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Apologies to Andrea Dworkin, who did not like book critics and who, fourteen years after her death, from myocarditis, at fifty-eight, is being subjected to a round of us again. Out of the fray emerged the idea that she believed all sex was rape, which, along with her frizzy hair, dumpy overalls, and uncompromising positions on sex work and sadomasochism, came to epitomize radical feminist hostility throughout the nineteen-eighties and nineties.
Though she tempered her contempt for establishment stupidity with a naughtily blunt sense of humor and a deep-down belief that people could examine their ethics and change, her reputation always preceded her work, and she knew it.
Others advised her to use a pseudonym. Nothing is off in its own corner, isolated from the rest. When she was a freshman at Bennington College, she was arrested at a protest against the Vietnam War and taken to jail, where she was subjected to a brutal pelvic exam that left her bleeding and traumatized; at the urging of Grace Paley, a fellow-protester whom Dworkin looked up in the phone book afterward, she reported her story to the newspapers, prompting a grand-jury hearing.
The jail was eventually shut down. The latter claim is correct; the former, for those appraising Dworkin, may have been a little too convincing. You could call this a masculine way of writing, if you believe in that kind of distinction.
In a chapter on virginity, she turns to D. At the time she was writing, her injunctions to read her and take her seriously, and her exasperated efforts to clarify her intentions, were directed more at her detractors; now her defenders might be reminded to pay closer attention to the text.