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Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus Hardcover – April 4, 2017
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"How come reading [Kipnis], however uncomfortable or complex the subject, is always such a tremendous pleasure?" (Geoff Dyer, author of White Sands)
“Unwanted Advances is necessary. Argue with the author, by all means. But few people have taken on the excesses of university culture with the brio that Kipnis has.” (Jennifer Senior, New York Times)
“A wry, pragmatic analysis…The greatest pleasure Unwanted Advances affords comes from Kipnis’ keen sense of human psychology.” (BookForum)
“Clarity of expression and the uncompromising vehemence of her thoughts make 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, author of White Sands)
“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.” (Terry Castle, author of The Professor)
“...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.” (William Deresiewicz, author of Excellent Sheep)
“...[C]hilling, shocking, meticulously reported, eminently readable, and in places perversely hilarious...most of all it is a crucial piece of a burgeoning conversation about threats to free speech and intellectual freedom on college campuses...Kipnis’s voice is as clarion as her insights are astute.” (Meghan Daum,, author of The Unspeakable)
“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... Kipnis makes you fear for a whole new set of reasons.” (Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men)
“This book is harrowing; this book is hilarious (like Dorothy Parker channeling Franz Kafka); but the main thing it is is BRAVE. On top of which, it is urgently necessary.” (Lawrence Weschler, author of Waves Passing in the Night)
“I loved reading [Unwanted Advances]…force[s] readers to really consider their position and to see if they can fully defend it, or at least to think beyond feminist platitudes…a persuasive and valuable contribution to the continuing debate over how to deal with sexual assault on college campuses.” (Jill Filipovic, New York Times Book Review)
“....riveting read...,Unwanted Advances is a bracing book, its message delivered with fierce intelligence and mordant humor.”: (Bookshelf)
’It is precisely the gray where Kipnis summons her strongest stroke, swimming the murkiest depths of our sexual psyches...Even if the current is choppy and the shore miles off, the journey seems more important than ever, and one feels grateful to tread behind her.’ (<i>Salon.com</i>)
From the Back Cover
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 whistle-blowing 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 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, Kipnis demonstrates the chilling effect of this new sexual McCarthyism on intellectual freedom. Without minimizing the seriousness of campus assault, she 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 hookup 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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Top Customer Reviews
I teach at Northwestern, and thought the Ludlow accusations were fishy from the start. But Kipnis had access to amazing sources–everything–and from what she has revealed, I think these accusations were less fishy than rotten. He should not have lost his job. I hope it is some (albeit surely insufficient) compensation that his case spawned this amazing book.
Buy it. Read it. Spread it.
If the Daily Northwestern does not write about this, and soon, we will know that there is no free press on our campus.
Apparently, to be on the wrong side of an issue (i.e., not far left) is to be seditious and Northwestern's gaggle of feminists on steroids sprang into action, bringing Kipnis up on (of all things) Title IX charges. How a woman's writing about how to empower women can be "injurious" to women didn't seem to be contradictory or an obstacle to this crowd. Over 72 days Kipnis suffered, if not an Inquisition, a real threat to her career, reputation, and future. All for suggesting the New Feminism, i.e., insisting upon safe places for students and non-triggers was actually disempowering and coddling. Whether one agrees with her or not (I happen to do so) the idea that she would be shabbily treated is outrageous.
Unwanted Advances is her revenge. The author is gleeful in her dissent--a glee that becomes rather repetitive with the whiff of opportunism wafting off later pages.. Truth is rarely so cut and dry as she would like us to believe. Free speech and expression may be inviolable but they are not necessarily incompatible with a goal of creating safe places for students--they may though not be classrooms or debate halls. The notion certain subjects and material may act as triggers is hard to refute. If we can advise consumers about the content of cereal, surely universities can and should consider whether a rape victim might feel re-assaulted reading about rape. To her credit, Kipnis does respectfully navigate the latter situation with a student. I fear though her glib and smug tone is what will resonate with the chattering classes and that will be the sound bite rather than the more nuanced argument she makes.
Kipnis rails against The Great Prohibition-- university policy forbidding student/faculty dating--never acknowledging many companies outside academia forbid colleagues dating or having relations. Others require couples "register" their relationships with personnel to be sure they're not cohercive. Ms. Kipnis can't get over two consenting adults being forbid sex. Really? The entire rest of her book is testimony why! Because people in power take advantage OR everyone starts suing each other, including the university or corporation, as a result. Companies have determined it isn't worth the headache and aggravation. Wouldn't universities come to the same conclusion for the same reason? Further, the author points out (in defense of professors) that young teen years are unstable. It is the time in life mental illnesses like schizophrenia begin to surface. Hormones and testosterone are raging and aching. Isn't that a great argument FOR the prohibitions that make her so petulant? I understand why the kids want to have their cake and eat it too but I expect a better argument from an academic.
Kipnis is on much firmer ground when she sticks to the distortions of Title IX over the last few years than insisting let's all trust each other to behave as adults. Her story and that of a philosophy professor named Ludlow are are truly chilling examples of constitutional rights being trampled on. One chapter is a brief catalog of other people abused. Here I wish she had provided more documentation and less of an anecdotal litany. Without it it seems as though she is taking one person's word over the others, which is clearly what Ludlow's accusers did. She has a right to punch up as they say--and nobody is obliged to take the high road. The author certainly didn't start this fight and she details serious injustices on campus.
Something a bit less sneering though would have been more to my taste. As a cultural critic she is well-versed in the power of optics, memes, retweets and sound bites and she has dozens waiting for her cable news and NPR interviewers, who will no doubt line up to book her. With them, she will undoubtedly turn this unhappy experience into a real money-maker. Whether she turns it into a conversation and a force for change remains to be seen. I wish her luck and recommend Unwanted Advances--a serious and glib look at a very important issue.