American feminist and author, an outspoken critic of sexual politics, particularly of the victimizing effects of pornography on women.
Dworkin began writing at an early age. During her undergraduate years at Vermont's Bennington College (B.A., 1968), she became involved with the student demonstrations against the Vietnam War. Her experience in New York City's Women's House of Detention following an arrest during one such demonstration led her to analyze critically what she perceived as the male subjugation of women. A number of books, such as Woman Hating: A Radical Look at Sexuality (1974) and Our Blood: Prophecies and Discourses on Sexual Politics (1976), followed, along with studies of pornography, which, according to Dworkin, is one of the main weapons men deploy to control women. In collaboration with the feminist lawyer Catharine A. MacKinnon, Dworkin wrote Pornography and Civil Rights: A New Day for Women's Equality (1988). Together they also drafted a controversial ordinance that defined pornography as a form of sex discrimination and enabled victims of sexual assault to sue the makers and distributors of pornography in cases where a specific piece of pornography could be proved to be a direct cause of the assault. Several cities passed the ordinance in the 1980s, but it was later ruled unconstitutional by federal courts.
A lesbian, Dworkin also published in Gay Community News and other periodicals. Later books include Right-wing Women: The Politics of Domesticated Females (1983), Intercourse (1987), Letters from a War Zone (1989), and Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation (2000). Dworkin also wrote a collection of short stories and the autobiographical novels Ice and Fire (1986) and Mercy (1991). Her autobiography, Heartbreak: The Political Memoir of a Feminist Militant, was published in 2002.