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Book Launch

Unwanted Advances: Laura Kipnis in Conversation with Shamus Khan

04/19 Wednesday | 6:30pm

NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge and the New York Institute for the Humanities invite you to a talk with Laura Kipnis on her newest book Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus. She will be joined in conversation by the cultural critical Shamus Khan, of Columbia University.

About the book:

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 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 Instead, regulation is replacing education, and women’s hard-won right to be treated as consenting adults is being repealed by well-meaning bureaucrats.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.


Laura Kipnis is a cultural critic/essayist whose work focuses on sexual politics, emotion, acting out, bad behavior, and various other crevices of the American psyche. She is the author of MEN: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation (November 2014/ Metropolitan), and her latest book is Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus; her previous books, which include How To Become a Scandal and Against Love, have been translated into over fifteen languages. She teaches in the filmmaking program at Northwestern University.

Shamus Khan is associate professor of sociology at Columbia University, where he is the director of the graduate program. He is also an editor at Public Culture and writes on culture, inequality, and elites.


This event is co-sponsored by Public Books.

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