Not for Sale: Feminists Resisting Prostitution and Pornography

By Rebecca Whisnant; Christine Stark | Go to book overview

Andrea Dworkin


Pornography, prostitution,
and a beautiful and tragic recent
history*

In 1983 Catharine MacKinnon and I taught a course on pornography at the University of Minnesota Law School. We had a class of activists, thinkers, people who organized in the community, and students who wanted to be activists and thinkers. Through the activism of the people in neighborhoods organizing against pornography along with students, a grassroots movement grew in Minneapolis. These folks decided that the buying and selling of women was no longer something that would be done with impunity. Catharine MacKinnon and I created a civil-rights law that allowed women harmed by pornography, including the women in it, to sue pornographers and distributors. The law was passed twice in Minneapolis and vetoed twice by its mayor. The mayor, of course, is now running around as a representative of Amnesty International—he deplores torture in places outside of Minnesota.

In 1983 things were different than now. Pornography was being made all over the place but every city in the country, except for New York and Los Angeles, believed it was not being made there. That included Minneapolis and its twin city of St. Paul. When we told the mayor that we knew pornography was being made in Minneapolis he did not care; he remained indifferent to the harm of pornography.

The first time he vetoed the civil-rights bill he claimed that it would violate the constitutional rights of the pornographers, which superseded in importance the speech rights of women and children who were shut up by pornography. Someone takes a woman or child and they tie them up or invade their body, they hurt them, they take pictures of it and they sell the pictures. And, in our system of law, the pictures are speech and the women and children in the photographs are less than nothing. Their only value is what a pimp can get for them in an open market.

The good news is that Minneapolis is a city in which large numbers of people became educated about pornography and prostitution as forms of sexual abuse. Many people came to understand what the cost is to women as citizens, as

* This is a slightly edited version of a speech given by Andrea Dworkin in November 1999
at the University of Minnesota.

-137-

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