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Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism

Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism

by Camille Paglia

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From the fiery intellectual provocateur— and one of our most fearless advocates of gender equality—a brilliant, urgent essay collection that both celebrates modern feminism and challenges us to build an alliance of strong women and strong men. 

Ever since the release of her seminal first book, Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia has remained one


From the fiery intellectual provocateur— and one of our most fearless advocates of gender equality—a brilliant, urgent essay collection that both celebrates modern feminism and challenges us to build an alliance of strong women and strong men. 

Ever since the release of her seminal first book, Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia has remained one of feminism’s most outspoken, independent, and searingly intelligent voices. Now, for the first time, her best essays on the subject are gathered together in one concise volume. Whether she’s calling for equal opportunity for American women (years before the founding of the National Organization for Women), championing a more discerning standard of beauty that goes beyond plastic surgery’s quest for eternal youth, lauding the liberating force of rock and roll, or demanding free and unfettered speech on university campuses and beyond, Paglia can always be counted on to get to the heart of matters large and small. At once illuminating, witty, and inspiring, these essays are essential reading that affirm the power of men and women and what we can accomplish together.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Feminist and culture critic Paglia is at her feisty, full-throated best in this series of short manifestos that spans her career from her breakthrough 1990 study, Sexual Personae, to the present. Paglia’s remedy for the ills besetting contemporary women is an infusion of her personal brand of “Amazonian feminism,” which combines staunch libertarian principles with 1960s rebellion. She refuses to bow to ideology (“The premier principles of this book are free thought and free speech—open, mobile, and unconstrained by either liberal or conservative ideology”) and is uncompromising in her convictions. Paglia’s sharp tongue and clear vision veer toward forceful assertions and snappy insults as often as practical perspective and common-sense solutions. Her narrative of the major moments of second-wave feminism starts to sound rehearsed by the end, but her stances on date rape, abortion, free speech, sex, art, and the importance of historical perspective are admirably consistent, as is her contempt for university coddling, poststructuralism, women’s studies programs, cults of victimhood, and anything mainstream. Paglia’s adversarial stance and scattered self-applause sometimes obscure the excellence of her prose, which is terse and studded with vivid metaphor. One does not have to agree with her theories about masculinity, femininity, and sex to enjoy Paglia’s bracing intellect and scrappy attitude. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Camille Paglia’s 


“An essential work by an essential public intellectual.” 

“Dazzling . . . Compulsively readable . . . Paglia at her best.” 


“She flies as high as you can go . . . Bold and convincing . . . 
Exemplary . . . A rich book.” 
The New York Times Book Review 

“Paglia has put down her Molotov cocktails and picked up the lyre . . . 
[She] approaches poetry with a . . . reverence for craft.” 


Sexual Personae [is] an enormous sensation of a book, 
in all the better senses of ‘sensation.’ There is no book comparable 
in scope, stance, design, or insight.” 
—Harold Bloom 

“A remarkable book, at once outrageous and compelling, 
fanatical and brilliant.” 
The Washington Post Book World 

Library Journal
Both feminist leader and feminist dissident, Paglia has shown in books like Sexual Personae and Vamps & Tramps that she can write edgily about gender issues and sell hundreds of thousands of books in the process. This volume collects the best of her essays and carries a fresh introduction.
Kirkus Reviews
Essays, reviews, and interviews chronicle the career of a self-described "libertarian feminist."Since Sexual Personae (1990), Paglia (Humanities and Media Studies/Univ. of the Arts, Philadelphia; Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, 2012, etc.) has argued relentlessly against what she sees as puerile and uninformed ideas about sexuality, freedom, and gender. The pieces collected here, all previously published, include three sections from her first wide-ranging book on art, decadence, sex, and nature; various newspaper and magazine articles; and a few lectures, interviews, and book reviews. Unfortunately, to read a few is to read them all, as Paglia repeats views that have contributed to her reputation as "abrasive, strident, and obnoxious." She critiques women's studies programs, for example, as "a comfy, chummy morass of unchallenged groupthink." Bereft of grounding in science, the programs began, she asserts, to bring more female hires into academia, by administrators who did not much care about the intellectual content. "Women's studies is a jumble of vulgarians, bunglers, whiners, French faddists, apparatchiks, doughface party-liners, pie-in-the-sky utopianists, and bullying sanctimonious sermonizers," she wrote in 1991. Paglia softened her assessment somewhat by 2008, when, in an address at Harvard, she proposed reasonable reforms for the programs that included science as "a fundamental component" as well as the "writings of conservative opponents of feminism." Essays that touch on biography reveal elements of the author's childhood and adolescence in the repressive 1950s, when her role models were Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn; and that she imbibed "the essence of the Sixties, which is free thought and free speech." With apparent delight, Paglia skewers some icons of the women's movement, such as Gloria Steinem, Hélène Cixous ("that damp sob sister"), and Carolyn Heilbrun, reserving praise for Madonna ("the true feminist") and Germaine Greer ("witty, learned, stylish, and sexy"). An album of media photographs suggests that Paglia would like to be described in exactly those terms. Controversial views on women's lives and nature that may appeal to Paglia's fans but not win her many more.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.06(d)

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Meet the Author

CAMILLE PAGLIA is the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A regular contributor to Salon.com, she is the author of Glittering Images; Break, Blow, Burn; Vamps & Tramps; Sex, Art, and American Culture; and Sexual Personae.