Andrea Dworkin helps clarify some issues. The Glasgow council has become the first local authority in the UK to state it would object to all licensing applications for lap-dancing clubs on the grounds that they demean and exploit women. Miss Dworkin responded with an opinion piece, which was published in a Glasgow paper. Since she’s intelligent and a clear and vigorous writer the piece is worth looking at for the light it sheds on feminism and contemporary liberalism generally. (You don’t have to read the whole thing.)
It appears that Miss Dworkin has noticed that men and women are sexually different in ways that put them in different positions, and that women’s position involves a certain vulnerability. That is to her credit: in a literate, talkative and ideological age it takes superior powers to notice the obvious. Her problem is that she’s a philosophical liberal who can only conceive of men and women as asocial agents pursuing whatever impulses and desires they happen to have. She can’t understand them as constituted by complementary sexualities and existing within a common moral world, and so can’t conceive of a sexual morality that regulates their interaction in accordance with their nature and the relevant goods.
She therefore writes about what Sade wrote about: the nature of sex in an asocial world defined by the total liberation of impulse, in particular the impulses of pleasure and power. He chooses the side of the torturers and she that of the victims, but their vision is the same. As such, it has more reality than the vision of the liberal idealist who treats human beings as fundamentally nonsexual. Nonetheless, Dworkin’s writings (like Sade’s) have a sort of science fiction quality. Although a self-consistent development of certain aspects of reality, they bear very little resemblance to actual life on this planet. The fact they can be taken seriously as a contribution of public discussion is a sign of the radical disconnection between current political thought and human reality.