From a highly regarded feminist cultural critic and professor comes a polemic arguing that the stifling sense of sexual danger sweeping American campuses doesn’t empower women, it impedes the fight for gender equality.
Feminism is broken, argues Laura Kipnis, if anyone thinks the sexual hysteria overtaking American campuses is a sign of gender progress.
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, rigged investigations, and Title IX officers run amuck. Drawing on interviews and internal documents, Unwanted Advances demonstrates the chilling effect of this new sexual McCarthyism on intellectual freedom. 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 Instead, regulation is replacing education, and women’s hard-won right to be treated as consenting adults is being repealed by well-meaning bureaucrats.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.
Laura Kipnis is a cultural critic and a professor at Northwestern University, where she teaches filmmaking. She is the author of six previous books, including Against Love: A Polemic and Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Yaddo, among others, and has written for Slate, Harper’s, the New York Times Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum. Her essay “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe” was included in The Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen. She lives in New York and Chicago.
Table of Contents
Author's Note ix
Introduction: Sexual Paranoia on Campus 1
1 The Accusation Factory: Fantasies and Realities 35
2 Flip-Flopping on Consent: A "Yes" Becomes a "No" Years After the Fact 91
3 My Title IX Inquisition: The "Safer" the Space, the More Dangerous for Professors 127
4 F*** Confidentiality: Reports from Secret Campus Tribunals Across America 159
5 Sexual Miseducation: A Plea for Grown-Up Feminism 185
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