Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
+ Free Shipping
Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus Hardcover – April 4, 2017
|New from||Used from|
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
"How come reading [Kipnis], however uncomfortable or complex the subject, is always such a tremendous pleasure?" (Geoff Dyer, author of White Sands)
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 Instead, regulation is replacing education, and women’s right to be treated as consenting adults is being repealed by well-meaning bureaucrats.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.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
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.
especially outrageous activities that are a consequence of Title IX; and (2) she wants to
propose and suggest some fixes and solutions.
The fixes are more on a personal level rather than changing the way institutions and
universities have responded to the demands for protecting students from sexual abuse.
Although I suspect that she would agree that that protection is in fact needed, her
recommendations go more along the lines of educating and training young women to protect
themselves and to engage in behaviors that would make it less likely that they be abused.
Recommendations of this kind are tricky ones to make, because Kipnis knows that she will
be accused of "blaming the victim". Kipnis tries to "square this circle" by both
supporting reasonable action to stop abusers and recommending wiser and safer behavior by
young women. This likely will not work to ward off criticism by those who want absolutely
*all* blame placed on the abusers. But, Kipnis feels it's worth trying, because to *not*
do so is both dangerous to and infantilizes young women. In the sense that it teaches
college women that they are not in control of their lives, it sends a paternalist message
that someone else will take care of them, and it misleads them into thinking that their
lives will be made safe for them with no action on their part.
There is an additional insidious consequence of not teaching young women that they must
take care of themselves and their own safety: these women will graduate and go on to live
and work in a world where the university can not possibly protect them (even if it could
while they were students). And, while many of them, in part because they will be
graduates of elite universities, will work and live in relatively safe environments, that
will not be true for all of them.
Kipnis is giving us a picture of a world faced by current college students that has seen
profound changes since I was in college in the 1960's and early 1970's. In that earlier
period there was more of an inclination by students them selves to view college
administration and bureaucracy with distrust, as the enemy almost. I was, keep in mind, a
member of the don't-trust-anyone-over-30 cohort. But, now, students, especially female
students feel they should be able to expect protection from school administration. Title
IX and our Federal government seems to back them up on this. In response to this demand,
colleges and universities seem to have taken on tasks and formed departments and
organizations and hired on people. There are economic costs to doing so, and much of that
cost is likely being passed on to students. Governments, our Federal government in
particular, have a tendency to solve problems by creating and enforcing requirements
*without* providing the funds to pay for compliance.
And, much of the book is an account of Kipnis's research into some particularly dramatic
(and outrageous, if you are sympathetic with the accused abusers) investigations and
disciplinary actions by universities. This account can be taken, I believe, as an attempt
by Kipnis to motivate us to agree that universities should not be pursuing these cases,
that this should be left in the realm of our legal system, and, especially, that
universities should not be allowed to use procedures that do not protect the legal rights
of those involved.
In case you believe that this issue has been settled, it's not. An opinion piece on the
Op-Ed page of the N.Y. Times of 8/4/2017 by Jon Krakauer and Laura L. Dunn titled "Don't
weaken college rape policies" argues in favor of the use of the "preponderance of
evidence" standard for settling claims against those accused of rape. Women need and have
a right to expect protection, and it's argued that the use of the "preponderance of
evidence" standard would give them more protection. However, that article contains this
confusing statement: "Whenever a student is accused of sexual assault, university
administrators need to render their judgment with tremendous care, because erroneously
determining that a student is responsible for sexual misconduct can cause lasting harm."
It's hard for me to imaging how using tremendous care can be consistent with using the
"preponderance of evidence" standard of proof, since that standard only requires a small
likelihood for guilt over innocence. Given that disciplinary action, in particular
expulsion from school, is being based on that weak standard of evidence, it should come as
little surprise that accused students have gone to court to seek redress. I do not have
the legal mind capable of untangling this issue, so I'll have to leave it to others to do
so. However, it seems clear that young women need protection and that society and
universities and colleges should be taking a variety of approaches to give them that
protection in addition to (or perhaps instead of) making it easier to successfully accuse
an abuser (as recommended in the N.Y. Times article mentioned above), including:
education on how to protect oneself, more campus police and security, better outdoor
The low bar for conviction required by "preponderance of evidence" standard is not the
only objection that Kipnis makes against universities. She also criticises secretive
proceedings, not allowing the accused to have legal counsel during investigations, and
other lack of due process abuses.
One of Kipnis's worries is that society and universities are giving young women a false
sense of security. They need to be taught and warned about which situations put them at
risk and what to do when they cannot avoid those situations. To do so runs counter to the
arguments against "blaming the victim", and so Kipnis worries that young women will put
themselves at risk, because they have been led to believe that someone or some institution
is protecting them. That behavior is dangerous and it infantilizes women. Kipnis is
saying, I believe that it adopts a paternalistic attitude toward women. This attitude, in
effect, says "you are not capable of taking care of and protecting yourselves; we'll do it
An additional downside of the policing role given to universities and colleges is that it
expands their responsibilities, tasks, and power. That comes at an added cost to
students, since it means increased cost to the school for personnel and salaries. In a
time when student costs for higher education are already outlandishly burdensome, you
would think that we'd want to avoid that.
One insightful form of analysis that Kipnis describes is the use of
storyline-before-evidence. Kipnis claims, correctly I believe, that it is a powerful way
of arguing if you can first create a storyline and assign roles within that story to
people and afterwards search for facts that fit and support that story. Following that
strategy and sequence can be very powerful in assigning responsibility for actions.
Although I suppose it makes interesting, entertaining, and outlandish reading, I thought
that Kipnis spent too much time on the story and persecution of Peter Ludlow. After
reading Kipnis's account, there is no way for me to know whether this is a outlier or
whether their are many more cases very much like this one. If it's a one of a kind, then
while I'd agree that it Ludlow received unfair treatment, there is not much that seems to
need to be done. On the other hand, if this is a very common occurrence, then it could be
used as part of an argument for having more demanding standards of evidence and for moving
the persecution of accused rapists and molesters away from university administration and
into criminal courts. This story (about Peter Ludlow and his accuser) makes good drama
and Kipnis knows how to turn it into fascinating entertainment, but I wonder how much we
should really allow it to influence our thinking about young women in college and the way
they are being treated, both by their peers and by the institutions they attend. If you
are inclined to be a bit skeptical about Kipnis's account of the Ludlow case, you might
want to read the article at Slate.com by Michelle Goldberg titled "She’s Not Like Those
Other Feminists ".
Kipnis's overall motivation in writing this book is to criticize and reduce the
dis-empowerment and infantilization of young women. Without reducing the protections that
young women have a right to expect from universities and society, Kipnis wants to
encourage young women to learn to take care of themselves. That certainly is a good
justification for this book and the time we spend reading it.
The later chapters of the book that criticize the risky and unwise behavior of women with
respect to sex and alcohol are certainly worth reading and thinking about, especially if
you have a daughter or granddaughter who is about to go off to college. However, I wonder
about how prevalent this behavior is among college age women. This is not a book based on
surveys, research, and statistical data, so there really is no way for me to tell how many
women in college take these kinds of risk with alcohol and sex. You can do a Web search for
something like "alcohol sex college women", and you'll find plenty of information about this.
So, there certainly is evidence that the behaviors and the negative consequences of those
behaviors that Kipnis talks about are prevalent enough and damaging enough to be taken
One annoyance that I have with the book is that it seems to be exclusively about *college*
women. That makes sense because these are the women and students that Kipnis has
experience with. But I can't help but think that there are many women in our country who
are treated much worse than those Kipnis discusses and who have no Title IX bureaucracy to
help protect them.
It's an entertaining book, and parts of it are very valuable and provocative. It's very
much worth reading and thinking about.
This is an excellent read, written by a feminist who takes on egregious overreach of enhance Title IX ("Dear Colleague,..."). If you are to read a review that suggests Kipnis offers defense or apology for any sort of predatory, grooming, or boorish behavior, I can tell you, no such defense exists in this book.