A polemic, from feminist cultural critic and professor Kipnis, arguing that the stifling sense of sexual danger sweeping American campuses doesn't empower women, it impedes the fight for gender equality.
It is invigorating and irritating, astute and facile, rigorous and flippant, fair-minded and score-settling, practical and hyperbolic, and maybe a dozen other neurotically contradictory things. Above all else, though, 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. Her anger gives her argument the energy of a live cable ... Now: I certainly appreciate Kipnis’s forensics. And the story she tells is psychologically complex. But one of the women in Ludlow’s case comes across as genuinely troubled...if that’s the case, isn’t that an argument in favor of forbidding relations between faculty and students? Because some students might not be able to handle them? ... Kipnis never minimizes the devastating consequences of sexual violence. And she’s on to something, really on to something, when she rails against the 'neo-sentimentality about female vulnerability.' But the most powerful and provocative part of her book, its final chapter, suggests that today’s young college women really do suffer from a crisis of agency. The pressure to drink themselves senseless and then hook up is so pervasive that they seem to have trouble saying no.
...a wry, pragmatic analysis of the miscarriages of justice and abrogation of common sense sometimes perpetrated by American colleges in the name of protecting women ... The greatest pleasure Unwanted Advances affords comes from Kipnis's keen sense of human psychology. While clearly outraged by both the kangaroo-court antics of the Title IX officials and the pervasive myth of womanly helplessness they thrive on, she doesn't romanticize the plight of the accused men and is often candid about her skeptical reactions to them and their stories.
The book, per Kipnis’s style, is polemical and often outrageous ... Though she rightly points out the feminist hypocrisy of casting women as inherently sexually vulnerable, she falls into her own stereotypes of jilted lovers sinking their claws into bumbling, sex-drunk men. She seems to think the feminist directive to explain clear standards of consent (a yes, not just the absence of a no) and to shift male behavior is a pipe dream, but telling women to change their behavior to avoid being sexually assaulted (for example, to quit drinking to excess) is eminently realistic rape prevention ... And yet I loved reading it. Kipnis’s book is maddening; it’s also funny, incisive and often convincing ... Kipnis pushes her argument beyond the realm of what’s reasonable in part, it seems, for professorial aims — to force readers to really consider their position and to see if they can fully defend it, or at least to think beyond feminist platitudes. It is a discomfiting process, and surely many feminists will come away, as I did, deeply disagreeing with her; others will, as I did, nonetheless find her book a persuasive and valuable contribution to the continuing debate over how to deal with sexual assault on college campuses.