The institution of intercourse: Andrea Dworkin on the Biblical foundations of violence against women

Julie-Anne Kelso

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According to the late Radical Feminist thinker Andrea Dworkin, in her notorious book Intercourse (1987), women’s second-class status is attributable to the socially constructed definition of our bodies as lacking in physical integrity during intercourse. As a strictly materialist analysis of intercourse, of intercourse as an institutional practice distinct from intercourse as an unmediated individual experience, Dworkin’s focus is on those discourses (literary, philosophical, religious, legal) that have effectively constructed the political meaning of intercourse. Her analysis concerns the broader and complicated contextual relations of power within which the act takes place. It is this socially constructed determination of intercourse as “a means or the means of physiologically making a woman inferior” that underwrites all violence against women, indeed what naturalizes it, according to Dworkin. In this essay, I shall explore Dworkin’s discussions concerning the role of Genesis 2:4b-4:1 and the sodomy laws in Leviticus in the institutionalization of intercourse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-40
Number of pages17
JournalThe Bible and Critical Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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