Andrea Dworkin on Prostitution

“… If you have been in prostitution, you do not have tomorrow in your mind, because tomorrow is a very long time away. You cannot assume that you will live from minute to minute. You cannot and you do not. If you do, than you are very stupid, and to be stupid in the world of prostitution is to be hurt, is to be dead. No woman who prostituted can afford to be that stupid, such that she would actually believe that tomorrow will come.

…. It is the use of a woman’s body for sex by a man, he pays money, he does what he wants. The minute you move away from what it really is, you move away from prostitution into the world of ideas… Prostitution is not an idea. It is the mouth, the vagina, the rectum penetrated usually by a penis, sometimes hands, sometimes objects, by one man and then another and then another and then another and then another. That’s what’s it is.

… I ask you to think concretely about your bodies used that way… I want you to feel the delicate tissues in her body that are being misused. I want you to feel what it feels like when it happens over and over and over and over and over and over: because that is what prostitution is… The circumstances don’t mitigate or modify what prostitution is.

And so, many of us are saying that prostitution is intrinsically abusive… Prostitution in and of is an abuse of a woman’s body. Those of us who say this are accused of being simple-minded. But prostitution is very simple… In prostitution, no woman stays whole. It is impossible to use a human body in the way women’s bodies are used in prostitution and to have a whole human being at the end of it, or in the middle of it, or close to the beginning of it. It’s impossible. And no woman gets whole again later, after… But nobody gets whole, because too much is taken away when the invasion is inside you, when the brutality is inside your skin. We try so hard to communicate, all of us to each other, the pain… The only analogy I can think of concerning prostitution is that it is more like gang rape than it is like anything else.

… An innocent woman is walking down the street and she is taken by surprise. Every woman is that innocent woman.  Every woman is taken by surprise. In a prostitute’s life, she is taken by surprise over and over and over and over and over again. The gang rape is punctuated by a money exchange. That’s all. That’s the only difference… You give a woman money and whatever it is that you did to her she wanted, she deserved…

It is always extraordinary, when looking at this money exchange, to understand that in most people’s minds the money is worth more than the woman is… The money is real, more real than she is… His so-called sexuality becomes the only thing that matters; her body becomes the only thing that anyone wants to buy…

Incest is the boot camp. Incest is where you send the girl to learn how do it. So you, don’t obviously, have to send her anywhere, she’s already there and she’s got nowhere else to go. She’s trained.  And the training is specific and it is important: not to have any real boundaries to her own body; to know that she’s valued only for sex;  to learn about men what the offender, the sex offender, is teaching her…

… We are all trying to find ways to say what we know and also to find out what we don’t know… It is the presumption of most prostituted women that one knows nothing worth knowing… What matters here is to try to learn what the prostituted woman knows, because it is of immense value. It is true and it has been hidden. It has been hidden for a political reason: to know it is to come closer to knowing how to undo the system of male dominance that is sitting on top of all of us.

I think that prostitutes experience a specific inferiority. Women in general are considered to be dirty… But a prostitute lives the literal reality of being the dirty woman. There is no metaphor…

The prostituted woman is, however, not static in this dirtiness. She’s contagious. She’s contagious because man after man comes on her and then he goes away… In general, the prostituted woman is seen as the generative source of everything is bad and wrong and rotten with sex, with the men, with women… She is, of course, the ultimate anonymous woman. Men love it… She is perceived as, treated as – and I want you to remember this, this is real – vaginal slime. She is dirty: a lot of men have been there… This is visceral, this is real, this what happens. Her anus is often torn from the anal intercourse, it bleeds. Her mouth is a receptacle for semen, that is how she is perceived and treated… She bleeds because she’s been hurt, she bleeds and she’s got bruises on her.

When men use women in prostitution, they are expressing a pure hatred for the woman’s body… It is a contempt so deep, so deep, that a whole human life is reduced to a few sexual orifices, and he can do anything he wants… She has nowhere to go… She is literally nothing…

He, meanwhile, the champion here, the hero, the man, he’s busy bonding with other men through the use of her body. One of the reasons he is there is because some man has been there before him and some man will be there after him… And what they have in common is that they are not her… All of those dirty words are just the words to tell her what she is… She is expendable. Funny, she has no name… She is no one. Not metaphorically no one. Literally, no one…

… Prostituted women are women who are there available for the genocidal kill. And prostituted women are being killed every single day, and we don’t think we’re facing anything resembling an emergency… They’re no one. When a man kills a prostitute: he feels righteous. It is a righteous kill. He has just gotten rid of a piece of dirt, and the society tells him he is right.

… But prostituted women are treated like a certain kind of object, which is to say, a target… But a target you go after. You put a dart in the hole. That’s what the prostitute for…

Men who use prostitutes think they are real big and real brave. They’re very proud of themselves – they brag a lot… Because they are predators who go out and hump women, they rub up against a woman who’s dirty and they live to tell about it… Unfortunately… I would like to say to say to you that these men are cowards, that these men are brutes, that these men are fools, that these men are able to do what they do because they have the power of men as a class behind them, which they get because men use force against women. If you want a definition of what a coward is, it’s needing to push a whole class of people down so that you can walk on top of them…

… We say we want to be human. We say that we want them to treat us like human beings…

… Prostituted women are all on the bottom. And all men are above them… Every man in this society benefits from the fact that women are prostituted whether or not every man uses a woman in prostitution.  This should not have to be said but it has to be said: prostitution comes from male dominance, not from feminine nature… I underlined that because I want to say that male dominance is cruel. I want to say to you that male dominance must be destroyed…

… That means taking power away from men… They have too much of it. They do not use it right. They are bullies. They do not have a right to what they have; and that means it has to be taken away from them. We have to take the power that they have to use us away from them. We have to take the power that they have to hurt us away from them… Any man who has enough money to spend degrading a woman’s life in prostitution has too much money…

… Now, it will cost you to fight them… And it is male dominance  that has to be ended so that woman will not be prostituted.

… Don’t respect their laws. Women need to making laws…

I am asking you to make yourselves enemies of male dominance, because it has to be destroyed for the crime of prostitution to end – the crime against the woman, the human-rights crime of prostitution: and everything else is besides the point, a lie, an excuse, an apology, a justification, and all abstract words are lies; justice, liberty, equality, they are lies… ”

This is part of a speech from 1992, and I found when I re-read I was angered and shocked at how so little had changed.

I will say very little for now, for Andrea Dworkin’s words speak so much that pushes me forward with my blog and my my struggle towards a world without prostitution.

All I will say is as long as we speak of statistics, in academic language and steer clear of the visceral pain and grief  – we will never understand the reality of prostitution to any women’s mind and body.

5 responses to “Andrea Dworkin on Prostitution

  1. So true, constantly referring to statistics makes the pain and suffering women involved in prostitution experience disappear. After all, we don’t want to hear the messy truth do we? No, let’s just keep on publishing statistics and then wait for the pro-prostitution/porn apologists to claim ‘but these are simply statistics and they are always rigged.’

    Such claims are used to divert attention away from women’s realities of what it actually means to have Johns rape and sexually torture women involved in prostitution.

    Sometimes we need to look at what was being written and said about prostitution just a few years back in order to see just how far we have come. Oh yes we have progressed all right – now prostitution is ‘just a job’ and it is no longer prostitution but ‘sex work.’ See prostitution has been given a ‘make over’ all the nasty realities have been airbrushed out just like the models’ bodies in women’s magazines and men’s porn mags. Everything must be made to appear pristine and clean. That’s why nasty things such as PTSD, the day-to-day abuse Johns heap on prostituted women must be kept hidden and out of sight.

    After all, we don’t want to see or read about the realities of Johns how they are normal, respectable men but who have one dirty little secret – they are all rapists and torturers of women, women’s bodies, women’s minds – but wait a second these women aren’t women – they are dehumanised things called prostituted women so that makes it all right doesn’t it?


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