Mary Daly’s Feminist Vision of Gendercide

In a post this month about a satirical essay by Martha Burk on controlling male fertility, weblogger Glenn Reynolds offered this parenthetical remark,

Though if you think that calling Burk’s piece “satire” changes the face of feminism you’re showing your ignorance. There are other writings by academic feminists calling for the elimination of men and similar absurdities in dead earnest, though at nearly midnight I’m not going to run them down. But as a guy who once edited Catharine MacKinnon, I know a bit about this stuff.

Barry Deutsch then challenged Reynolds as to whether there are really academic feminists who have called for the complete elimination of men. Reynolds turns up references in Mary Ann Warren’s “Gendercide,” which Deutsch says isn’t good enough.

Well, there is one academic feminist who is both a fan of parthenogenesis and advocates the elimination of men (and most women) — Mary Daly. Until a few years ago, Daly was a professor at Boston College. She was finally forced out there because she refused to allow men to participate in her classroom.

Daly has long advocated for research into parthenogenesis to dispense with men. Her book, Quintessence, is half-science fiction novel, half bizarre manifesto in which she explicitly lays out her views. Daly herself is a character in the book who visits a utopian continent where — thanks to the influence of Daly’s books — a lesbian elite reproduce solely through parthenogenesis.

And there is no doubt that Daly considers this both desirable and possible. Here’s Daly from a 2001 interview with What Is Enlightenment magazine (emphasis added),

WIE: In your latest book, Quintessence, you describe a utopian society of the future, on a continent populated entirely by women, where procreation occurs through parthenogenesis, without participation of men. What is your vision for a postpatriarchal world? Is it similar to what you described in the book?

MD: You can read Quintessence and you can get a sense of it. It’s a description of an alternative future. It’s there partly as a device and partly because it’s a dream. There could be many alternative futures, but some of the elements are constant: that it would be women only; that it would be women generating the energy throughout the universe; that much of the contamination, both physical and mental, has been dealt with.

WIE: Which brings us to another question I wanted to ask you. Sally Miller Gearhart, in her article, ‘The Future, If There is One, Is Female,” writes: “At least three further requirements supplement the strategies of environmentalists if we were to create and preserve a less violent world. 1) Every culture must begin to affirm the female future. 2) Species responsibility must be returned to women in every culture. 3) The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately ten percent of the human race.” What do you think about this statement?

MD: I think it’s not a bad idea at all. If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males. People are afraid to say that kind of stuff anymore.

Of course, what Daly is advocating here is nothing short of gendercide, and yet Daly is taken seriously by radical feminists.

Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin, for example, called Quintessence a “masterpiece.” When the Boston College controversy erupted, Daly’s supporters held a fundraiser called “A Celebration of the Work of Mary Daly” which included Diane Bell, Director of Women’s Studies at the George Washington University; Mary Hunt, Co-Director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual; Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice, and others. Daly also counted Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and other feminists outside of academia in her corner.

The press release announcing the celebration explicitly includes Quintessence as one of Daly’s celebrated works. Can you imagine for a second the outrage if men in and outside of academia got together to celebrate the works of a misogynist who complained of female “contamination” and advocated “a drastic reduction of the population of females”?

And that, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with contemporary feminism — that such nutcases are not only tolerated but openly celebrated. And they still wonder why so few college-aged women want to self-identify themselves as “feminists.”


Mary Daly event in Washington, DC, Jan. 29, 2001. Mary Hunt, E-mail press release, Jan. 10, 2001.

The Thin Thread Of Conversation: An Interview With Mary Daly. Catherine Madsen, Cross Currents, Fall 2000.

Change Agents in the Church: Mary Daly. Rev. Joan Gelbein, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Sunday, January 7, 2001.

The Feminist Assault on Free Speech: A Review of Nadine Strossen’s Defending Pornography

Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights

By Nadine Strossen
Amazon.Com price: $11.96 (click on above link to purchase)

If it weren’t for the feminist war on pornography, this web site probably wouldn’t
exist. Several years ago, feminists at the university my wife and I attended
at the time decided to target the student newspaper demanding that it stop carrying
advertisements for local strip clubs. The feminists were joined by several local
leftist activists and an odd mix of Christian conservatives from the community
who had long been trying to pass laws to ban pornography in the area.

Perhaps the most surreal scene I ever witnessed in college was watching these
feminist students marching arm in arm with extreme conservatives chanting, “You
see free speech, I say free women.”

Fortunately the feminists were routed, in no small part due to our efforts
and a hilarious conflict among the anti-pornography crowd. I had previously
made a presentation to the paper’s board of directors pointing out that the
paper ran numerous controversial ads and articles and if it caved in to pressure
from the anti-pornography groups it would soon find itself besieged from all

The anti-porn group proved this point when they finally addressed the board.
With about 20 or 30 people showing up to support the anti-porn position, the
chairman of the paper’s board pointed out an ongoing controversy in the paper
over abortion and said he didn’t want to be besieged by “pro-abortion” activists
demanding an end to pro-life articles or ads or vice versa. One of the feminists
in the crowd immediately objected to the term “pro-abortion” saying she preferred
to be called “pro-life”. Before the chair could finish his apology, the feminist’s
erstwhile conservative allies corrected the feminist, saying it was “pro-abortion” and while they were supposed to be making their case for getting rid of the
ads, they sat and fought amongst themselves about proper nomenclature for those
on opposite sides of the abortion issue. Needless to say with that example fresh
in their minds, the board voted down the proposal to get rid of the ads.

At the time my wife and I were mystified as to how feminists ended up taking
an anti-pornography position. Weren’t they aware of the history of the state
using censorship against women? Didn’t they see how limits on men and women’s
free expression undercut the dignity of the individual, which surely was at
the heart of any feminist view of politics? Had either of us read Nadine Strossen’s
excellent book on the anti-porn wars, Defending Pornography: Free Speech,
Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights
, we would have better understood the
tragic and wrongheaded course that feminism, driven by its most radical elements,
has recently embarked on.

Solidly at the steering wheel are author Andrea Dworkin and University of
Michigan Law professor Catharine MacKinnon. As Strossen recognizes it is not
so much sexual speech that Dworkin and MacKinnon ultimately seek to banish,
though that is indeed one of their goals, but at a more basic level what Dworkin
and MacKinnon want to eradicate is heterosexuality itself.

This would seem absurd if they both hadn’t put themselves on record to this
effect on numbers occasions. As Dworkin puts it in one of her milder moments,
“It’s very hard to look at a picture of a woman’s body and not see it with the
perception that her body is being exploited.” Why? Because heterosexual sex
dehumanizes women and makes it all but impossible for anyone, man or woman,
to look at women as whole beings. As Dworkin sums up this view, “Physically
the woman in intercourse is a space invaded, a literal territory occupied literally;
occupied even if there has been no resistance; even if the occupied person said,
‘Yes, please, yes, hurry, yes, more.'”

Dworkin reels from the claims made by her opponents that she equates all heterosexual
sex with rape, but in doing so she is merely playing semantic games. Her work
is infused with the view that women are harmed by heterosexual sex, that they
can’t really consent to such sex and that heterosexual sex should be (must be)
transcended to move beyond the war against women — after all this is the same
Dworkin who once wrote that “unambiguous conventional heterosexual behavior
is the worst betrayal or our common humanity.”

MacKinnon has made similar statements, likening women who dare to disagree
with her to “house niggers who side with masters.”

Strossen thoroughly documents this anti-sex presumption throughout Defending
, though her presentation lacks a systematic look at Dworkin
and MacKinnon’s philosophy, which is one of the biggest general problems with
her book — she tends toward quick, scattershot effects with fact after fact
and quote after quote often without much to unify her efforts. Defending
could have benefited from another rewrite or two.

But Strossen does se through the current anti-porn effort. As she sums it
up, “We are in the midst of a full-fledged ‘sex panic’ in which seemingly all
descriptions and depictions of human sexuality are becoming embattled.”

The anti-liberal basis of radical feminism

Although she never delves very deep into it, Strossen also lays out the
case that radical feminism is fundamentally anti-liberal. By liberalism here
I mean a basic respect for the dignity and autonomy of the individual. To MacKinnon
and Dworkin liberalism is anathema — it is sleeping with the enemy.

This explains why the anti-porn feminists arrive at what seems to Strossen
and other observers a bald contradiction. On the one hand, radical feminists
maintain that American institutions are extremely patriarchal. On the other
hand, MacKinnon and Dworkin would grant that patriarchal state even more power
to censor women. Can these two views be reconciled? Strossen doesn’t seem to
think so, but in fact her own analysis reveals these two ideas are perfectly

First, it must be kept in mind that Dworkin and MacKinnon both reject liberalism
as itself patriarchal. Women who disagree with them are nothing more than brainwashed
collaborators who are acting against their own best interests. As Strossen documents,
MacKinnon has no problem arguing the legal system should treat women in the
same way that it treats children. Strossen thinks this view “presuppose[s] an
infantilized woman incapable of knowing what is in her own best interests, and
needing the protection of the state…,” which is a pretty good summation.

In fact co-opting the state is the only way Dworkin and MacKinnon will ever
be able to get very far in their war on heterosexuality. As they both recognize
there are too many female collaborators who claim they enjoy being heterosexual
for heterosexuality to simply disappear by itself. To really get anywhere will
require harnessing the state (most radical feminists nominally oppose “power” as a patriarchal male concept except when it can be used to further their
own political goals.)

Sometimes Strossen seems to get it and other times she seems to ignore this
possibility. She wonders, for example, why pro-censorship feminists focus on
pornography when there are plenty of examples of extremely sexist speech that
is not pornographic. But of course this is how radicals always get their ideas
accepted by the greater society — first they conceptualize some extreme version
of what they seek to abolish. Once they get wide agreement on that, they gradually
expand their definition of the social ill as far as they possibly can. Strossen
is incorrect to think that MacKinnon and Dworkin exempt non-pornographic sexist
speech — they simply are smart enough to know that the most likely way to get
their views embedded in laws is through an attack on pornography. Once erotic
images that show women in a “subordinate” position (which is how the duo define
pornography) are banned, the effort to go after non-erotic images that “subordinate” women would be the logical next step.

Strossen devotes a chapter to the area where, to date, the pro-censorship
feminists have been most successful — sexual harassment law. MacKinnon pioneered
sexual harassment law, of course, so it’s not surprising that it has begun to
incorporate her particular view of heterosexuality and sexual expression. As
Strossen writes, sexual harassment now includes a “misguided emphasis on sexually
oriented expression [that] has diverted the attention of policy makers from
sexist conduct to sexual speech, and has shifted their focus from gender-based
discrimination to sexual expression.”

Many sexual harassment policies, especially those used in academic institutions,
are quite clear that as Strossen puts it, “the mere presence of sexual words
or pictures in the workplace or on campus is somehow inherently incompatible
with women’s’ full and equal participation in those areas.”

Strossen includes an excellent chapter surveying the lack of evidence for
the claim that pornography causes or contributes to violence against women.
Of course as she also points out, most of the procensorship feminists aren’t
really concerned with empirical niceties. MacKinnon, for example, has retreated
to the position that no one has proven that pornography doesn’t cause
harm and so one can assume it is dangerous until proven otherwise, which is
a standard that could be used to ban just about anything.

Defending Pornography is an excellent, comprehensive look at the many
facets of the debate over pornography. Anyone who wants to find out how radical
feminists are trying to undermine the principle of free speech and inquiry through
their attack on pornography will find Strossen’s book a great place to start.

Andrea Dworkin: heterosexuality vs. bestiality and incest

Andrea Dworkin and her supporters claim she has been a victim of a smear campaign from opponents who distort and mischaracterize her claims about sex. The best way to get to the truth, of course, is to go to the source and examine what Dworkin actually wrote. Unfortunately for Dworkin, once you sit down and read her work in-depth she comes across as far more bizarre than even the occasionally out-of-context quotes from her writing make her appear.

Androgynous sex

Consider her 1974 book Woman Hating, for example, which includes endorsement blurbs from Gloria Steinem and Kate Millet. Although there are numerous problems with the book, this essay will focus on chapter 9 of that volume, “Androgyny: Androgyny, Fucking, and Community,” which incorporates many common radical feminist ideas and tries to take them to their logical conclusion.

The fundamental concept which drives Dworkin’s thinking here is that the sexes are fiction, and an oppressive fiction at that,

The discovery is, of course, that “man” and “woman”are fictions, caricatures, cultural constructs. As models they are reductive totalitarian, inappropriate to human becoming. As roles they are static, demeaning to the female, dead-ended for the male and female both (Dworkin 1974, p. 174).

Now at some level, this is an idea which many people might agree with.
Certainly roles and models of behavior can be restrictive; the role for women which largely excluded them from working outside the home, for example, was unnecessarily restrictive. But Dworkin is not attacking the specific content of roles but of the very idea of roles themselves.

In its place, she wants to substitute what she calls an androgynous ethic. She tries to defend this androgynous ethic by claiming that there are no biological differences between “men” and “women” which would make any classification by sex possible, and then conclude that therefore any sort of sex-based roles whatsoever are unwarranted.

The Evidence

Before looking at the implications of this idea, it might help the reader to consider the sort of evidence (or lack thereof) that Dworkin tries to marshal for this claim that there it is wrong to divide human beings into one sex or another.

First, she notes that since there are numerous similarities between men and women’s bodies, even in the sex organs, and some religious texts talk about androgynous gods or people, “there is no reason not to postulate that humans once were androgynous — hermaphroditic and androgynous, created precisely in the image of the constantly recurring androgynous godhead” (Dworkin 1974,

This claim, that once all human beings were hermaphroditic, is absurd nonsense. There is simply no physical evidence for this claim. The oldest physical evidence of both homo sapiens and other primates clearly indicates the presence of sexual dimorphism.

Second, Dworkin attempts to get great mileage from marginal cases. Women on average are shorter than men, but on the other hand, there are some very tall women. Does this mean that height is completely independent of sex? No, but in Dworkin’s book, it does.

Finally, Dworkin cites questionable sources for all sorts of nonsense about human sexuality. She cites Robert T. Francouer, for example, on the presence of hermaphroditic behavior in animals which seems reasonable enough until Dworkin goes on to cite and agree with Francouer’s claim that not only is parthenogenesis (pregnancy resulting from an unfertilized egg) not only possible in human beings but in fact common. In fact, although parthenogenesis does occur naturally in some species of insects, reptiles and birds, it is all but impossible for it to occur in mammals because, unlike other animal classes, genetic contributions from both sperm and egg are required for fetal development in mammals.

[Update: the above paragraphs may give Dworkin too much credit for accurately summarizing Francouer. To be clear, parthenogenesis does occur in human beings. The result, however, is typically benign ovarian tumors rather than a viable fetus. In a fascinating 2017 paper in Medical Hypotheses, researchers noted a handful of cases in which a parthenogenetically activated oocyte or sperm fused with a normally fertilized embryo, resulting in offspring that had multiple cell lines. The authors add, however, that despite “two ambiguous and inconclusive reports on specialized journals, a non-chimeric, clinically normal, human parthenote (i.e., a healthy individual entirely derived from a single parthenogenetic-activated oocyte), has never been reported in the scientific literature.”]

A multi-sexed species?

From this “evidence,” Dworkin concludes homo sapiens is a “multi-sexed species, which has its sexuality spread along a vast fluid continuum where the elements called male and female are not discrete” (Dworkin 1974, p.183). As such, all sexual relations must be redefined to break from this false man/woman dichotomy. This has implications for a variety of sexual behaviors.

Heterosexuality – Out

Of course, heterosexuality has to go. Dworkin defines heterosexuality to mean specifically “ritualized behavior built on polar role definition”–i.e. almost all male/female sexual behavior today–and writes,

Intercourse with men as we know them is increasingly impossible. It
requires an abortion of creativity and strength, a refusal of responsibility and freedom: a bitter personal death. It means acting out the female role, incorporating the masochism, self-hatred, and passivity which are central to it. Unambiguous conventional heterosexual behavior is the worst betrayal of our common humanity (Dworkin 1974, p.184).

This is not to say that “men” and “women” can’t have sex, but that “androgynous [sex] … requires the destruction of all conventional role-playing … of couple formations…”

What does this mean? As Dworkin notes, homosexual sexual relationships
are far closer to her version of androgyny because “it is by definition
antagonistic to two-sex polarity” (Dworkin 1974, p.185). But even
it is too polarizing for Dworkin because many homosexuals have sex only
with other homosexuals. Instead what Dworkin wants to see is some sort
of pansexuality,

An exclusive commitment to one sexual formation, whether homosexual or heterosexual, generally means an exclusive commitment to one role. An exclusive commitment to one sexual formation generally involves the denial of many profound and compelling kinds of sensuality. An exclusive commitment to one sexual formation generally means that one is, regardless of the uniform one wears, a good soldier of the culture programmed effectively to do its dirty work. It is by developing one’s pansexuality to its limits (and no one knows where or what those are) that one does the work of destroying culture to build community (Dworkin 1974, p.185).

Dworkin doesn’t explicitly say it, but monogamy is clearly one of those “cultur[ally] programmed” views that would have to be discarded to experience “many profound and compelling kinds of sensuality.”


One of the “pansexual” activities which Dworkin lauds is bestiality. As Dworkin puts it,

Primary bestiality (fucking between people and other animals) is found
in all nonindustrial societies. Secondary bestiality (generalized erotic relationships between people and other animals) is found everywhere
on the planet, on every city street, in every rural town. Bestiality
is an erotic reality, one which clearly place people in nature, not
above it (Dworkin 1974, p.187-8).

Of course, many people might point out that is precisely what is wrong with bestiality, but Dworkin will not be deterred,

Needless to say, in androgynous community, human and other-animal relationships would become more explicitly erotic, and that eroticism would not degenerate into abuse. Animals would be part of the tribe and, with us, respected, loved, and free (Dworkin 1974, p.188).


Another sexual practice that today is condemned but would be celebrated in this pansexual utopia is incest. Again it is best to simply quote from Dworkin,

The parent-child relationship is primarily erotic because all human
relationships are primarily erotic. The incest taboo is a particularized
form of repression, one which functions as the bulwark of all other
repressions. The incest taboo ensures that however free we become, we
never become genuinely free. The incest taboo, because it denies us
essential fulfillment with the parents whom we love with our primary
energy, forces us to internalize those parents and constantly seek them…

The incest taboo does the worst work of the culture: it teaches us the mechanisms of repressing and internalizing erotic feeling — it forces us to develop those mechanisms in the first place; it forces us to particularize sexual feeling, so that it congeals into a need for a particular sexual “object”; it demands that we place the nuclear family above the human family. The destruction of the incest taboo is essential to the development of cooperative human community based on the free-flow of natural androgynous eroticism (Dworkin 1974, p.189).

A few paragraphs later, Dworkin makes it explicit that she seeks nothing less than the destruction of “the nuclear family as the primary institution of the culture” (Dworkin 1974, p.190).

The above statements do not explicitly talk about sex with children, and perhaps they could be construed as dealing only with adults. Dworkin, unfortunately for her, does not end her chapter on androgyny before making it explicit that this does indeed apply to children as well. Exhorting women to take power and transform the world into an androgynous system, Dworkin counsels that children too must be liberated. What would children’s liberation look like,

As for children, they too are erotic beings, closer to androgyny than
the adults who oppress them. Children are fully capable of participating
in community, and have every right to live out their own erotic impulses (Dworkin 1974, p.191-2).