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Free Women, Free Men
Cover of Free Women, Free Men
Free Women, Free Men
Sex, Gender, Feminism
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From the fiery intellectual provocateur— and one of our most fearless advocates of gender equality—a brilliant, urgent essay collection that both celebrates modern feminism and challenges us to build an alliance of strong women and strong men.
Ever since the release of her seminal first book, Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia has remained one of feminism's most outspoken, independent, and searingly intelligent voices. Now, for the first time, her best essays on the subject are gathered together in one concise volume. Whether she's calling for equal opportunity for American women (years before the founding of the National Organization for Women), championing a more discerning standard of beauty that goes beyond plastic surgery's quest for eternal youth, lauding the liberating force of rock and roll, or demanding free and unfettered speech on university campuses and beyond, Paglia can always be counted on to get to the heart of matters large and small. At once illuminating, witty, and inspiring, these essays are essential reading that affirm the power of men and women and what we can accomplish together.
From the fiery intellectual provocateur— and one of our most fearless advocates of gender equality—a brilliant, urgent essay collection that both celebrates modern feminism and challenges us to build an alliance of strong women and strong men.
Ever since the release of her seminal first book, Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia has remained one of feminism's most outspoken, independent, and searingly intelligent voices. Now, for the first time, her best essays on the subject are gathered together in one concise volume. Whether she's calling for equal opportunity for American women (years before the founding of the National Organization for Women), championing a more discerning standard of beauty that goes beyond plastic surgery's quest for eternal youth, lauding the liberating force of rock and roll, or demanding free and unfettered speech on university campuses and beyond, Paglia can always be counted on to get to the heart of matters large and small. At once illuminating, witty, and inspiring, these essays are essential reading that affirm the power of men and women and what we can accomplish together.
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  • From the book 1

    Sex and Violence, or Nature and Art

    In the beginning was nature. The background from which and against which our ideas of God were formed, nature remains the supreme moral problem. We cannot hope to understand sex and gender until we clarify our attitude toward nature. Sex is a subset to nature. Sex is the natural in man.

    Society is an artificial construction, a defense against nature's power. Without society, we would be storm-tossed on the barbarous sea that is nature. Society is a system of inherited forms reducing our humiliating passivity to nature. We may alter these forms, slowly or suddenly, but no change in society will change nature. Human beings are not nature's favorites. We are merely one of a multitude of species upon which nature indiscriminately exerts its force. Nature has a master agenda we can only dimly know.

    Human life began in flight and fear. Religion rose from rituals of propitiation, spells to lull the punishing elements. To this day, communities are few in regions scorched by heat or shackled by ice. Civilized man conceals from himself the extent of his subordination to nature. The grandeur of culture, the consolation of religion absorb his attention and win his faith. But let nature shrug, and all is in ruin. Fire, flood, lightning, tornado, hurricane, volcano, earthquake—anywhere at any time. Disaster falls upon the good and bad. Civilized life requires a state of illusion. The idea of the ultimate benevolence of nature and God is the most potent of man's survival mechanisms. Without it, culture would revert to fear and despair.

    Sexuality and eroticism are the intricate intersection of nature and culture. Feminists grossly oversimplify the problem of sex when they reduce it to a matter of social convention: readjust society, eliminate sexual inequality, purify sex roles, and happiness and harmony will reign. Here feminism, like all liberal movements of the past two hundred years, is heir to Rousseau. The Social Contract (1762) begins: "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." Pitting benign Romantic nature against corrupt society, Rousseau produced the progressivist strain in nineteenth-century culture, for which social reform was the means to achieve paradise on earth. The bubble of these hopes was burst by the catastrophes of two world wars. But Rousseauism was reborn in the postwar generation of the Sixties, from which contemporary feminism developed.

    Rousseau rejects original sin, Christianity's pessimistic view of man born unclean, with a propensity for evil. Rousseau's idea, derived from Locke, of man's innate goodness led to social environmentalism, now the dominant ethic of American human services, penal codes, and behaviorist therapies. It assumes that aggression, violence, and crime come from social deprivation—a poor neighborhood, a bad home. Thus feminism blames rape on pornography and, by a smug circularity of reasoning, interprets outbreaks of sadism as a backlash to itself. But rape and sadism have been evident throughout history and, at some moment, in all cultures.

    This book takes the point of view of Sade, the most unread major writer in Western literature. Sade's work is a comprehensive satiric critique of Rousseau, written in the decade after the first failed Rousseauist experiment, the French Revolution, which ended not in political paradise but in the hell of the Reign of Terror. Sade follows Hobbes rather than Locke. Aggression comes from nature; it is what Nietzsche is to call the will-to-power. For Sade, getting back to nature (the Romantic imperative that still permeates our culture from sex counseling to cereal commercials) would be to give free rein...
About the Author-
  • CAMILLE PAGLIA is the University Professor of Humanities and Media Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. A regular contributor to Salon.com, she is the author of Glittering Images; Break, Blow, Burn; Sexual Personae; Sex, Art, and American Culture; and Vamps & Tramps.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 6, 2017
    Feminist and culture critic Paglia is at her feisty, full-throated best in this series of short manifestos that spans her career from her breakthrough 1990 study, Sexual Personae, to the present. Paglia’s remedy for the ills besetting contemporary women is an infusion of her personal brand of “Amazonian feminism,” which combines staunch libertarian principles with 1960s rebellion. She refuses to bow to ideology (“The premier principles of this book are free thought and free speech—open, mobile, and unconstrained by either liberal or conservative ideology”) and is uncompromising in her convictions. Paglia’s sharp tongue and clear vision veer toward forceful assertions and snappy insults as often as practical perspective and common-sense solutions. Her narrative of the major moments of second-wave feminism starts to sound rehearsed by the end, but her stances on date rape, abortion, free speech, sex, art, and the importance of historical perspective are admirably consistent, as is her contempt for university coddling, poststructuralism, women’s studies programs, cults of victimhood, and anything mainstream. Paglia’s adversarial stance and scattered self-applause sometimes obscure the excellence of her prose, which is terse and studded with vivid metaphor. One does not have to agree with her theories about masculinity, femininity, and sex to enjoy Paglia’s bracing intellect and scrappy attitude. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit.

  • Kirkus

    January 15, 2017
    Essays, reviews, and interviews chronicle the career of a self-described "libertarian feminist."Since Sexual Personae (1990), Paglia (Humanities and Media Studies/Univ. of the Arts, Philadelphia; Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars, 2012, etc.) has argued relentlessly against what she sees as puerile and uninformed ideas about sexuality, freedom, and gender. The pieces collected here, all previously published, include three sections from her first wide-ranging book on art, decadence, sex, and nature; various newspaper and magazine articles; and a few lectures, interviews, and book reviews. Unfortunately, to read a few is to read them all, as Paglia repeats views that have contributed to her reputation as "abrasive, strident, and obnoxious." She critiques women's studies programs, for example, as "a comfy, chummy morass of unchallenged groupthink." Bereft of grounding in science, the programs began, she asserts, to bring more female hires into academia, by administrators who did not much care about the intellectual content. "Women's studies is a jumble of vulgarians, bunglers, whiners, French faddists, apparatchiks, doughface party-liners, pie-in-the-sky utopianists, and bullying sanctimonious sermonizers," she wrote in 1991. Paglia softened her assessment somewhat by 2008, when, in an address at Harvard, she proposed reasonable reforms for the programs that included science as "a fundamental component" as well as the "writings of conservative opponents of feminism." Essays that touch on biography reveal elements of the author's childhood and adolescence in the repressive 1950s, when her role models were Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn; and that she imbibed "the essence of the Sixties, which is free thought and free speech." With apparent delight, Paglia skewers some icons of the women's movement, such as Gloria Steinem, Helene Cixous ("that damp sob sister"), and Carolyn Heilbrun, reserving praise for Madonna ("the true feminist") and Germaine Greer ("witty, learned, stylish, and sexy"). An album of media photographs suggests that Paglia would like to be described in exactly those terms. Controversial views on women's lives and nature that may appeal to Paglia's fans but not win her many more.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 1, 2016
    Both feminist leader and feminist dissident, Paglia has shown in books like Sexual Personae and Vamps & Tramps that she can write edgily about gender issues and sell hundreds of thousands of books in the process. This volume collects the best of her essays and carries a fresh introduction.

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Mitchell Sunderland, VICE "Topics run the gamut, including an essay praising The Real Housewives; her famous 1990 piece on Madonna in which she deemed her 'the future of feminism;' and an astute essay analyzing the cultural, aesthetic, and historical implications of stilettos. An introductory essay offers a compelling glimpse into Paglia's childhood in the 1950s that led her toward feminism and strong female role models like Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn. . . . Her work is always thought provoking and laid out with an academic's insight. She is most on point when she analyzes pop culture, design, and art--managing to put an intellectual spin on lowbrow entertainment and turn more obtuse academic topics into something relatable and enthralling."
  • Publishers Weekly "Polemical, thought-provoking, enraging, funny, and brave. And today [Paglia's essays] sound prescient. . . . Before President Donald Trump thrust the nation into debates about liberals forgetting white working class Americans in the Midwest and South, the failures of contemporary feminism, and free speech on college campus . . . Paglia was discussing all these topics. Whether you agree or disagree with Paglia (and many people have made strong arguments in disagreement), she has always understood the country while other experts did not."
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