A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2017
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 Instead, regulation is replacing education, and women’s hard-won right to be treated as consenting adults is being repealed by well-meaning bureaucrats.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.
In this courageous, thought-provoking polemic, Kipnis (Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation), a feminist cultural critic and professor at Northwestern University, targets the overzealousness of Title IX investigations on college campuses and shows how they're undermining academic freedom, free speech, and gender equality. After being at the center of a 72-day Title IX investigation herself (the author was accused of creating a "hostile environment" on campus following the publication of her essay on sexual paranoia in the Chronicle of Higher Education), Kipnis uncovered a "netherworld of accused professors and students, rigged investigations, closed-door hearings, and Title IX officers run amok." The book focuses on one investigation of a well=known philosophy professor at Northwestern University, but Kipnis draws in numerous other examples to highlight the current climate of "criminalization" of sex on campus due to the 2011 expansion of Title IX's mandate to encompass sexual misconduct. The guidelines for this are vague, leading to unfair trials where investigators aren't accountable to anyone. She argues for more honesty about the sexual realties on campuses. Without diminishing the gravity of sexual assault, Kipnis's readable and judiciously reported work illustrates how the "sex-as-danger preoccupation on campuses now" is infantilizing women rather than empowering them.