Andrea Rita Dworkin (September 26, 1946 – April 9, 2005) was an American radical feminist and writer best known for her criticism of pornography, which she argued was linked to rape and other forms of violence against women. Her views were widely criticized by liberal feminists and others. At the same time, she maintained a dialogue with political conservatives, and wrote a topically related book, Right-Wing Women. After suffering abuse from her first husband, she was introduced to radical feminist literature, and began writing Woman Hating.
After moving to New York, she became an activist and a writer on several issues, eventually publishing 10 books on feminism.
During the late 1970s and 1980s, Dworkin became known as a spokeswoman for the feminist anti-pornography movement, and for her writing on pornography and sexuality, particularly Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981) and Intercourse (1987), which remain her two most widely known books. She wrote on pornography from a feminist perspective and in opposition to obscenity law, and she worked with Women Against Pornography and Linda Boreman. She considered the pornography industry to be based on turning women into objects for abuse by men. Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon developed a legislative approach based on civil rights rather than obscenity to outlaw pornography and allow lawsuits against pornographers for damages, but their efforts were largely unsuccessful. She testified at a federal commission against pornography, leading some stores to withdraw certain magazines from sale, but a court ruled the government’s efforts unconstitutional. Critics argued that no causal relationship between pornography and harm to women had been found. In 1992, a Canadian court adapted parts of Dworkin and MacKinnon’s theory on sex equality, although Dworkin opposed parts of the court’s view. Some sex-positive feminists criticized Dworkin’s views as censorious and as denying women’s agency or choice in sexual relationships, leading to the so-called feminist sex wars.
Her book Intercourse, which addresses the role of sexual intercourse in society, has been interpreted as opposing all heterosexual intercourse, but Dworkin said it does not and that what she was against was male domination by intercourse. Some critics of Dworkin accused her of supporting incest, and she sued for defamation, but a court did not forbid the criticism. She subsequently wrote much in opposition to incest. She wrote some fiction, some of which was held for a time by Canadian customs authorities before it was released, giving rise to a controversy over whether her support for antipornography law had led to the seizure of her own work. When she said she was drugged and raped in a hotel in 1999, controversy over the truth of the allegations followed. In her later years, she suffered from severe osteoarthritis, which limited her mobility. She died of acute myocarditis at the age of 58.