Growing up as "a gender nonconforming entity" in Eisenhower's America wasn't easy for cultural critic and best-selling author Camille Paglia. Her adolescence in small-town upstate New York was marked by rejection, rebellion, and cross-dressing, all in reaction to the stultifying social norms of the 1950s and early '60s. She would go on to become one of America's most famous academics and cultural critics, an "anti-feminist feminist" and an incendiary atheist who once wrote that "God is man's greatest idea." From her perch at Philadelphia's University of the Arts, Paglia has befuddled orthodox partisans and ideologues for decades.
So what does this tireless provocateur think of contemporary culture, with its openness to a wide variety of ever-proliferating gender, racial, and sexual identities? Not so much. Whether the subject is feminism or the fate of Western civilization, Paglia is no Pollyanna. In this wide-ranging discussion, she says decadence is upon us, higher education is going to hell, LSD destroyed the baby boomers, millennials are myopic, contemporary criticism has croaked, and Hillary Clinton might singlehandedly destroy the universe. Even Madonna, once Paglia's ideal of sex-positive feminism, seems to have lost her way.
Does the celebrated author of Sexual Personae (1990) and Break Blow Burn (2005) have any reason to get out of bed in the morning? Does she have any hope at all? Reason TV's Nick Gillespie sat down with Paglia in March to find out.