon. I suspect we're looking at it differently. The fact is that, as
horrible as it is for women to face, we still only make at most sixty cents on
the dollar compared with men and in a lot of professions, actually it's a lot
less than that. And the highest paid jobs women have in the United States,
the only jobs in which women are paid more than men are modeling and
prostitution, that's it. So the fact of the matter is that for most women,
economic survival involves having a relationship with some man. For me, I
think that economic independance is so important because I think intimate
relationships should be freely chosen. And I think that when you're making
decisions about your intimate life out of the necessity of being able to eat, the
necessity of survival, that your freedom is deeply compromised so I, you
know, I remain on the side of the woman on that, I hate the necessity that is
created for her so that women have to think about money when women
think about men.
INTERVIEWER: So, so, so when women, when women -- and I
hear this from men all the time, single men -- they say "I don't have the
Rolex, I don't have the Porsche . . . (sentence missing from recording) . . .
they've got money and they've got women all over the place and uh, there's
no justice out there . . .
DWORKIN: Well, I mean, I don't think that that's true, I think that
many women really sacrifice their lives to men, because they admire the man
or, more to the point, because the men are doing things in life, in their lives,
that the women would really like to do, but that the women feel are closed off
to them because they're women. A lot of women live through men, they
realize their ambitions through the ambitions of men, they want to become
something so they find a man who is that already, because the blocks that are
up for women, the prejudices, the biases against women are so extremely
strong. And then the fact of the matter is that, no matter what we are talking
about, underneath it there is always the reality of sexual danger and sexual
violence which is just kind of waiting to destroy any woman at any time. She
can't predict when that will happen or who might be the man who might
react in that way towards her . . .
INTERVIEWER: (interrupting) See, see this is where, this is where I
have a problem right, right there . . . You . . . you come back to the rape and to
the molestation and to the seduction and to this problem, which is a problem,
and believe me you know, I think that a guy who rapes and is convicted, you
know I, I am in favor of the death penalty for people like that, for goodness'
sake, it's a crime that to me is every bit as demonstrably damaging as a
murder . . .
DWORKIN: Well we have, of all the rapes that we can figure out are
committed, only about one in eleven is reported and of the rapes that are
reported, only in about one in ten are there ever convictions. Most rape as
you probably know is not stranger-rape, a woman doesn't walk down the
street and then is attacked by somebody she doesn't know, most women are
raped by men that they do know, by acquaintances or on dates, women are
raped in their homes by husbands, unfortunately by fathers, by relatives, so
it's not as if we're talking about a society in which there is a safe place for
women and the reason that I keep coming back . . .
INTERVIEWER: (tries to interrupt) B-b-b-but the . . . I agree with
that, I agree with that . . .
DWORKIN: . . . the reason I keep coming back to it -- I'll be short --
is that I think that for most women it is the reality that underlies most of the
choices that we make.
INTERVIEWER: My . . . my point is that it's almost as if you're
casting, you know in the book you say there's two types of people in this
country: people with phalluses and people without phalluses . . .
DWORKIN: I don't say that anywhere. In fact, I give a speech in this
book to a group of men, it's to 500 men in the Midwest, and I say to them:
"What I want from you is a 24-hour truce during which there is no rape. Now
if you care about women, the way you say you care about women, that is the
least that you can do for us". Every effort is made, both in this book and in my
private life as a feminist, to say to men "Things do not have to be this way.
You don't have to accept them. Women don't actually have to be afraid of
you. But, if you want things to be different, you yourself have got to go out
and make some difference. As long as you accept living in a world where
Larry Flynt can say he speaks for you, and you don't say he doesn't, then rape
is going to remain what defines the relationship between women and
INTERVIEWER: Well! Larry . . . Larry Flynt doesn't speak for me
and I, you know, to me Larry Flynt is a, is a messed-up nut . . .
DWORKIN: Well, what I want to see then, what I say to men is "If
he doesn't speak for you, if pornographers don't speak for you, if rapists don't
express the way you want to see men with women, then we have to see
activism, we have to see picket signs, we have to see demonstrations, we
have to see you organizing and going to your State legislatures for legislation
that's going to make human dignity a reality for women in this country, but I
never say and I have never said that there are two kinds of people in this
world, those with phalluses and those without. I say society values us
according to whether we have penises or we don't and society devalues
INTERVIEWER: OK let me take this break, we'll go to calls. Come
and join us, Andrea Dworkin our guest, the book Letters from a War
Zone, we'd love to hear from you here at K-L-I-F.
MALE CALLER #l: Yes Andrea, your last statement was that society
sees men, sees two types of people, those with penises and those without, is
DWORKIN: That was Dave's statement. What I said is that I've
never made that statement but that what I am saying is that society constructs
the fact that men are valued for having penises, and women are devalued for
not having them. I'm not saying that those are the two kinds of people there
are, if we could get beyond social prejudice. You know there is pretty much a
long, long tradition of various intellectuals and thinkers in the society saying
that men are the people who can think, men are the people who can act, men
are the people who are capable of heroism, men are the people who can write
books, men are the people who can make art and usually, in the work of
those thinkers, they relate it to the fact that the man has a penis and that this
gives him some kind of courage and some kind of creativity that women
CALLER: But women are part of society, are they not?
DWORKIN: I hope we are. Sometimes we wonder I think . .
CALLER: (interrupting) Well, if you're part of society and you're
saying society does this, makes devaluation, women are part of society so
therefore, why are you picking on just men on this issue?
DWORKIN: We're part of society and we're brought up very much
to have very low opinions of ourselves and we are brought up without a lot
of access that men have to the opinion-making parts of society. That is
changing a little bit now but, in general, I know when I was growing up, I am
43 and when I was growing up, all the opinions that I heard, all the books that
were taught in school that I read were by men . . .
CALLER: (interrupts) Well, would you answer my question
CALLER: . . . Women are part of society, why are you just saying that
men are responsible for everything negative in society?
DWORKIN: I'm not saying for everything negative in society . . .
CALLER: (interrupting) Well if you . . . what? . . .
DWORKIN: . . . let me answer, I do think men are responsible for
the fact that they value themselves over women and that they teach us that
we're not really worth very much and that the only value that we have in
this society is pretty much the sexual use that we are to men . . .
CALLER: (interrupting) Well one more comment and I'll hang up:
all men, the vast majority of men are raised by women, and women as
mothers give us our values and therefore women . . . you know, you've
heard of the saying "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"? . . .
DWORKIN: Hmmm hmmm.
CALLER: . . . so I don't believe that you're being fair in your feminist
DWORKIN: Well, it was a line written by men. I have to tell you
that I think that mothers have always been held responsible for the outcome
of child-rearing. One mother once described it to me as having all the
responsibility and none of the authority, I mean in fact children are raised by
schools, children are raised by churches, children are raised by the kind of
athletic clubs that they join, there are all kinds of socializing factors and many
mothers now are trying very hard to raise their children with egalitarian
ideas about boys and girls but it's very hard to do in the face of this society that
still keeps saying: "Boys are worth more".
MALE CALLER #2: Hi Andrea, I infrequently take the time to call to
make my views expressed in a form like this but I really was so
moved by some of the things I heard you say that I felt like I had to . . .
DWORKIN: Thank you.
CALLER: Well . . . I'm moved in a negative way, I don't want you to
think that . . .
DWORKIN: Aaaah . . . sorry about that.
CALLER: It's just that you lumped me in to a category of animals
that I don't choose to be associated with. You told me that you adressed 500
men and said "If you really care about this issue, prevent rape for 24 or 48
hours." Cuz you know, your attitude that a whole group of people identified
only by sex would engage in that kind of behavior I think is an insult to me
and my character that I deserve an apology for . . .
DWORKIN: Well . . .
CALLER: . . . and I'll go further. And you also . . . I am a very
successful businessman, I happen to have worked for my entire career for
women, I never planned that and actually I had never even considered it or
thought about it very frequently. Just the fact of the matter is the
entrepreneurs, the people that control the money and the technologies for
which I always sought after happened to be female. I've never valued myself
over them, I don't value myself over the women that I love, over my wife or
my sisters or the people that I grew up with nor over anyone in my family,
and that you would intimate that that's common really infuriates me.
Go to Part II of the Dallas Radio
Interview with Andrea Dworkin