C.'s Reviews > Intercourse

Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin
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's review
Jan 16, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, feminism, non-fiction
Read from January 10 to 17, 2011

So, I guess this is the origin of the "all sex is rape" fallacy. Naturally, that's not what she's saying. But apart from the subject matter, which I think I might stay away from, what a strange, rambling book this is! I'm entirely unclear about why it began with five chapters of literary criticism, and whether this was supposed to illustrate the way the world was/is, or the way the world is perceived by men. At least she didn't try to draw sweeping conclusions based on the content of novels. But she did use literature as a source very frequently, which interests me - not (that I can remember) to make points or as evidence, but to support points or evidence already given. I'm pretty ok with this, unconventional as it seemed (to me at least, who is neither widely read nor fishing for compliments).

Her arguments seemed mostly pretty solidly put-together to me, except for the odd statement that seemed to skip a couple of logical steps, or which could at least have benefited from some elaboration. The main problem was her prose. I would say that the passion got in the way of the argument somewhat. Going back afterwards and trying to extract her points proved so exhausting that I gave up after little effort. I would like to hope that this is at least part of the reason for her unpopularity.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant For Andrea's true fruitcake qualities check out her novel Ice and Fire...!

message 2: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. I think I'm ok for now, thanks.

message 3: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Actually, that response was unfair. I think she was probably more angry than nutty.

message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant You haven't read Ice and Fire!

message 5: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Oh all right - I'll reserve final judgement. It's just that so many people decide she's insane when I think she's just very controversial.

Tozette I'm months late to the party, I'm afraid.

I don't think she's insane, and I think public media, such as it is, has been horribly unfair to Ms Dworkin. Her own experiences must colour her writing significantly, after all, and when she's explained (badly, usually) without context she tends to be represented like a well-medicated Valerie Solanas.

I'd recommend her speech on 'Prostitution and Male Supremacy', which is quite interesting.

message 7: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. I agree. I don't think she's insane, and the way she has been treated by pretty much everyone is grossly unfair. However, I do not like her writing style.

message 8: by Ian (new)

Ian "Going back afterwards and trying to extract her points proved so exhausting that I gave up after little effort."

Then why four stars? It must have sat well with you on some level.

message 9: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Although I didn't think she explained herself amazingly well, I was inclined to believe her ideas, and to believe that they were important, which was worth some stars.

message 10: by Ian (new)

Ian Fair 'nuff. I'm fascinated by the discussion but I don't know that I'll have the patience to read something that so many people say is not well argued/well written.

message 11: by C. (last edited May 22, 2011 06:59PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. It's well-written in its way, which is very ranty, but I didn't like it and I think it probably alienates a lot of people. Her arguments are solid, just... difficult to summarise. I'm trying to think of anyone who writes about the same things better, but am having difficulty. Catharine MacKinnon writes about the same things in a similar way, though perhaps slightly less annoyingly. Maybe check out Sheila Jeffreys? She is always fantastically clear and all her work is backed up very strongly with evidence. I'm not sure if she's written much that is explicitly about what Dworkin writes about, but the ideas are implicit in all her work.

Tozette Sheila Jeffreys! I've read 'The Idea of Prostitution' I read some time ago and it is, to my recollection, interesting and argued with more clarity than most of Dworkin's writings. But some of the things she's said about trans individuals in her writings are really beyond awful.

message 13: by C. (last edited May 22, 2011 10:21PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. I'm a big fan of Sheila - I'm taking a subject of hers at the moment and it's pretty much the best thing I've ever done. I knew hardly anything about transexuality before I came across her, and I've only read a a little bit about it from other sources, so I'm wary to say that I absolutely agree with her, but to be honest she seems as rational about transexuality as she is about everything else (i.e., very). I certainly think that calling her transphobic is ridiculous. Not that I'm accusing you of doing that!
*runs and hides*

message 14: by Hank (new) - added it

Hank Do people really find Dworkin's prose/argumentation to be unclear? I'm about two hundred pages into "Intercourse" and I've found it all to be incredibly -- refreshingly -- straightforward, if not angrily worded at times. Certain of the chapters seem to really highlight why it would be alienating to be a woman in modern society.

message 15: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Well, clearly I did. I do want to re-read this, though.

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