Feminism is broken, argues Laura Kipnis. Anyone who thinks the sexual hysteria overtaking American campuses is a sign of gender progress is deranged.
A committed feminist, Kipnis was surprised to find herself the object of a protest march by student activists at her university for writing an essay about sexual paranoia on campus. Next she was brought up on Title IX complaints for creating a “hostile environment.” Defying confidentiality strictures, she wrote a whistleblowing essay about the ensuing seventy-two-day investigation, which propelled her to the center of national debates over free speech, “safe spaces,” and the vast federal overreach of Title IX. In the process she uncovered an astonishing netherworld of accused professors and students, campus witch hunts, and Title IX officers run amok. Then a trove of revealing documents fell into her lap, plunging her behind-the-scenes in an especially controversial case. Drawing on investigative reporting, cultural analysis, and her own experiences, Unwanted Advances demonstrates the chilling effect of this new sexual McCarthyism on higher education. Without minimizing the seriousness of campus assault, Kipnis argues for more honesty about the sexual realities and ambivalences hidden behind the notion of “rape culture.” Instead, regulation is replacing education, and women’s right to be treated as consenting adults is being repealed by well-meaning bureaucrats. Unwanted Advances is a risk-taking, often darkly funny interrogation of feminist paternalism, the covert sexual conservatism of hook-up culture, and the institutionalized backlash of holding men alone responsible for mutually drunken sex. It’s not just compulsively readable, it will change the national conversation.
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“Clarity of expression and the uncompromising vehemence of her thought make Laura Kipnis the best polemical investigator writing today, which both sells her short and raises an unexpected question: how come reading her, however uncomfortable or complex the subject, is always such a tremendous pleasure?”Geoff Dyer
“Laura Kipnis has written a brave, disturbing, yet scrupulously fair book: a brilliant and pragmatic manifesto for a kind of “adult” feminism that rejects the campus cult of female victimhood. As she unnervingly documents, “femininity”–namely, acting docile, compliant, helpless, druggy, drunk, stupid–is itself part the problem, as today’s “post-feminist” young college women continue to learn to their sorrow.”Terry Castle
“In Unwanted Advances, her account of campus inquisitions that go well beyond the McCarthyite into the Kafkaesque, Laura Kipnis is everything the academic bureaucrats she writes about are not: brave, honest, judicious, mature, and self-aware, with a seasoned understanding of both sexual politics and campus politics. She has struck a mighty blow for sanity, equality, and academic freedom. Any future discussion of Title IX and its abuses will have to reckon with this book.”William Deresiewicz
“This book is many things: chilling, shocking, meticulously reported, eminently readable and in places perversely hilarious. But most of all it is a crucial piece of a burgeoning conversation about threats to free speech and intellectual freedom on college campuses. Laura Kipnis’s voice is as clarion as her insights are astute. Brava to her for speaking up.”Meghan Daum
“Laura Kipnis’s new book is a revelation: a great work of investigative journalism, and a thorough examination of a case that feels like it couldn’t happen in America. Here is a self-aware feminist professor telling us that what’s happening on college campuses is eroding feminism and free thought. Kipnis makes you fear for today’s students for a whole new set of reasons.”Hanna Rosin
“This book is harrowing; this book is hilarious (like Dorothy Parker channeling Franz Kafka); but the main thing it is is BRAVE. Phrased differently: this book is urgently necessary.”Lawrence Weschler