Whip me, beat me and while you're at it cancel my N.O.W. membership.

Author:Currie, Kathleen
Position:Feminists war against each other over pornography


"The anti-pornography campaigndoesn't want to hear about pleasure and what turns us on,' Paula Webster, a feminist writer, defiantly told the feminists at the 1985 "Women and the Law' conference. Webster was representing the "pro-sex' side of the feminist debate over pornography and politically correct sex. "Something cold, mean, and unforgiving is being shoved down my throat by steely-eyed women who transmit a feeling of hysteria.' Portions of the audience that was packed into the room hissed and booed. "This campaign may really be a symbolic castration of men,' she continued to more hissing.

When Webster finished, Dorchen Leidholdt,co-founder of Women Against Pornography, took the microphone. "We're not anti-sex,' she insisted. Then she launched into a blistering tirade against Webster and the pro-sexers. "The pro-sexers aren't feminists, but sexual liberationists. They support sexual oppression of women.' Their support for anything from sex with children to pornography showed they'd been brainwashed by the sick male view of sexuality, she argued. To prove her point, Leidholdt recited some of the more outrageous comments from pro-sexers who attended a workshop a few years earlier on "erotic taboos' that was chaired by Webster: "I want to sleep with young girls. . . . I want to rape a woman . . .. I want to be fucked every which way.' Leidholdt thundered, "Where do these sadistic fantasies come from? We must look to the culture in which they develop. In this system, denigration is sexual pleasure.' She was greeted by the strongest applause of the day.

Spurred by the growing acceptance of the anti-porncampaign, fueled by the Meese Commission Report on pornography, the Great Sex Wars engage the best and brightest of radical feminists in an intellectuals' version of mud-wrestling. The two sides of the fight are now going at each other with an intensity not seen since the Stalinists and Trotskyists hurled pamphlets in the thirties. The anti-pornography activists believe their feminist critics front for pimps and pornographers, as well as champion "politically incorrect' sex. The prosex group derides the anti-porners as "sex cops' who threaten sexual minorities and free expression. Each accuses the other of betraying the credos of feminism. The debate is taken so seriously that both sides have taken to picketing each other's meetings, passing resolutions and signing petitions condemning one another, and fighting each other in the courts and at legislative hearings.

There's genuine merit at the core of each side'sconcerns--the degrading impact of pornography on women on the one hand, and the threat to personal freedom and free expression on the other-- but it has been all but swamped by the overblown rhetoric, obsessions, and kooky agendas of both factions.

Porn safaris

Those in the anti-pornography camp contendthat pornography is part of an "ideology of cultural sadism' that promotes violence against women, particularly rape, by casting women as sex objects to be degraded. But these feminists' views of degradation can be very broad, sometimes including heterosexual intercourse, which has been defined by Women Against Pornography as "intimate imperialism.'

This spring, feminist author and anti-pornographyactivist Andrea Dworkin published two new books calling for the abolition of not just pornographic displays of intercourse--but of intercourse itself. A 257-page meditation on the subject, Intercourse, condemns coitus and those who practice it, especially women. Women who claim to enjoy that act are labeled "collaborator, more base in their collaboration than other collaborators have ever been: experiencing pleasure in their own inferiority; calling intercourse freedom.' Dworkin's other book, Ice and Fire, is a novel whose only sympathetic male character cannot produce an erection.

Many of...

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