“It is precisely the gray where Kipnis summons her strongest stroke, swimming the murkiest depths of our sexual psyches.… Even if the current is choppy and the shore miles off, the journey seems more important than ever, and one feels grateful to tread behind her.” — Salon
Cultural critic and media studies scholar Laura Kipnis is “a taboo-skewering feminist provocateur” (Slate) whose work confronts sex, power, and gender politics. Whatever her topic, Kipnis’s voice is unforgettable, invoking “the gleeful, viperish wit of a Dorothy Parker and the energetic charisma of a cheerleader” (Slate). Geoff Dyer calls her “the best polemical writer investigating today,” and praises her “clarity of expression and the uncompromising vehemence of her thoughts.”
Widely known for her “smart, weird, funny, and devotedly iconoclastic” (The Chicago Sun-Times) takes, Kipnis’s latest book, the “provocative and darkly humorous” (Kirkus) Love in the Time of Contagion, a wryly off-kilter interrogation of relationships and intimacy in the dystopic aftermath of COVID-19. In this timely, fiercely argued, and hilariously observed investigation, she weaves her own (ambivalent) coupled lockdown experiences and those of others against a larger political backdrop to raise questions about the cultural afterlife of the pandemic and the new taxonomies of love and intimacy it has inevitably produced. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, Molly Young noted “scooting around Kipnis’s mind feels like eating the world’s finest trail mix: no dud raisins to shift aside, only M&Ms and the fancier nuts…. the book is perfectly equidistant between riff and investigation.”
In Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, Kipnis argues that an emergent culture of perceived sexual vulnerability, far from protecting and empowering young women, actually impedes progress as a forward-thinking society. Far from a dry, detached critique, Unwanted Advances is an in-the-trenches account of Kipnis’s own experiences. A committed feminist, she was surprised to find herself the object of protest 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.” In defiance of confidentiality strictures, Kipnis wrote a whistleblowing essay, “My Title IX Inquisition,” a combination of keen reportage and fierce polemic that catapulted Kipnis to the center of a national debate over free speech, so-called safe spaces, and the worrying overreach of a civil rights law originally intended to empower women, not infantilize them.
Without minimizing the seriousness of sexual assault, Kipnis calls for more honesty about the ambiguities inherent in adult sexual behavior and questions the stability of both individual autonomy and academic freedom in contemporary American campuses. Hanna Rosin, author of The End of Men, calls Unwanted Advances “a revelation…. Here is a self-aware feminism telling us that what’s happening on college campuses is eroding feminism and free thought.” “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” the essay that sparked Unwanted Advances, was included in Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen. The Wall Street Journal named Unwanted Advances one of the year’s 10 best nonfiction books.
Kipnis’s darkly funny takes on sex, power, and popular culture include the books Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior, and Against Love: A Polemic. Her writing has been published in Slate, Harper’s, Playboy, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review, and her work has been translated into 15 languages. She has spoken on sexual politics and free speech at Yale, Wellesley, Kenyon, Bard, the University of Texas, the University of Oregon, and the Chicago Humanities Festival, among many other places.
Kipnis is a professor of film and media at Northwestern University. She has also taught at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Michigan, NYU, and Columbia, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the NEA, and Yaddo. She splits her time between New York and Chicago.here.