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Porno and Me

January 22nd, 2007

If you’re wondering where I am today, read this. It’s from April 26, 2005, but it’s still the same old shit. Don’t be a Bad Samaritan.

More tomorrow.

Yours as always,


Andrea Dworkin died on April 9. I haven’t thought about her in years, and now I can’t stop thinking about her.

An asshole exposed himself in front of me my junior year in college. I was in the library at Portland State University, it was the middle of the afternoon. I yelled at him to get the hell away from me, and he wouldn’t. Why should he? I was studying at the far edge of the library, no security guards, cops, or librarians in sight.

There were ten other students in the vicinity, though. All male. All of whom ignored me. Again, why should this guy leave? No one was going to do anything about it, obviously. I thought at the time, “This is how Kitty Genovese died.” Remember her? Murdered in 1964, the year I was born, and people stood there like sheep and let it happen. People are goddamn sheep, you knew this, right?

My boyfriend at the time asked me later, laughing, “Why didn’t you go help him?” (Yes, he was in full jerk-off mode, the guy in the library.) I was so goddamn furious. I asked him, “Would you? If some guy walked up and started jerking off at you, would you want to touch his dick?” He was completely horrified by that little image, of course, and apologized profusely.

Too late.

I was scared, sitting there with my math homework. I was g.d. terrified, okay? Once my adrenaline freakout wore off. How could I leave? Would he be waiting for me outside the library? Would he grab me? Rape me? Kill me? I tried to walk out, and there he was, crouched two aisles over from where I had been sitting. He was pretending to read a book.

Finally, I asked one of the other students — who knew me, believe it or not, from history class, and still wouldn’t come help me until I requested, specifically, “Please will you walk me to the front door?” I reported it to the librarian, who said, and I quote, “You’re all sitting ducks back there.” Turns out this happened constantly, even daily. I reported it to campus security; they never caught him. That’s not to say he disappeared, or never did this again. I used to see him around campus occasionally, but by the time I found a security guard, he was always gone.

Years later, I’m on jury duty, and there the guy is, the defendant in the case they’re interviewing jurors for. Turns out he’d raped a PSU student. Kidnapped her and raped her. They were asking people to state, in front of this guy, their full names, what part of town they lived in, and who they lived with. I lived alone at the time, and yes, my phone number (but not address) was in the book. They didn’t get to me that day; I called in sick the next day and dismissed myself from the case, as it were.

What does all this have to do with Dworkin? I’ve been writing about sex crimes, feminism, “women’s issues” (and now, domestic issues) since then. I wrote all kinds of stories about the continuum of violence against women, that it’s a myth, this “harmless flasher” bullshit, this Bud Clark “expose yourself to art” bullshit. (You know him? Former mayor of Portland whose poster, of him “flashing” a sculpture of a nude, has been a big seller nationally and internationally for years now. Thanks, Buddy!)

Sometimes it’s a predator’s way of getting it up, so to speak. Getting up the nerve to, say, kidnap a woman and rape her. That girl he kidnapped and raped, that could have been me. Peace be with her.

Campus security got in trouble, because of some of my stories. Turns out they weren’t reporting the crimes to the police. Turns out the administration didn’t want the campus to be seen as crime-ridden. One of the stories I covered at the time was the antiporn ordinance that Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin helped craft, and that was made law for a time, in Indianapolis. You know who has bitched at me the most about my writing, my opinions, my politics? No one. Not a goddamn person. Because Dworkin was so freaking out there, okay? She made me look calm. And WM appreciates and adores anyone who makes her look calm. Dworkin was extreme and brave and she stood up for all of us women.

Occasionally, men have looked a little nervous when we’re discussing politics. Girl talk, as it were, of a different sort. “But you really wouldn’t want to make pornography illegal, would you?” they ask.

I say, “How about you just stop buying it?”

No comment, as Ms. Magazine would say. Honest to God, not one man has had a response to that.

“How about you just stop going to hookers?” “How about you start trying to have relationships with women your own age instead of committing statutory rape with teenage girls?” WM has a big mouth, y’all know that. Now you know where I got it — that day I couldn’t talk, couldn’t leave, was so terrified in the library.

Andrea Dworkin made me look reasonable. She will, even after death, continue to make my ideas and opinions and insane writing that I do look sane because she was so willing to take a goddamn stand. She was fearless. She was my girl. Mine.

I heard her speak once, in the late ’80s, at the Northwest Service Center. It was a benefit for the Council for Prostitution Alternatives, and the house was packed. All of the women who were trying to leave prostitution and find a new path in life were the VIPs. They were so beautiful, and so proud. I recognized one of the women, from my old neighborhood. They all sat right up in front and listened to every word Andrea said.

I was in tears, I’m serious. It was that good. She asked, as she had asked many times before, no doubt, “Why do men go to prostitutes? So they can be where another man has been. I say, take out the middleman!” Everyone was hooting and cheering. She made us all feel strong. She lifted people up, see? Women that other people wanted to ignore, or not think about. Women who had been beaten; women who felt like shit, who felt like they were actual pieces of shit, that unworthy; who were prostitutes; who were scared.

She lifted us up.

She was talking about women who have disappeared, sisters who are gone, who have been killed, or beaten down. Women who for whatever reasons aren’t allowed to realize their potential. And she just kept saying, “I want her back. I want her back. I want her back.”

In my darkest moments, when I “disappear,” when my true self, the true WM, disappears, or I lose sight of her, of me (what is this split we do, as women, when we lose the essence of our very own selves?)… I just think, “I want her back.” And it works.

And when people ask, “But you couldn’t really make pornography illegal, you know,” I say, “I want no images of women being hurt, mutilated, degraded, none. No kiddie porn (yes this includes teenagers), nothing where women are being made to appear submissive.”

(Ed. 1/22/07 to say: Or images of men. Ditto.)

So. Make pornography illegal? Promote separatism? (“You women want your own country, or what?” a male friend asked me once, incredulously. “Like where, Virginia?”) Yes, Virginia. I want Virginia to be just girls and no rapists, okay? And no porn shop RIGHT ACROSS THE GODDAMN STREET FROM THE MIDDLE SCHOOL, LIKE IT IS IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD. Is that cool, Daddy?

(Ed. 1/22/07 to say: The school across from the porn shop is now a grade school — kindergarten through eighth grade.)

Because in these times, where I’ve heard from so many women and men alike how much they enjoy a good strip show, cuz the girls are “expressing their sexual freedom” (Direct quote from a friend: “I asked him to take me! It was a turn-on!”) and we’ve got Paris Hilton and g.d. Britney Spears and this “I can express myself, see? Look at my new Victoria’s Secret bra” attitude all over the place, and “I’m just a girl” Gwen Stefani, etc. — it’s about goddamn time someone started screaming again.

God forbid I start looking unreasonable. I love you, Andrea. Peace.

(PS — Here’s an obit Katha Pollitt wrote about Dworkin.)

(PSS — Had to close comments on this post because of junk mail. Figures, doesn’t it?)


  1. edj says

    You go, WM! I’d vote to make porn illegal. (So would Donn, and a lot of men I know.) It is dehumanizing. Yeah, maybe it couldn’t happen, but that doesn’t mean don’t fight it.

    January 23rd, 2007 | #

  2. Terrible Mother says

    Love this post. And, oh yes, we must have drinks. Much drinkage will be had.

    I, too, attended PSU and while no one ever exposed himself to me, I was creeped out multiple times by guys following me. Once, a guy made a bunch of lewd comments as he did this. It freaked my shit out.

    January 23rd, 2007 | #

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