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Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  1,026 Ratings  ·  75 Reviews
A collection of twenty of Paglia's out-spoken essays on contemporary issues in America's ongoing cultural debate such as Anita Hill, Robert Mapplethorpe, the beauty myth, and the decline of education in America.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 8th 1992 by Vintage (first published August 22nd 1992)
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Frank Aguilera I only recently came to know a little about Camille Paglia, and am still trying to comprehend what she is about. There is a great appeal in her…moreI only recently came to know a little about Camille Paglia, and am still trying to comprehend what she is about. There is a great appeal in her passionate tirades against 'feminism' today, and her views on transgender 'mania'. So much of what she says makes a lot of sense, but there seems to be something too arbitrary in her views that strike me as being fascist in outlook. Also, while she is able to point out with great accuracy what's wrong with contemporary society, her implied and explicit solutions point to a return to the past, to old mores and ideologies that can make even her sympathizers cringe with horror. In short, for Paglia, there is the past and there is the present, but the future is only to be found in the past for her. I must say that once I feel I have grasped the essence of a writer, I tend to drift away from him or her if I sense that there is nothing more of true value to learn in their writings. (less)

Community Reviews

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Apr 09, 2015 Hava rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, unfinished
I got up to 100 pages in this, and I couldn't go any further. Camilla Pagila claims to be a feminist, but she's an MRA in women's drag. She writes scornfully of feminism as a movement, at the same time she claims herself as one. I cannot take seriously the view of a woman who victim blames women for being raped, who says that if a woman dresses provocatively or is on a date with a man, she should "take the risk of being raped" and even more gross, excuses men for their "deepest urges" and says t ...more
Mar 01, 2008 Brooke rated it liked it
I don't always agree with her and I sometimes I have no idea what she is talking about, but hey, I could say that about my mother and she is my favorite woman on earth. Every once in a while she says something that is so profound, to me anyway, you start fumbling for a highlighter like you are going to be tested on it later. But really, you just want to remember it.

I love the whole idea of the anti-feminist feminist--she's outrageously liberal, but there is nothing bleeding heart about her. Cam
Nov 03, 2007 Ian rated it it was amazing
this book would probably offend a lot of people, but she makes solid arguments for all of her un-PC views. at the very least it demands that people look at the basis of their view of the world and question whether it is based on fact and reason or a sugar-coated, spotty overview of history and touchy-feelyness.
May 05, 2012 Aneece rated it did not like it
Shelves: criticism-essay
A contrarian's contrarian. Yes, that bad.
Feb 25, 2009 Ashley rated it did not like it
I Hate Camille Paglia.

I just wanted to get that out there before I said anything else. Because, given how much I hate Camille Paglia and pretty much everything she says on pretty much everything (in a somewhat similar vein as the way I feel about Ann Coulter, for example) of course I would give any of her work one star. That said, I think this is one of those infuriating books one ought to read, if only to get all fired up once again in your own views, particularly about women and feminism and
Apr 16, 2008 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Paglia is brilliant and controversial. I find her to be a natural progression in the exploration and study of feminism. I adore this book and her anti-feminist feminist approach. When I took a Women's Studies class at SFSU in early 1990s, they hated her, which of course, made me love CP even more. Read her and rejoice.
Ethel Margaret
The first few essays were off-putting, but her discussion of rape drew me in more. I don't think Paglia's magazine articles showcase her at her best. I look forward to reading Sexual Personae which, from the portions I've read, I think exhibits Paglia's talent as a wordsmith with an impressive command of language.
Edward Podritske
Jun 17, 2013 Edward Podritske rated it really liked it
In her lecture at M.I.T. in 1991, Camille Paglia remarked at the outset that she faced a dilemma on the occasion of that appearance.

She was unsure about whether she should conduct herself as a lady or just be herself, since she undoubtedly had both friends and enemies in the audience.

She reckoned that nobody came to see her perform as a lady so she would just be herself, as she put it, "...which is, you know, abrasive, strident, and obnoxious. So then you all can go outside and say, 'What a bi
Pascal Christeller
Jan 14, 2016 Pascal Christeller rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
I didn't read the whole book, like her essay on Elizabeth Taylor. Didn't really care. I thought her essay on Madonna was enlightening and fun, I didn't know that much about Madonna, but then it sort of has this weird sexual element to it as she talks about her Madonna obsession, where you know Paglia just wants to fuck Madonna. Overall, I think Camille Paglia has some interesting points, from a distance. However, she's a lot like a Monet, the closer you inspect her theories and work, the more of ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Renee rated it liked it
I have a love/hate relationship with Miss Paglia. She claims to be a lesbian feminist, but some of her statements....artifice over art. That being said, I enjoyed this book immensely almost 20 years ago, fresh out of college and looking for a fresh perspective on art and culture. Enjoyed it again, after taking it down from my bookshelf recently. Recommend, but with caveat. Take it with a grain of salt. Miss Paglia has been a guest on many cable news shows, when the media tries to get input about ...more
Apparently it is the rape victim's fault after all.

contains the obnoxious essay that challenges barthes & foucault implicitly on the notion of authorial intentions. paglia's rhetoric in these sections is a screed not dissimilar from the worst of ann coulter. at its most manifestly worthless in this moment, the argument is retrograde of literary theory in the US of the 1950s. that's fugly.
Feb 03, 2013 Michelle rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
It's a pity Ms. Paglia is either unwilling or unable to assert her own thoughts without deriding others. She has a number of important and relevant things to speak about; however, her attitude that anyone who behaves or believes differently is bad, wrong, incompetent, and/or stupid leaves me unable to finish this book and unwilling to attempt anything else of hers.
Rachael Richardson
Jun 23, 2007 Rachael Richardson rated it did not like it
Fleeting moments of fun. all around, sort of engrossing. an important argument to experience. However, her style is quite particular and I found it relatively annoying and occasionally revolting. not to mention her position on most things is absurd. and to many, will be quite offensive. but the essays are real short and can be read just as easily as mediocre op ed pieces in the ny times...
Nov 21, 2014 Geralyn rated it it was ok
Women who drink at parties and walk home in the dark do not deserve to be raped. That's not what they have coming to them, and that's not what they are asking for. She disagrees. It's like reading
Jul 09, 2014 Kaethe rated it did not like it
Camille Paglia, much like Bill Maher, seems to have based her career on being the One Person In the World Brave Enough to Call "Bullshit" On Everyone Else. Thank goodness there's one woman in America brave enough to tell all the rest of us that we're wrong.
Mar 10, 2016 Perceptive marked it as 12on
I've always thought Camille Paglia was a pseudointellectual - emphasis on pseudo - with rhetoric as empty as the hot air she blows.

And now she's endorsing the Drumpf.

She's as much of a joke as he is.

Jan 09, 2008 Paulina rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: npt take it seriously
Recommended to Paulina by: my asshole teacher
I hate her ideas but I love her writing style, which is terrible and contradictory, but to whomever out there that is wondering: is it possible to loahe the content and delight in pure language? yes it is.
Mark Desrosiers
Oct 15, 2007 Mark Desrosiers rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
If Gore Vidal were a chick...
Jan 18, 2013 Patrick rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2014 Liam rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lit-crit
"Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders" is a very passionate and erudite summation of the decline of scholarly standards and the rise of faddish "theorizing" in the humanities and social sciences. Much unpopular for her arrogance and insulting style (see below), she is, embarrassingly for her critics, someone whose snobbery lies upon an astounding foundation of factual knowledge, especially the knowledge of intellectual histories which her opponents supposedly belong to.

Some odd moments, like her se
Dec 16, 2007 Ollie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who love trouble-makers
I have very conflicting feelings and views on Camille Paglia. On the one hand, it's blatantly clear that she's an attention-seeking loose cannon who can fit a thousand feet in her mouth; she spends an awful lot of time slagging off people without providing backing evidence; and she places way too much importance on the 60s counter-culture as well as on her own somewhat inflexible views. This compilation of essays and magazine articles would have never seen the light of day if she hadn't become a ...more
Jared Roberts
Aug 21, 2016 Jared Roberts rated it it was amazing
An odd choice, perhaps, but Sex, Art, and American Culture is one of my favorite books. I re-read it every so often, just to invigorate my mind. Paglia's words and ideas just get me excited to learn, think, and argue.

I don't agree with a lot of what Paglia argues for. I think she's often wrong. Frequently she's infuriatingly obtuse in how doggedly she pursues the ideas she's biasing. But I always enjoy her arguments in getting there. I feel her love of learning in every paragraph. She may be wr
Sep 15, 2016 Strider rated it it was amazing
Great attacks on Derrida, Lacan, Fucault... Very passionate woman, and very important author.
Jan 20, 2009 Mark rated it liked it
Since Camille Paglia has so clearly taken delight in her status as a cultural lightning rod, I started out feeling none-too-interested in reading one of her books. There was some reason for me to feel that way: a tone of snarky self-congratulation in many of the pieces making up this collection, concerning how many attacks she has attracted, and how handily and wittily she has been able to dispatch her many opponents.

Still, I often found myself nodding my head as she skewered what have long see
John Grange
Aug 08, 2015 John Grange rated it really liked it
On the surface this book didn't seem to fit into my typical subject matter. However after reading an enlightening interview with Camille Paglia, I was very interested in her writing. Criticism of high art is a bit out of my depth but her use of deep history, anthropology, culture, et al brings a comprehensive intellectualism that I love. Her writing style seems to almost be alive with over-the-top metaphors and pop culture lust. I can identify with her libertarian sensibilities and I concur with ...more
Jun 01, 2010 Tom rated it really liked it
Remember those old Sesame Street episodes that were sponsored by a number, or a letter of the alphabet? This book - indeed, Paglia's whole career - was apparently sponsored by the phrase "my Sixties generation."

Okay, so I only read about 95 percent of the book. I couldn't get through the notes on the multicultural class that she co-taught. Sorry, but how arrogant do you have to be to think anyone wants to read your verbatim in-class notes? Clean it up and write a damned essay, lady.

Not that Pagl
Scott Aumont
Feb 23, 2016 Scott Aumont rated it it was ok
As a woman and homosexual Paglia occupies an advantageous strategic position. It’s possible for her to rail against excessive pieties of the feminist and gay rights movements. Her main thesis is that socialized, moralized perspectives occlude the truths of primordial nature. Dionysus is often summoned. The natural energy of opposition, friction, otherness. She deplores the aims of political correctness to soothe over divisions. But then she strangely aims for syncretism. See end of The Joy of Pr ...more
Nov 14, 2009 David rated it liked it
I was blissfully unaware of the controversy that Camile Paglia stirred up in the early 90's. She came to my attention last year with her analysis and defense of Sarah Palin, and I think she's got an interesting and refreshing perspective. So I finally picked up one of her books, Sex, Art, and American Culture. I finished it this morning, and it was a revelation. Several of the essays are negative reviews of academic works, and the erudition she uses in skewering the unfounded pretensions found t ...more
Nov 25, 2015 Liam rated it really liked it
Shelves: gender
Here is a woman with a compelling voice.

It moves at a dazzling speed, reiterates and emphasises itself, is a little too slanderous at times, zips between references between disciplines. The old proverb that 'people who speak too fast or too much have little to say' is annihilated by this performance.

I didn't disagree with her: it was either I agreed or "I don't know enough here to disagree". I'll try read the poststructuralists despite her warning as I think every view deserves fair trial before
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Camille Anna Paglia is an American social critic, author and teacher. Her book, Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, published in 1990, became a bestseller. She is a professor of humanities and media studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

She has been variously called the "feminist that other feminists love to hate," a "post-feminist fe
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“Enough already of Lacan, Derrida, and Foucault poured like ketchup over everything. Lacan: the French fog machine; a grey-flannel worry-bone for toothless academic pups; a twerpy, cape-twirling Dracula dragging his flocking stooges to the crypt. Lacan is a Freud T-shirt shrunk down to the teeny-weeny Saussure torso. The entire school of Saussure, inluding Levi-Strauss, write their muffled prose of people with cotton wool wrapped around their heads; they're like walking Q-tips. Derrida: a Gloomy Gus one-trick pony, stuck on a rhetorical trope already available in the varied armory of New Criticism. Derrida's method: masturbating without pleasure. It's a birdbrain game for birdseed stakes. Neo-Foucaldian New Historicism: a high-wax bowling alley where you score points just by knockng down the pins.” 9 likes
“In America, Rousseauism has turned Freud’s conflict-based psychoanalysis into weepy hand-holding. Contemporary liberalism is untruthful about cosmic realities. Therapy, defining anger and hostility in merely personal terms, seeks to cure what was never a problem before Rousseau. Mediterranean, as well as African-American, culture has a lavish system of language and gesture to channel and express negative emotion. Rousseauists who take the Utopian view of personality are always distressed or depressed over world outbreaks of violence and anarchy. But because, as a Sadean, I believe history is in nature and of it, I tend to be far more cheerful and optimistic than my liberal friends. Despite crime’s omnipresence, things work in society, because biology compels it. Order eventually restores itself, by psychic equilibrium. Films like Seven Samurai (1954) and Two Women (1961) accurately show the breakdown of social controls as a regression to animal-like squalor.” 1 likes
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