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A Mash-up of Dworkin & Fifty Shades (Free Pussy Riot) August 21, 2012

Posted by Administrator in : books,feminism,politics , trackback

I awoke on Friday, August 17th to a photo of the greatest chess player in history, Garry Kasparov, restrained by three police outside the Pussy Riot trial in Moscow (Photo by Olaf Koens). Pussy Riot, a punk rock feminist band, were given two years for singing an anti-Putin song inside a church. I was surprised by how angry the verdict and the images and video of Kasparov made me feel. It made a lot of people feel that way. Kasparov was released later that day, but is being charged for “biting” an officer, which Kasparov vehemently denies.

When I was a kid first reading about Kasparov, I was inspired by his moves and life but irked by chauvinistic explanations for women’s relative lack of success in the chess world: “A women’s train of thought can be broken more easily by extraneous events, such as a baby crying upstairs.” When I met him in 2005, he was already turning a corner–he told me that to promote chess in America, it was critical to address the feminist concern over segregated women’s tournaments. And now, he fights heroically alongside a feminist group with a common goal to unseat Putin.

Poster by artist Molly Crabapple

In Vice Magazine, Pussy Riot sited radical feminist and vocal anti-porn activist Andrea Dworkin (1946-2005) as an influence. They channel Dworkin in explaining their name: “A female sex organ, which is supposed to be receiving and shapeless, suddenly starts a radical rebellion against the cultural order.”

Dworkin is too often reduced as the obese feminist in overalls who thought that all sex was rape. Though I don’t believe any serious reader of her work could come to that conclusion, I don’t align myself with Dworkin’s anti-porn stance. If anything, I’m more enamored than ever of beautiful female surfaces from photography to fashion, like the work and erotic portraiture of “MissKacieMarie.” I worked with Kacie on several projects, including X Chess and Cinderella. My own vanity is evident in my aggressive promotion of only the most flattering photographs of myself. As I joked on twitter, I ask myself often: “At what point does a vain American woman stop trying to look hot, and just try to look rich?” Also see my earlier post on poker, art and the passage of time.

Beyond “pro-sex” and “anti-sex”, I’m entranced by Dworkin’s writing and feel a compulsion to share it with you guys. So after re-reading Dworkin’s artful book Intercourse, I did a literary mash-up of it with the poorly written but hot best-seller, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James.

Dworkin is the most masterfully rhythmic writer I’ve ever read–that rhythm is seductive, and sexy, even if she challenges sex itself. In contrast, the trite writing and simplistic character sketches in Fifty Shades of Grey make some of the pornographic scenes cartoonish, like a strip club with flourescent lighting and no music or alcohol.

Fifty Shades in italics, Dworkin in bold italics

Sometimes the skin comes off in sex. The people merge, skinless. The body loses its boundaries. We are each in these separate bodies; and then, with someone and not with someone else, the skin dissolves altogether; and what touches is unspeakably, grotesquely visceral, not inside language or conceptualization, not inside time; raw, blood and fat and muscle and bone, unmediated by form or formal limits.

“There’s a very fine line between pleasure and pain, Anastasia. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other. I can show you how pleasurable pain can be. Again, it comes down to trust….Do you trust me, Ana?”

“My heart was open to you,” says a man obsessively in love in the Face of Another by Kobo Abe, “quite as if the front of it had been sliced away.” This skinless sex is a fever, but fever is too small. It is obsession, but obsession is too psychological. It becomes life, and as such, it is a state of being, a metaphysical reality for those in it, for whom no one else exists. It ends when the skin comes back into being as a boundary.

His skin is so smooth and velvety….and hard….hmmm, what a delicious combination. “Stop Ana, stop. I don’t want to come.” I sit up…..My inner goddess looks like someone snatched her ice cream.

Inside a person, sexual desire-or need or compulsion is sometimes experienced as a stigma, as if it marks the person, as if it can be seen; a great aura emanating from inside; an interior play of light and shadow, vitality and death, wanting and being used up; an identifying mark that is indelible; a badge of desire or experience; a sign that differentiates the individual carrying it, both attracting and repelling others, in the end isolating the marked one, who is destroyed by the intensity and ultimate hopelessness of a sexual calling.

My inner goddess frowns at me. You can do this, she coaxes—play this sex god at his own game….picking up a spear of asparagus, I gaze at him and bit my lip. Then very slowly put the tip of my cold asparagus in my mouth and suck it.

Am I saying that I know more than men about fucking? Yes, I am. Not just different: more and better, deeper and wider, the way anyone used knows the user.


“Christian. You use sex as a weapon. It really isn’t fair”…He raises his eyebrows surprised and I see he’s considering my words.

Sexual Intercourse is not intrinsically banal, though pop culture magazine like Esquire and Cosmopolitan would suggest that it is. It is intense, often desperate. The internal landscape is violent upheaval, a wild and ultimately cruel disregard of human individuality, a brazen, high-strung wanting that is absolute and imperishable, not attached to personality, no respecter of boundaries; ending not in sexual climax but in a human tragedy of failed relationships, vengeful bitterness in an aftermath of sexual heat, personality corroded by too much endurance of undesired, habitual intercourse, conflict, a wearing away of vitality in the numbness finally of habit or compulsion or the loneliness of separation.


I don’t even know how to categorize him. If I do this thing…..will he be my boyfriend?…The truth is I don’t think he will.

Having an interior life of wanting, needing, gives fucking human meaning in a human context. Being stigmatized by sex is being marked by its meaning in a human life of loneliness and imperfection, where some pain is indelible.

I did follow my heart, and I have a sore ass and an anguished, broken spirit to show for it.

In Amerika, there is the nearly universal conviction or so it appears- that sex (fucking) is good and that liking it is right: morally right; a sign of human health; nearly a standard for citizenship.

But I’m not sure I have the stomach to be his submissive—deep down, it’s the canes and whips that put me off.

In fucking, one’s insides are on the line; and the fragile and unique intimacy of going for broke makes communion possible, in human reach—not transcendental and otherworldy, but an experience in flesh and love.


“You are not buying me a car.”
He glowers at me, his jaw tense.
“We’ll see,” he says tightly.

And crossing on that high and rotting and shaking bridge to identity, with whatever degree or quality of fear or courage is the ordeal that makes empathy possible: not a false sympathy of abstract self-indulgence, a liberal condescension, but a way of seeing others for what they are by seeing what their own lives have cost them.

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