Colleges Think Women Having Sex Is Dangerous. This Feminist Says They're Wrong.
Northwestern University's Laura Kipnis on feminism, witch trials, and sexual paranoia at American universities.
"The rules and the codes [on campuses] have been rewritten behind closed doors such that almost all sex can be charged as something criminal," says feminist author and Northwestern University film professor Laura Kipnis. "It reinforces a traditional femininity that sees women as needing protection, sees women's sexuality as something that is endangering to them."
Kipnis' new book is Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, which explores the insanity of sexual conduct codes and attitudes at American universities. It grew out of Kipnis' own experience of being investigated under Title IX of the Education Amendments Act at Northwestern for a 2015 essay she published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
She sat down with Reason's Nick Gillespie to talk about feminism, sex on campus, her personal experience with Title IX, the dismissal hearing of her former Northwestern colleague Peter Ludlow, which Kipnis has characterized as a "witch trial," and her uneasy new alliance with conservative and libertarian groups.
Read an excerpt from Unwanted Advances.
Watch Matt Welch's 2015 interview with Kipnis.
Edited by Paul Detrick. Shot by Jim Epstein and Kevin Alexander.
This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy.
Nick Gillespie: This book grows out of your 2015 inquisition for an article you wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education of all places that some of your students said created a hostile workplace or invaded their safe space. The controlling metaphors in your book are McCarthyism, Satanic ritual, child abuse, witch trials. Summarize your case and why you are thinking about it in these terms?
Laura Kipnis: Okay, a slight correction, it wasn't my students who brought me up on charges or marched against the article. It was other students who I had never met, which is to say it's not all students and that's something that gets forgotten. It's a cadre of activists.
Nick Gillespie: And they were grad students, right?
Laura Kipnis: It was two grad students who brought me up on Title IX complaints. There had been this protest march before that against the first essay, which I think was largely undergrads. As far as the metaphors, this is something I have been thinking about and trying to puzzle out because I do think there's this growing climate of sexual paranoia on campus that has fueled these Title IX inquisitions, partly because as people probably know the federal government, the Department of Education dictates that colleges and universities have to conduct these tribunals on campus, but to try to minimize or lower sexual assault and create an atmosphere on campus of gender equity. There are good reasons behind this and everybody does know that sexual assault has been a problem and oftentimes an unaddressed problem, so just to say all of that, but …
Nick Gillespie: Your piece, the first piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, it was basically you were reflecting on your experience as an undergrad and grad student and a looser sexual morality on campus between students and professors or just more broadly … How can people, how could they get upset at that in the sense of somehow then you being on their campus was threatening?
Laura Kipnis: Yes, well part of the promise is I tend toward irony. You're not supposed to be ironic about these things, so there had been this new regulation prohibiting professors and students from dating. Even if they were in different departments or different schools or different campuses, so I thought that went too far because we already had regulations against non-consensual sex, but this was prohibiting consensual relationships, which to my mind was addressed at women and at impeding women from doing things they might want to do. It was like a protectionist … I called it "feminist paternalism." Around the same time there was all the stuff about trigger warnings going on and so I was writing about this atmosphere of regulation that I thought was infantilizing students as opposed to promoting their ability to function in the world after graduation.
Nick Gillespie: As a feminist, was it infantilizing all students or was it specifically kind of denying sexual agency to female students?
Laura Kipnis: Well, they are written in gender neutral language, but yes, of course, they are aimed at women and it's mostly women who are filing the complaints about this stuff. To go back to the McCarthyism or the witch hunt kind of metaphors, part of what's happening is that while we know that sexual assault is the problem, the definition of sexual assault is being expanded and expanded behind closed doors so that when I ended up writing about this Title IX case of mine and I got all of this information about other people's cases around the country, they were being brought up on charges for things like making what somebody thought was a sexual joke in an off-campus bar or eye contact that somebody thought was the wrong kind of eye contact. Even micro-behaviors, jokes are starting to be subject to policing by campus regulators whose budgets increase and whose power increases the more stuff they find to regulate and adjudicate.
Nick Gillespie: A lot of this had to do with a dear colleague letter that was put out a few years ago under the Obama administration that under Title IX, which guarantees equal access to education, any programs that are funded by federal dollars that said universities have to investigate any claim of sexual harassment or sexual assault and lowered the standard of what counts as guilt. Why was that changed or why was it reinterpreted in that particular way?
Laura Kipnis: You're talking about preponderance of evidence, which is a much lower standard. It's 50/50 plus a feather. That's how I have heard it described as opposed to say clear and convincing, which is higher. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that's the bar of proof maybe in other kinds of court cases. I'm not entirely sure, but one of the things that's happening also is that it's up to these individual Title IX investigators as I have learned in this very capricious manner in terms of deciding what preponderance is. In fact, I just read an interesting study about a guy at UCLA who has modeled or predicted the false conviction rate under the preponderance standard as upward of 20%. The lower the standard of proof, the higher the false conviction rate basically.
Nick Gillespie: Well, you talk about and you talk about it in a long chapter which is fascinating and then also come back to it in your coda, which is subtitled Eye Witness to a Witch Trial, it's a chapter about how a yes became a no years after the fact and you talk about a Professor Ludlow. Can you summarize that case for us and then let's talk about some of the implications of it?
Laura Kipnis: I should say I didn't know this professor and I wrote a couple paragraphs about his case in the original Sexual Paranoia article that I wrote and that was partly why I got brought up on the Title IX charges because I had used this phrase "dating." I said he had dated a former graduate student because I had read a court filing of his. This was known on campus. Well, not all of it was known. I later found out a lot after I was asked by him to be his faculty support person in his dismissal hearing and he ended up giving me all the files in his case.
Nick Gillespie: Because strangely in a quirk, he had not signed a confidentiality agreement and all that, so he could actually talk more freely?
Laura Kipnis: Not so much even a quirk as that student protests meant that the university retracted a settlement agreement that was in the works and so he left without any settlement or confidentiality agreement. He had had a consensual three-month relationship with a graduate student in his department and I know it was consensual because when he turned over all this material, part of what he had was transcripts and records of 2000 emails and text messages from this three-month relationship when I read all of it. It's clear that it was consensual and it's even clear that she had the upper hand in the relationship.
The accusation was that he had misused his power. What that doesn't account for is that there are different kinds of power. There is institutional power and there's other kinds of power. There's the power of who is more in love with who, who is younger and more attractive, there's all sorts of power at work here. Anyway, that was part of the case.
Nick Gillespie: But then he ended up getting in trouble for an incident with an undergraduate student?
Laura Kipnis: He had gone out for an evening drinking and going to galleries with a former student of his who had invited him to go to an art event and she wasn't his student. I should say there was no code at the time against professors and students going out and I do say in my own education, which was in our schools and a different era, professors and students went out drinking and all sorts of things all the time, so that would have been no big deal. But maybe in the last, I don't know, five, eight years, 10 years, the atmosphere on campus has changed and this is part of the paranoia story, where I think professors and male professors are increasingly being seen as predators really and as always on the verge of misusing their power for illicit gains, particularly of a sexual nature. Women are passive and at the mercy of this crew of predatory professors. This really infiltrates into how any incident like this is seen and probably I think into the students' own perceptions of what happens to them.
He, Ludlow and this undergrad went out drinking at various art events and bars. She ended up sleeping at his place. They didn't have sex. They were both clothed. They were sleeping on top of the comforter. A few days later she said she tried to kill herself by jumping into Lake Michigan in February because she was so upset about what she said had happened between them. She said he had groped her. He said he didn't. That she had come on to him. She said he came onto her. It was a he said, she said thing, but in campus terms he was pretty much automatically guilty …
Nick Gillespie: And you do an incredible close reading of the administrator who actually was in charge of adjudicating this and you say, it's totally whimsical almost or there's no way he was going to be found anything other than responsible.
Laura Kipnis: Yeah and in my view, and I have to emphasize this is my opinion, there was a lot of gender bias and there was very capricious reasoning where a couple of cases she found in his favor, but in other cases she found against him and in both cases there was no evidence supporting the conclusions. Yes, it's hard to see how she got there.
Nick Gillespie: I think about my own undergraduate. I graduated college in 1985. I have graduate degrees from the late '90 and '96. There were a lot of lecherous professors who were constantly asking girls out, etc. Is that a problem and if it is, then how do you regulate it or not regulate it, but how do you deal with it? We're not talking about rapists here. We're not talking about people, but just lecherous people, what is the way to deal with that if it's an issue?
Laura Kipnis: I would say the way is education and frank discussions. I do think we're doing a terrible job of educating students about these kinds of realities. Yeah, I obviously think nobody in a position of power over a student's career or grading that person should be leching after them. I also think that students have to be educated, and women students particularly, to deal with these kinds of situations because they come up all the time in life. Life is full of power and hierarchical differences between people.
You can regulate away and I, myself, think there's probably something about human sexuality that's always going to evade all attempts to regulate it. I think you have to deal with these situations as they evolve. Obviously, the problem is not just professors, it's students and students, particularly in situations involving alcohol, which I talk about a lot, so education is the answer to this.
Nick Gillespie: You talk about your feminism in the book and also, it's ironic. We ran an excerpt of the book at Reason.com. It's ironic for you because you're a woman of the left. You're on the left. Your political commitments are on the left and the people who are supporting you tend to be more on the libertarian side of things or the libertarian right. How has feminism changed over your professional career, where at various points if you go back to maybe the late 60s, there was a flowering of sexual empowerment of women, then there was people like Susan Brown Miller and talking against rape. The idea that almost all heterosexual intercourse was a form of rape one way or the other because you couldn't escape patriarchy. It's wobbled around since then. What has changed in feminism and what is a good feminist response to sexual paranoia that ultimately treats women without agency or not fully in control of their sexual desire?
Laura Kipnis: That was a lot of questions. Yes, I'm finding myself in strange company and a lot of that is on the civil liberties and due process side of things because you have students who consider themselves to be activists and I suppose would think of themselves on the left, I maybe have some questions about that, who are acting like conservatives are acting and you have conservatives acting like liberals. You have these students being increasingly authoritarian and willing to throw out free speech and due process. I'm still trying to figure this out, these anti-democratic tendencies.
Nick Gillespie: Well, it definitely anti-free speech.
Laura Kipnis: Yes, I would say …
Nick Gillespie: … Of free expression.
Laura Kipnis: I will go so far as to say anti-Democratic. In terms of the feminism of the moment on campus, I'm also saying this is feminist conservatism. I stunned a right-wing talk show radio host in conversation when I said, "This conservatism, this sort of feminist protectionism," and he couldn't grasp that concept because the right has instilled in some of their minds that this can only be this form of leftism.
Nick Gillespie: That was moment in the 80s I guess when a bunch of religious fundamentalists and feminists were trying to ban pornography.
Laura Kipnis: Certain feminists so that's the point is it's certain feminists, mostly affiliated with Andrea Dorkin and Catherine McKinnon who are the anti-pornography feminists and Brown Miller maybe would be more in that camp, who did make alliances with the right and it was a puritanical and I think conservative form of feminism. The point to make to maybe say it simply is you have to say feminisms plural, so I would call myself a leftist emancipatory-oriented feminist psychoanalytic. I would at certain points call myself a Marxist feminist. That's why talking to myself, here in the company of Reason we're getting calls from the Cato Institute is surprising to me and I'm trying to figure it out.
What I don't want to participate in with the libertarian/conservative crowd is the feminist bashing because what I want to do is reclaim a kind of feminism or revise, keep what's useful or what I think's leading us toward something more like liberation and autonomy and equality and that kind of stuff.
Nick Gillespie: Within a kind of libertarian genealogy of ideas, there is a strong feminist component and it's people like Rose Wilder Lane, who is the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and is widely credited with writing, editing, she was a professional writer editing the Little House books … Isabel Patterson, who was a well-known book reviewer, obviously people like Ian Rand, who would not be feminist, but as individualists and there's a tradition in the 19th century of individualist, autonomous feminism and autonomy is certainly a big concept for libertarians. Is that a way forward for feminism to …? If it's focusing on autonomy more than inter-sectional elements of where, well it's actually race and class that are more important or power positions relatively speaking? I guess I'll stop talking here for a second.
Laura Kipnis: Many questions piling up.
Nick Gillespie: Well, one of the weird things is when feminist scholars and this happens a lot and I think it's happening with inter-sectional feminism, they put the gender aspect last because there's like, "Oh no, you know what? Actually, race and class is more important."
Laura Kipnis: I don't think the class is even figured in when the students are talking about inter-sectional feminism. Look, I respect this commitment to racial justice with the student activists, but it would be difficult to untangle the genealogy of all this. Yeah, I do veer toward maybe it was reading … I was going to say toward I guess about autonomy and maybe it was reading Laura Ingalls Wilder as a child who was a big influence on me, but I maybe would leave behind the Marxist feminist and say something like democratic socialist feminist, with an emphasis on the Democratic, which I think maybe pushes me toward a liberal kind of view. There is this certain kind of overlap with the liberalism of libertarians on such things as free speech and due process I suppose.
There are these tangled lineages. I suppose where we depart is more on the economic side, where I would be somebody favoring more government control and economic justice and redistribution and that kind of stuff. That's where I'm trying to sort through my alliances with you guys. In terms of feminism, wait, did I answer it or not?
Nick Gillespie: Well, what is a positive feminism that you would like to see become dominant on campus? You're right, it even in the 80s, it wasn't all feminists were men-haters or they were all this or that, but what's a positive vision of feminism that you would like to see become resurgent right now?
Laura Kipnis: I think there isn't a model really. There was when I was coming up, a kind of left wing or materialist or Marxist feminism that was very interesting to me that talked about stuff like, talked much more about class and pay for housework and things like that, addressing material issues.
Nick Gillespie: Right and I would assume also things like can women own property? Can women get credit …?
Laura Kipnis: Well hopefully, we settle that one a while ago.
Nick Gillespie: Yeah, but I'm saying these are materials questions of it's stunning that single women couldn't get birth control prescription pills until 1973 and abortion, obviously, also a big issue in that time.
Laura Kipnis: Yeah, huge, yeah and the first wave settled a lot of that stuff did get us the vote, that kind of thing. You know which is why I think feminism has been this historically crucial, important, world-changing movement. Just the fact that women owning property or having economic autonomy, I think people forget how recently that wasn't the case. It's why I can't join in on the feminist bashing and why I also don't think equity feminism goes far enough, like just focusing on pay issues because I think there really are entrenched gender differentials.
Partly, this goes maybe a bit off topic for you, but within the context of heterosexual femininity, I think a lot of women, me included, I know this firsthand, are very just simply self-sabotaging. I think femininity in itself has got a lot of pathological elements and that's where the campus stuff to me is veering. It reinforces a traditional femininity that sees women as needing protection, sees women sexuality as something that's endangering to them. Part of the concept that is I think prevailing in this on campuses is this idea of trauma. Trauma studies has been a huge thing and this idea … I also got in trouble for being a bit not deferential enough to this term "survivor." You have people who have an uncomfortable social experience on a date calling themselves survivors impressing complaint.
Again, not to minimize campus assault, not to minimize the kind of crappy stuff that guys do when they are drunk and have a drunken woman in their sites so all that being said, I also do think in terms of autonomy and I talk about this in the book, women have to take more responsibility for stuff like passing out drunk in places that are dicey. It doesn't mean that you asked to get assaulted, but it means if you are saying a guy is responsible for his behavior when he's drunk, I also think women have to be pragmatically self-protective.
Nick Gillespie: When Joe Biden recently just this week said all drunk sex is rape, is that a farcical statement?
Laura Kipnis: Well then basically, all sex is rape on campus because I just think there's a lot of kids … I had a conversation with Suzy Bright, the sex activist, and she said she talks to kids who never had sober sex and encourages it for them. Biden is talking about criminalizing a vast proportion of the sex on campus and that in fact is what's happened. That the rules and the codes have been rewritten behind closed doors such that almost all sex can be charged as something criminal and particularly those charges go against men. I say this as a feminist that if two people are drunk, they are both responsible for the sex that takes place, not just the guy.
Nick Gillespie: Just to underscore it, you're not talking about if somebody has passed out, it's like they can't consent.
Laura Kipnis: That's right.
Nick Gillespie: We're not talking about that. We're talking about people who might be tipsy or who have been flirting or even are in a relationship but retroactively the definitions can change?
Laura Kipnis: Yeah that happens and the problem with some of these cases, they are very hard to adjudicate because there's he said-she said and yes, I do think a guy who has sex with an unconscious woman can be brought up on criminal charges of rape, but that shouldn't happen on campus because that is a criminal charge.
Nick Gillespie: Would it be helpful if these cases were moved off of the campus and put into the actual criminal justice system, which also has its own problems in dealing with sexual assault?
Laura Kipnis: That also is the important to say that a lot of what's happening on campus is an over-correction to what didn't happen previously in the criminal justice system where sexual assault was trivialized or you couldn't get a case brought forward by a DA or it took years for it to go forward. The campus system was meant to address that, but I think it's doing it ineffectually.
Nick Gillespie: We have talked a little bit about how feminism has changed and where it might go. What in your experience, as you have been teaching college students for years, what happened to students? Because on a certain level and I can say from my undergraduate years, I can see the trajectory where it ends up here, but on things like speech I don't remember at least in the first half of the 80s, I don't remember a student protest that was insisting on less speech. It was always pushing back against the stuffed shirts who were trying to shut things down. Now that seems to be very different and then with sexuality, where is this coming from?
Laura Kipnis: You have to say on campus, there are two very contradictory stories about sex because you do have this prevailing hook-up culture. I should say I teach film and so my students are often times making films and writing screenplays about their own lives and we talk about this stuff and so I do think I find out pretty much what's going on so there's that side, the hook-up culture. Then there's this other side, which is the trauma stuff …
Nick Gillespie: Let's be the hook-up culture, as I think we're both baby boomers. People who were having more sex as baby boomers. Millennial's have less sex than Gen-Xers, who have less sex than baby boomers and the greatest generation never had sex, but that's their problem.
Laura Kipnis: You are saying they have less now?
Nick Gillespie: Yeah, yeah, most surveys show that sexual activity both at the high school level and at the college level is actually lower …
Laura Kipnis: Mmm-hmmm(affirmative) that's interesting.
Nick Gillespie: I guess that would be a different question, but where does that come from? You have a sense of what's going on on campus?
Laura Kipnis: I think I have some sense of what's going on and people are never great at self-reporters about their own sex lives, but I hear how they talk about sex, let's say. It's all very open, pro-sex. There's a lot of discussion about alternative practices and stuff. They are very knowledgeable about all of this stuff, but I do think there is a kind of Puritanism as well and this sense of potential trauma, harm.
I don't know where it comes from? I'm somebody who doesn't like to recycle used up clichés and so all of this stuff about "helicopter parenting" and "coddled students" I don't know? I don't want to recycle that stuff, but yes, there definitely is a change. There's a huge change from our generation to this generation of students. I think in a certain way it actually has maybe something to do with the being best friends with your parents and never having gone through this real rebellion against authority and so they are sort of calling their parents two or three times a day and never really left home.
Nick Gillespie: And not even shouting at them.
Laura Kipnis: Yes, yeah.
Nick Gillespie: They are calling up to say I hate you.
Laura Kipnis: No, they …
Nick Gillespie: No.
Laura Kipnis: Their best buddies.
Nick Gillespie: You do use Freudian analysis. What's going on there then because this is like a radical shift from what 50 or 100 years ago would have been taken as a universal thing that you individuate yourself against your parents and that you struggle to be independent from them and we seem to be witnessing, I say this as a parent, a much more fraternal bond with your children rather than almost an adversarial one?
Laura Kipnis: Here's a something I have been speculating about and don't have an answer to, but maybe you do. When I was coming of age, there was not the same panic about inter-generational sex, so the professor-student question was you know, a lot of women I knew meet some men, had some relationships with professors. One of my best friends married his French professor and he was a sophomore, so he's scarred.
Nick Gillespie: Did he stop? Does he speak French?
Laura Kipnis: Very well, yes.
Nick Gillespie: That's good.
Laura Kipnis: This panic on campus about the professor-student thing, I think is almost related to this question of the best friends and there's something going on about generations. I'm not a smart enough Freudian to answer it, but I do see somehow this stuff is related to itself or each other, however you would put that. I don't have the answer yet. I'll get back to you on that.
Nick Gillespie: The trauma, and again without demeaning people who went through horrible experiences, but the kind of fetishization of survivorship. Where do you think that's coming from? I can remember I guess it was Christopher Lasch's The Minimal Self, which it's a Frankfurt School-influenced thesis about a Marxist-Freudian theory about of, and he was writing in 1980 I think for that, about fetishizing survivorship and that people were appropriating stories about concentration camps. He lit into Betty Friedan for calling, saying that being a suburban housewife in the late 50s was the equivalent of being in a concentration camp and that has proceeded a pace.
Is that where the trauma culture is coming from or is it that we are so worried that our children are … There are effectively no real threats to kids anymore in terms of they don't starve, they don't have childhood diseases, very few get abducted, they go to school longer, but we're acting as if they see one image they're going to be ruined for life. Where does this come from?
Laura Kipnis: I think a lot of it would have to do with identity politics. I'm not somebody who is going to rant about identity politics because it's been very important and my students have been I noticed, really schooled in a multi-cultural curriculum. They are very attentive to all forms of injustice, to marginalization. They're really I think deeply committed in an honest way to including this range of experiences they have been marginalized into the mainstream and they're great about that and very self-aware of their own participations in forms of privilege and hierarchy and that kind of thing.
Another side of that though is that the traumatic experience or the person who is on the margin, that position is the privileged one in campus politics at the moment. I suppose some people might blame that on leftists and leftist professors and that kind of thing perhaps, but I think these things are related, yeah.
Nick Gillespie: Well, that's Dave Chapelle, the comedian, calls this "The Misery Olympics," which might be a really archer. He's in a position where he could say that. I'm not sure that I would. What has been the reaction among your colleagues and among your students because you said it wasn't your students who protested you? What kind of response have you gotten as you explore this material? When you talk about irony in the book, it's very … I don't want to say it's funny, it's not laughable, but it's very ironic, it's very wry and clearly humor on campus it's hard to be funny these days. There's Chapelle is one, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, a number of comedians have said they don't even play colleges anymore. How have your colleagues and how have your immediate students responded to your material?
Laura Kipnis: I should say a little bit about how I'm an anomalist kind of person, which is helpful and probably how I got myself into this situation. I didn't go to university. I went to art schools. I started out as a painter and then a video artist and I ended up teaching in a university teaching film because I was a filmmaker, but I don't do that anymore. I actually write these books. I have always had a bit one foot on, one foot off of campus so it does allow me to be both an insider … I think this book could have only been written by an insider and the criticisms I've made, but also a bit of an outsider, too. Yeah, I think more ironic about a lot of the stuff, so it's been interesting to have this as my material. It's almost like the academic novel or satire that I have always wanted to write but didn't.
On my campus, I think people are terrified actually and don't say anything, so after I got marched on and I wrote about the Title IX thing, my students didn't say a word. They were kind of great about it and at one time said to some students I was close to, "How come nobody ever brought up this protest march thing?" She said, "Oh, we knew about it, Laura," and I have had very colleagues at Northwestern weigh-in to me about the articles that I wrote exposing the Title IX stuff, much more response from people around the country. I don't know if that it's the Midwest and everybody's very polite? I can't really answer it.
Nick Gillespie: You talk about paranoia and McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials. The Salem witch trials was a classic case of hysteria. Samuel Sewell, one of the judges ended his life wearing sackcloth and ashes to pay penance for what he did. Is this bubble going to burst? Do you see any sign of that that people are regaining a more measured sense of where we should be on campus?
Laura Kipnis: Well, an interesting parallel is you have these accusations made by teenage girls in Salem and similarly early oftentimes here. I don't want to be grandiose, I hope this book makes some difference. Partly I hope that it means that people who have been through these kinds of inquisitions or processes are willing to come forward and talk about their stories. What really is happening is a lot of this is ending up in the civil courts, where undergrad men, who have been accused of things that they say they didn't do or the circumstances were more murky, these cases are ending up in courts and it's going to be civil judges that I think turn back the tide of these over-prosecutions.
In fact, there's this really interesting case at Brandeis with two men students, where after a breakup, one guy said that the other guy had kissed him while he was asleep and that was sexual assault because he couldn't consent. This judge, who wrote a really kind of eloquent decision, more or less said, "Are you kidding me?" Sorry, what they called "the special examiner" at Brandeis that was their term. I think that's what they called him or her, had ruled that this was indeed assault because the guy was asleep and couldn't give consent. The judge's very eloquent decision I think will have some effect and other cases like that, so I think that's where it's going to end up.
Nick Gillespie: Of course, your book, I mean on your experience on speaking about it, particularly because you are on the left and a feminist, that's a kind of shot across the bow of saying you're not Rush Limbaugh, decrying this or denouncing this.
Laura Kipnis: Yeah and I was in a position that I could come forward because I'm tenured. I'm in a research university that does support academic freedom, despite what happened to me. That's a complicated sort of issue in terms of who green lit those charges I think, but I think the problem that is about half of the professoriate now is not tenure track. They are on contracts. Those people wouldn't have a chance in hell of coming forward, writing an article as I did.
In fact, if you get brought up on some kind of even specious complaint, you are likely to lose your job. I've seen that happen and know a couple of lawsuits that are going forward. Partly because I suppose the kinds of stuff I've written about, I've written about scandal, I've written about sexual politics. I was I guess a bit more willing to go out on some limbs about it than other people would have.
Nick Gillespie: Well, I'm glad that you did. The book is Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus. The author is Laura Kipnis. Thanks so much for talking to us.
Laura Kipnis: Thank you, thanks.
Nick Gillespie: It's a richly reported and fascinating read, so thank you very much.
Laura Kipnis: Thanks.