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Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  638 ratings  ·  110 reviews
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,
Published April 4th 2017 by HarperAudio
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Sharad Pandian
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The first four chapters are really just an expansion of Kipnis' Chronicle of Higher Education article "Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe", where she argues that campus feminism orthodoxy inadvertently erases female autonomy in its quest for justice for victims of sexual assault. By taking on narrow conceptions of power, or so she argues, campus feminism forgets that non-institutional power can exist (conferred for example by youth and beauty). This challenges the simplistic narratives about how (i ...more
Jun 21, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boy, there is a lot here over which to ruminate. This is a TOUGH subject and I think Kipnis gets some things very right and other things very wrong. First off, it's obvious that Northwestern uses a much different process than the one we use at UW-Milwaukee. I'm on our NonAcademic Misconduct Committee and have seen how we handle Title IX claims. While I am not always comfortable with the process and I agree that that the "preponderance of evidence" standard could potentially be problematic, I gen ...more
Portal in the Pages
Sally Kenney
Sep 16, 2017 rated it did not like it
This is a horrible book, and I almost even hate to admit that I read it. But my Provost read it and I wanted to discuss with him and also have my finger on the pulse of sexual assault issues, so I dove into the cesspool. Without question, Kipnis is a snappy writer. She managed to parlay one moment of alleged victimhood into being the new Katie Roiphe, putting the hammer down against all sexual assault survivors. Her portrait of the two women complainants is worrying, and clearly unflattering. Al ...more
Whitney Sanchez
Aug 07, 2018 rated it did not like it
I'm not sure I even have the words to express how poorly argued this book is. Kipnis' definition of a healthy college campus is one where professors should have free reign to date undergraduate students and anyone who thinks otherwise is a prude.

Her arguments are mainly red herrings and based solely on her opinions and "campus gossip." She spends time interviewing the accused but gives no voice to the accusers.

She repeatedly tries to hide behind being a "left-wing feminist," while trashing fem
Kipnis is a feminist who has been maligned and even faced civil rights charges because she has dared to express her views on Title IX related to sexual assault cases. Specifically she has been critical of the way in which the rights of the accused, usually men, have been diminished, usually in hearings on college campuses, and the academic freedom of faculty threatened. She was brought up on civil rights charges by a graduate student for an opinion piece she wrote, which the student claimed trau ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Laura Kipnis has written an exceptionally smart, courageous and insightful book that dares to challenge the knee-jerk, lockstep orthodoxy of so-called "progressive" thinking (while demonstrating its sexually regressive foundation) in Title IX procedures. She documents with tart wit, an able lawyer's gift with evidence and her own bona fides as a feminist to expose the travesties of justice perpetrated on college campuses. The book reads fluidly and swiftly, with elements of a legal thriller, as ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: law
TL;DR--universities shouldn't be permitted to serve as DA, judge, jury, and executioner, because those roles are inherently conflicted.

Disclaimer: I am an attorney who once knew enough about the intersection of Title IX and civil cases to be asked to speak about it. For years I've thought it should be scrapped and a better system put into place. My knowledge is a bit out of date and honestly, I'm glad. I actually didn't think Title IX administration (at a university level) could have gotten wor
Joseph Stieb
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book with some flaws, but nevertheless an important defense of liberal, empowered feminism over the left-wing version of feminism that is gaining ground (if not dominance) on college campuses. I often didn't like Kipnis' tone (she might be able to reach many of the people she's arguing against without the anger and sarcasm that streams through this book), Moreover, I think she spent too much of the book on a single extended case at her university rather than surveying the variety of views and ...more
Philip Girvan
As noted by the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Title IX states that:
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

As Laura Kipnis makes clear, educational institutions that rely on federal funding (which is to say: nearly all of them) are highly wary of being found in non-compliance of
Oh boy oh boy.

It amazes me that someone who has evidently spent so much time researching one half of the issue can be so flagrantly ignorant about the other half.

"We were talking about the campus assault problem, which had been in the news on a daily basis that week. She mentioned that her sister had been raped in college. 'How did it happen?' I asked. 'She got drunk, fell asleep on the couch in a frat house, and woke up with some guy on top of her,' my friend answered. 'I guess you couldn't se
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-studies
Asks Laura Kipnis: If feminism is about empowering women, why does the dominant narrative in Title IX investigations, which are designed mainly to protect women, remove all agency from them?

But outside of the introduction and conclusion, Kipnis only passingly addresses this question within a broader litany of Kafkaesque Title IX inquiries. Although there is some delightful Foucauldian power analysis.

And, as a medievalist, I have to ask when did universities return to the thirteenth century, with
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in academia. The topic of interest is professor-student romantic relationships. Such relationships used to be common: for instance when I joined a small college there were 5 male professors married to former students. More recently these relationships have been outlawed on many campuses.

The book is by a tenured professor. She wrote about these romantic entanglements in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her thesis: that female students have sexua
Jeff Raymond
The issue of Title IX on college campuses in regards to sexual assault has been on my radar for a while. There have been a lot of issues of due process raised, and no amount of articles written about the issue. This book is largely about one specific experience, but is one of the first books to really cover the issue from start to finish with the sort of precision and detail necessary to do it justice.

The book was an upsetting read for me in many ways if only because of the political climate we
Ariel ✨
Jan 22, 2020 rated it did not like it
Laura Kipnis repeatedly makes the joke about a young woman getting assaulted in the frat house, proclaiming, "I guess you couldn't see that coming." With statements like this sprinkled throughout the text, she both acknowledges that universities have a sexual assault problem while also declaring that we are all struck by a "sexual paranoia." Which one is it? If something happens to a student, they're either lying, or it's their fault. Regardless, she asserts that it's not as big of a deal as the ...more
Dan DalMonte
Mar 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a great book. It is a really eye-opening investigation into sexual harrasment allegations on college campuses. There are very aggressive administrators who raise concerns about violating due process and the standard that we are innocent until proven guilty. What ends up happening, according to Kipnis, is that women are seen as passive and weak. This is the opposite of what feminism was supposed to achieve.
Carrie Poppy
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bookforum Magazine
"Kipnis doesn't seem the sort of enemy you'd want to attract, let alone help create. Her mind is too sharp and her sense of humor too robust; where others might blanch, she grins."

–Charlotte Shane reviews Laura Kipnis's Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus in the April/May 2017 issue of Bookforum

To read the rest of this review, please go to Bookforum:
Karen Adkins
I want to be clear that, as a feminist, I do think there's a case to be made for reform and revision of Title IX law. There are many ways in which the process in unfair to both victims and the accused; the fact that the 2011 "Dear Colleague" letter provides incoherent and vague guidelines means that too many colleagues take the lowest-common denominator approach to sexual violence (with the only goal of avoiding bad headlines and investigation from the DOE). And in her final substantive chapter, ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Of course there will be those who embrace this work as so "radical" in its assertion that we should go back to the good old days of "pre-paranoia sex" (aka when women didn't get to give voice to their own sexual experiences). To this I give one big eye roll. It isn't radical to reframe the current cultural narrative on sexual violence. Her argument would have been stronger if it didn't rely on picking apart (and cherry picking) a women's own experience, employing victim blaming techniques. It al ...more
Sep 17, 2017 rated it did not like it
The book is choked full of personal anger. Here is an obvious hatred toward women who are not silent about their relationship with professors. I wonder what happened, was her husband blamed for this? Or lover? And she did not want to believe? The author's take feels very personal. She does not even try to conceal her dislike to the girls, badmouthing every little thing about them. And to top it all by calling herself a feminist. What a hypocrisy. This is a modern trick to cover misogyny.
Jordan McKay
Laura Kipnis is probably familiar to most people as 'that woman who hates rape survivors' or something along those lines. Her book, on the other hand, provides a comprehensive account of bureaucracy gone mad regarding the abuses and limits of Title IX complaints.

The Title IX complaints that were struck against the author in particular highlight the ridiculous abuse of power that they have over people. I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the complainants arguing that Kipnis' essay had created a '
Neil McGarry
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I admit I was reluctant to put Unwanted Advances on my reading list, because this might put me at odds with new liberal orthodoxy, which I suppose helps prove some of what author Laura Kipnis is trying to say.

Kipnis, a professor of media studies at Northwestern, is at her best when she analyzes the implications of the new liberal take on sexual assault. There is a dogmatic quality to the dialogue about sexual assault on college campuses, and although it comes from the left, much of it doesn't se
Apr 13, 2017 marked it as to-read
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I don´t want to date ever again, after reading this book! :P
To my luck, I am getting old, so I don´t need it to... :D
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is everything I expected it to be, and so much more! Kipnis lays it out in plain and simple terms - modern day feminism has actually regressed women's emancipation by taking their sexual agency away and feeding the victim narrative to young and somewhat confused women on college campuses. Men have bore the brunt of this "advancement", and we can not address campus sexual assault without involving women and making them take ownership of their own actions (which very often take place und ...more
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wish I could write like Laura Kipnis. I've been a huge fan since Against Love , which was mostly dazzling but occasionally obscure. I loved Against Love so much that I sought out her only slightly less dazzling but considerably more obscure collections of previously published academic essays about smut and class, Bound and Gagged and Ecstasy Unlimited . I've read the books she's published since with increasing enthusi ...more
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
Such a mixed bag. Kipnis builds a strong case against Title IX abuses - not airtight, since her style is to poke holes in cherished ideals rather than to write legal briefs, but still solid. And yet, for someone arguing that we should better acknowledge nuance, ambivalence, and complexity, she veers into didactic territory surprisingly often.

When discussing the complaint brought against Peter Ludlow by an undergrad, Kipnis is curiously insistent that because the student was 18, a legal adult, sh
Marcella Wigg
2.5 stars.

I had extremely mixed feelings about this book. When I began reading I got the impression that Kipnis was extremely biased against the process and sexual assault survivors generally, and I can't say that my opinion of her views on survivors as somewhat outmoded ever fully changed. She views identification as a sexual assault survivor as disempowering and arising from a traditional sense of women being weak and inferior to men not only physically, but also emotionally. She doesn't deny
Apr 14, 2018 rated it liked it
Although I don't know enough about Kipnis to trust everything she says in the book, if even half of what she said about Title IV had any truth, the system is deeply flawed. It was particularly concerning that due process is not observed, and that some women were unwillingly labeled as "victims" when a third party filed a complaint on their behalf.

Unwanted Advances also articulated several concerns that I've had in recent years about contemporary feminism in regards to rape culture. I've long fel
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Laura Kipnis is the author of Against Love: A Polemic; How to Become A Scandal; The Female Thing; Bound and Gagged; and the upcoming Men: Notes from an Ongoing Observation (out in November). Her books have been translated into fifteen languages. She's written essays and criticism for Slate, Harper’s, Playboy, New York Times Magazine, New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum. A former filmmaker, s ...more

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