Study Guide

Intercourse

by Andrea Dworkin

Intercourse Summary

Summary (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Intercourse, one of Andrea Dworkin’s most powerful books on sexuality in a repressive culture, is about self-disgust and self-hatred. Dworkin’s “Amerika” is the modern world, or rather, the world that lives within the modern American. In “Amerika,” sex is good and liking it is morally right. In “Amerika,” sex is defined solely as vaginal penetration. In “Amerika,” women are happy to be passive and accepting while their men are aggressive and demanding. Intercourse attempts to question the rigid sexual roles that define the male as literally and figuratively on top of the woman and the symbolic implications of sexual contact—entry, penetration, and occupation.

Intercourse, documenting a series of literary excerpts and comments by and for women, develops Dworkin’s theory that sexual congress is an act in which, typically, men rape women. The book’s theory is that because the penis of a man goes inside a woman during the sexual act, intercourse is a hostile act of occupation, ready to degenerate into gynocide and cannibalism. Dworkin describes a woman’s individuality as being surrounded by her body and bordered by her skin. The privacy of the inner self is essential to understanding exactly who one is. Thus, having no boundaries between one’s own body and the body of another makes one feel invaded and skinless. The experience of being skinless is the primary force behind “Amerika’s” sexuality,...

(The entire section is 411 words.)