Andrea Dworkin on the Biblical Foundations of Violence Against Women
In this chapter, Julie Kelso takes an in-depth look at the late Andrea Dworkin’s “notorious” book, Intercourse (1987), considering Dworkin’s controversial claim that women’s secondary status can be attributed to the socially constructed designation of the female body as lacking physical integrity during (hetero)sexual intercourse. Within patriarchal culture, women are recognized as having a body that can be penetrated, occupied, and denied privacy during the act of intercourse; this, asserts Dworkin, is central to women’s subordinate status. Kelso guides readers through Dworkin’s materialist analysis of intercourse as an institutional practice, considering the various discourses (literary, philosophical, religious, legal) that she claims have given intercourse its political meaning. She then frames Dworkin’s discussions of the role of biblical texts (particularly the sodomy laws in Leviticus and the story of Adam and Eve in Gen. 2:4b−4:1) within the framework of Intercourse as a whole, considering her evaluation of their foundational role in legitimizing the potentially devastating violence of intercourse for women in male-supremacist societies.
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