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to speak about it For years I ve thought it should be scrapped and a better system put into place My knowledge is a bit out of date and honestly, I m glad I actually didn t think Title IX administration at a university level could have gotten worse.Disclaimer the second I represented women who were the sort of claimants that Professor Kipnis excoriates here I didn t ever see one of them achieve anything close to justice, because just as it s easy to condemn an unpopular professor while hiding behind hazy confidentiality restrictions, it s just as easy to ignore student complaints For the record I don t think consensual relationships between professors and students are usually appropriate and support their restriction Disclaimer the third this is the juicy one when I was an undergraduate at a no name Land Grand university in the 90s, I took a mandatory class from a professor who was friends with my father Seriously I helped the guy move with my dad and husband to get off the waitlist and into class, as one did in the 90s The first day of lecture, I watched an inappropriately think Pretty Woman dressed woman sit front and center and manage to try to flirt with the professor in front of 200 of her classmates It was pathetic and kind of funny, so I told my father about it He told his friend I was pissed off at them both, but I got an A I d forgotten about ituntil the university called me as a witness the next year She alleged an inappropriate relationship I was called into a university administrator s office and asked to report what I d seen It wasn t much, but I did I wasn t privy to the details, but I know that he resigned rather than be subject to the restrictions of not being allowed to meet one on one with students without a third party being present, as well as some other penalties Do I think he did something inappropriate Sure He was that kind of guy and I always got a creepy vibe from him Did I think she did something inappropriate Sure Later her best friend confided in me that she d made up a bunch of it Now she s well known for being a pro male divorce attorney So, that said, and remembering I m a pro claimant attorney.I spent the first quarter of the book thinking she was batshit crazy, the second quarter annoyed at the use of case studies I m a lawyer with some hard science behind me and no, not a double entendre , and the last half mostly in agreement The law is all about managing competing interests Title IX was meant to redress years of systematic discrimination against women It doesn t do it very well, because any legal method of redress of systematic discrimination, unless well supervised and well managed, is not likely to succeed.The biggest problem with Title IX is that it is underfunded, understaffed, and the people who are put in charge of administering its programs do not, generally, have sufficient education and background in the law to have any business making the kinds of decisions they do Additionally, the quality of programs varies widely between universities, which are themselves too busy acting as brands to police themselves with any sort of objectivity And that s what it comes down to Policing Prosecuting Judging Deciding on punishments No one body can do all of these things without tremendous conflicts of interests Until that s addressed, then we will continue to see the system abused in either direction. 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 All Title IX officers are overreaching feminazis with no capacity for nuance or commitment to due process If a feminist painted academic administrators or men with such broad brush strokes, it would be dismissed as polemic, but because feminists are the target, the book has been heralded as boldly speaking truth to power How can the pendulum have swung strongly in the direction of backlash before sexual assault survivors have received even a modicum of justice or recognition I am reminded of Haltom and McCann s symbolic Stella in Distorting Justice As a professor, Kipnis s account carries the veneer of research, but she follows no qualitative or quantitative standards of social science, or even journalistic ethics of investigating claims All men s claims of being falsely accused are believed at face value, all women s charges as spurious Her own internal inconsistencies are staggering She trashes women for freezing or not speaking up to then go on and render an account of when she did the same Faculty who work against letting other faculty harass with impunity are demonized in the extreme Instead, academia is one big summer of love, where the shared love of ideas translates into a simultaneous orgasm for all participants without any abuses of power Women who are confused about their sexual power and agency are savaged while men who prey on them are, at worst, hapless victims of Fatal Attraction like false accusers Ick. 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 EqualityFeminism Is Broken, Argues Laura Kipnis, If Anyone Thinks The Sexual Hysteria Overtaking American Campuses Is A Sign Of Gender ProgressA 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 IXIn 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 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 BureaucratsUnwanted 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 Urghhh 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 she traces one professor s, as well as her own, experiences before Title IX Torquemada s, exposing the egregious deprivation of due process, fairness or sanity in the inquisitions that are increasingly common across university campuses Kipnis provokes readers to consider the nature of sex, sexual violence and moral responsibility in complex, honest and substantial ways than most writers addressing the topic today She is an exemplar of the value, importance and power of intellectual freedom and authentic intellectual inquiry in our conformist climate She accomplishes all of this with a bravura writing style that is accessible, jargon free and, at times, mordantly funny A terrific book. 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 traumatized her in some way Kipnis describes at length, the case of one senior professor, who had his career ruined, after a consensual relationship ended and another student, who stalked him although Kipnis never uses this term to characterize her behavior charges him with sexual assault Kipnis primary criticisms are 1 agency has been taken away from women in the current approach to the serious problem of sexual assaults on college campuses Women are increasingly seen as in need of protection from predetory males 2 there is resistance to providing women with defense skills against assault because this is somehow seen as blaming the victim, and 3 an emphasis on the need to change the behavior of men I agree with Kipnis view that men who are most likely to commit these kinds of assault are less likely to be receptive to changing their behavior.I was fascinated by some of the insights about the impact of the growing focus worries emphasis on Title IX related to assaults This has become a big industry as various entities race to peddle training etc to colleges and universities It is a big deal to higher education because the failure to educate all faculty and staff on Title IX and failure to comply can cost colleges their federal dollars Kipnis also noted the exponential growth of administrative positions at colleges Paired with the dollars spent on Title IX cases, and trainings, Kipnis reflects these trends lead to the reduction in funding for college libraries, faculty salaries, and probably other kinds of cut backs There may be too much detail about certain cases for some readers I am not referring to unnecessary descriptions of assaults, but many many details about all of the ins and outs of certain cases It is for that reason I am rating this 4 stars although in my ratings, that is high praise I highly recommend this book to anyone working in higher education An example of such cutbacks on my campus is a new so called green initiative All trash cans have been removed from classrooms Faculty and staff have to empty their own trash and recycling at a central place on each floor Our secretaries were the most incensed saying it s not my job I interpret this move as a way to reduce maintenance workers Calling it green is the second biggest insult after that of cutting jobs. 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 feminists of every generation I wonder if she thinks claiming to be a feminist enough times will hide the fact that her book is thinly veiled misogyny and distain for the young women who are ruining her precious free love campuses where the best advice she gives is, it s not assault, just bad sex. 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 their own peculiarities in the medieval sense and parallel legal jurisdictions that often supplant the public law I ve had the usual range of female experiences and sexual assaults, which is why I feel pretty strongly that someone has to call out the codes of self martyring femininity, not to mention the covert veneration of feminine passivity enshrined in our campus policies and initiatives.What would happen if we stopped commiserating with one another about how horrible men are and teach students how to say, Get your fucking hand off my knee Yes, there s an excess of masculine power in the world, and women have to be educated to contest it in real time, instead of waiting around for men to reach some new stage of heightened consciousness just in case that day never comes. 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 generally view our policies as meeting the dual goals of education and maintaining campus safety In other words, I don t see the process as big brother ish and wanton as Kipnis does I tend to think the process to combat sexual assault serves its purposes, as outlined by the Department of Education, and not as this generation s Communist threat, as Kipnis argues But, Kipnis makes some good points too, especially related to binge drinking and the role of alcohol in consent to sexual activity, as well as points relating to female agency Kipnis spends a lot of time on professor student relationships and I think that s where she goes very wrong While her case and the other case she discusses were handled badly, her generalizations do not appear to be warranted She reasons from what she calls many cases and emails she receives to indict the whole system Without actual numbers and data, especially given my much different experience at UWM, I cannot have confidence that her view is the pervasive one and mine is the minority She would be far convincing if she were systematic And, one of her bottom line arguments is that it should be okay for students and faculty to have consensual sexual relationships just as it was when she was in school generally, she thinks we far too often equate sex with danger on college campuses , and I find that to be just completely wrong given the inherent power differential even if, as she argues, sometimes the student has power in the relationship According to Kipnis, this ban on relationships or anything close to them makes faculty sitting ducks for false claims Indeed, she even challenges the view that the accuser is to always be believed which is essentially what got her in trouble with the Title IX folks, given that retaliation against people because of their claims is also forbidden and argues that Title IX cases have opened the door for revenge charges She claims that well known and oft repeated statistics about the rarity of false charges concerning rape or unwanted sexual advances are wrong She presents evidence about that, but I d have to do research to see if she s right Her concern, generally, is with the rights of those accused, and I m sympathetic to that concern But again, I think she generalizes too far and fails to recognize the real danger campuses face and rightly wish to avoid of not keeping its community safe She gets too close, too often for my taste, to victim blaming, though she swears she s not doing so.She makes an interesting feminist argument about these cases though, suggesting that our treatment of these cases essentially removes sexual agency from women, persuading them that they are, in her words, helpless prey We ve moved from a time where women were tougher basically her words and could handle a man making a pass at her, to one where women especially students couldn t possibly want to have casual sex and claim harassment for once casual comments While, again, that goes too far, I do think she makes some compelling points here, demonstrating how generalizations about gender affect the process I vehemently disagree, though, that women ought to just put up with the kinds of sexual comments they used to tolerate Obviously, there is something wrong with a society where sexual harassment is rampant and women are expected to just deal with it All of this, she argues quite convincingly, is exacerbated by the campus binge drinking problem When alcohol is involved in a sexual assault case and on campuses, it nearly always is , many consent issues arise Kipnis argues that when both parties are drunk, it is as impossible for the woman to give consent Title IX rules as it is for the man to know that the woman isn t consenting and for him to make a reasoned judgement about his actions Walking, again, a fine line between making a reasoned, feminist argument and victim blaming, Kipnis argues that we need to spend time educating women about saying no and knowing themselves well enough to know what they want in terms of sex, about not getting black out drunk, and about self defense, and I think that s all right Thus far, we ve spent far time attempting to change attitudes and behavior of men, and that s good too, but I think Kipnis has a point, that many of these situations wouldn t have gotten where they were without excessive consumption of alcohol That consumption itself is often aimed at loosening inhibitions and having fun When a woman regrets what she did under the influence, she might bring a Title IX claim, and that s where, according to Kipnis, sexual ambivalence turns in to sexual assault, to the great detriment of the accused It certainly should not be taboo to discuss the problem of binge drinking on campus as it relates to sexual activity, though campuses have long been trying to address their alcohol problems, to very little avail.As with most things, campus sexual assault and how universities handle it, is COMPLICATED Kipnis raises as many questions as she answers, and had me vehemently writing COME ON as often as I was nodding my head I think the book deserves to be read by campus administrators and I ll send this review to ours, so that they can join me in pondering the issues she raises But, I also think she s crazy.
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
- 245 pages
- Unwanted Advances
- Laura Kipnis
- 14 August 2019 Laura Kipnis