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Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (American Intellectual Culture) Hardcover – October 27, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a lot more restraint, if also a lot less style, than Katie Roiphe or Camille Paglia, Patai argues that the proliferation of sexual harassment lawsuits, particularly in academia, is bad for feminism. She blames feminist ideologues for creating a repressive?and sexually repressed?atmosphere in universities, and she forcefully documents cases in which faculty members (both men and women, though mostly men) have had their reputations and careers ruined by false allegations, frivolous complaints and opportunistic charges. Patai, a professor of women's studies and comparative literature at U. Mass-Amherst, calls herself a "still-avowed feminist" who rejects the presupposition of a rigidly patriarchal world in which men are innately predatory while women are inherently virtuous and potential victims. She criticizes the "sexual harassment industry" comprised of campus administrators, radical feminists and "post-trauma" therapists who continue to expand the definition of sexual harassment and habitually disregard due process. Not surprisingly, she singles out Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly as "notorious heterophobes," slamming their "pathological aversion to men...and antipathy to heterosexuality." While her basic arguments?that women are not protected but infantilized by such zeal and that we neither can nor should try to expunge sexuality from the fabric of everyday life?have been articulated by others, Patai brings common sense and muscular reason to the task. Though focused on academia, her outspoken study should be required reading for the workplace.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Patai shows in detail how women's reasonable desire for a 'hands-off' workplace has now been transformed into a witch-hunt, where men are the devils, and guilty until proven innocent. The book demonstrates how in universities today the postmodern approach to reality has affected (or infected) our bodies as well as our minds. (Mary Lefkowitz, Wellesley College)

A devastating expose of the way academic feminists are driving their wedge between men and women. Professor Daphne Patai shows us the workings of the vast Sexual Harassment Industry (SHI) that now flourishes on the college campus. With humor, style, and persuasive analytic power, she demolishes its male-bashing arguments. And she does it all from a classical feminist point of view. (Christina Hoff Sommers, author of Who Stole Feminism?)

Heterophobia is a powerful brief for personal freedom and against efforts to politicize human relations and to strip them of their complexity. Patai leaves no doubt that sexual harassment laws and policies as they exist today do far more harm than good. Perhaps, as President Clinton's tribulations continue to fuel a backlash against 'sexual McCarthyism,' this timely book can provide an additional push for a rethinking of the ideological and legal orthodoxies that have gotten us where we are now. (Cathy Young Reason)

Patai brings common sense and muscular reason to the task. Though focused on academia, her outspoken study should be required reading for the workplace. (Publishers Weekly)

Patai's constitutes the first main-stream feminist voice to speak out in protest against the disastrous impact that the Sexual Harassment Industry (SHI) has on both men and women. Heterophobia ends the silence. A well-reasoned and well-structured book that is a pleasure to read. (Wendy McElroy The Women’S Freedom Network Newsletter)

Patai has set out to disrupt the 'intellectual comfort' of those who support the sexual harassment industry. In doing this she has issued a a timely warning to men and women everywhere about the consequences of the new 'heterophobia.' (David Nolan Lm120 5/99)

In Heterophobia Patai tackles the subject with conviction that our 'assumptions about the relations between men and women . . . are long overdue for questioning.' (Morgan James Grand Rapids Press, 5/99)

A provocative critique of a volatile feminist issue. (Patricia A. Beaber, College of New Jersey Library Journal)

If Heterophobia is right, all of us need some quick reeducation on sexual harassment law, before we start throwing each other in jail for asking the right time of the wrong person. (Carlin Romano The Philadelphia Inquirer)

This volume discusses the current focus of many feminists on sexual harassment, arguing that the surge of sexual harrasment cases has served to inhibit natural interactions between the sexes, & has replaced mutually enjoyable sexual banter with an artificial, often threatening, environment. (Sociological Abstracts)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; First Edition edition (October 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847689875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847689873
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,702,302 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on January 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A close academic colleague of mine, the absolute antithesis of a sexual harasser, was recently accused by his graduate student trainee of 2 years. While none of the charges remotely resembled classic sexual harassment (there was never a single charge that the topic of "sex" came up directly or indirectly, and no hostile work environment), his accuser set extremely reputation-damaging wheels in motion simply by couching her complaint in those terms. My friend has spent thousands of dollars in his legal defense and the investigation has gone on for nearly a year. He has become deeply depressed and his productivity has been all but demolished. I grappled with the implications. How can a malicious student, unhappy with some other aspect of her interaction with her mentor or perhaps some other aspect of her life, wreak so much damage to a great guy with no fear of any adverse consequence to her? Is this normal practice in America in the 1990s, or an aberration?
Dr Patai's work was a godsend in terms of helping me, and now my colleague, to understand what has happened. Sadly, this event is in no way an aberration. Accusers face absolutely no adverse consequence for making false or frivilous charges, but the alleged harassers are routinely denied anything resembling due process. I won't try to reproduce all of the incredible insights that Dr. Patai brought to the table, but the key things I learned include the following:
1. The manuals, websites, and literature on SH endlessly encourage the filing of claims, with nary more than a passing nod to the rights of the accused.
2. ANY male (professor, student, whatever) who has ANY interaction with female students is at risk.
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By A Customer on August 25, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book is like a breath of fresh air. With devastating precision, Patai sweeps away all the platitudes surrounding discussion of sexual harassment. She shows that due process is often deemed irrelevant after someone is accused of sexual harassment, that definitions of what constitutes "unwelcome behavior" are generally kept deliberately vague, that attempts to curb behavior are often fuelled by resentment and vindictiveness, and that the desire to control other people (put in motion by claims about power imbalances) is, at bottom, impossible to appease, let alone to achieve. The cure is far worse than the disease, as she usefully reminds us.
Unfortunately, the very people who need to read this book will probably take one look at the title and run a mile. This is a real shame, because Patai's book is extremely thoughtful and deserves very careful consideration by men and women alike, whether pro- or antifeminist.
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By A Customer on January 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This was an extremely valuable book that exposes the sexual harassment industry for what it is- a self-serving, dangerous bureaucracy, backed by heavy-handed governmental policies, that routinely runs roughshod over the rights of the accused. I read this book after a close colleague, an almost asexual, thoughtful man who is the exact antithesis of a sexual harasser, was accused of SH and subject to endless investigation. He was accused by a female underling who didn't even bother to come up with a single instance when the accused man even mentioned sex, even in the most tangential way. The effects have been devastating nonetheless. Trying to come to grips with what happened to this unfortunate man, I stumbled upon Dr. Patai's book. Frighteningly, I learned that the definition of SH is expanding so widely that even complimenting a female subordinate for a good paper, or a good term report (by a student) is now among the events that can lead to an SH charge! This is just one of countless ways that the SH industry is trampling the rights of accused, encouraging ever more charges, and destroying careers.
I don't agree with everything Patai says. She is weakest when she goes beyond the empirical reality of the current situation and tries to explain it as a feminist conspriracy. None of this takes away from her exposure of the disturbing truth behind the SH industry.
Read this book. Stop these people!
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Format: Paperback
The past decade has seen a proliferation of books debunking feminist ideology. Most of these smart denunciations have been written by articulate and intelligent ladies like Christina Hoff Sommers, Katie Roiphe, Danielle Crittenden, and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, but Daphne Patai seems to have zeroed in on a more specialized topic. Her contribution is devoted to exposing fanatical feminism's unhealthy war on heterosexual behavior. Some would dismiss the philippics of a few feminist extremists, but Ms. Patai is wisely consistent advising, "cultivating hatred for another human group ought to be no more acceptable when it issues from the mouths of women than when it comes from men, no more tolerable from feminists than from the Ku Klux Klan."
Heterosexuality generally comes under fire as a result of unchained misandry and a ridiculous sense that all "offensive" behaviors are equal. This equivocation leads to disturbed precepts. Many of the heterophobes she quotes regularly put the use of a sexist word like "manhole" on a par with rape. The juxtaposition of these vastly disparate transgressions has lead to many bizarre sexual harassment laws. Despite the good intentions behind these rubrics, the book presents many cases where they have done far more harm than good. Ms. Patai presents what she terms the Sexual Harassment Industry (SHI) as a big business that has gained tremendous power over a short period of time. From the universities who indoctrinate students to scholars who establish restrictive speech allowances, and the lawyers who prosecute the most nonsensical case, the SHI is shown to be a growth industry on the fast track.
Professor Patai includes some anecdotes which would sound like jocose fantasies were they not such absurdly sad realities.
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