Cultural critic and media studies scholar Laura Kipnis is “a taboo-skewering feminist provocateur” (Slate) whose work confronts sex, power, and gender politics. “The best polemical writer investigating today” (Geoff Dyer), her takes on sex and gender in popular culture have been described by The Chicago Sun-Times as “smart, weird, funny, and devotedly iconoclastic”. 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).
Kipnis’s latest book, Love in the Time of Contagion, is a wryly off-beat interrogation of relationships and intimacy set against a larger political and epidemiological backdrop. In this timely, fiercely argued, keenly insightful, and hilarious investigation, she asks, what does living in dystopic times do to our ability to love each other and the world? Weaving her own (ambivalent) coupled lockdown experiences and those of others into a greater cultural context, Kipnis raises questions about the afterlife of COVID-19, the new taxonomies of love, intimacy and vulnerability that it has inevitably produced. “Fearless and sharply observed” (Kirkus), Love in the Time of Contagion plumbs the depths of our most intimate relationships in extreme times.
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 our progress as a forward-thinking society. Far from a dry, detached critique, Unwanted Advances is an in-the-trenches account of her own experiences as a whistleblowing public intellectual. In 2015, Kipnis was surprised to find herself first the object of on-campus protests at her university for writing about sexual paranoia on campus, then facing her own Title IX complaints for creating a “hostile environment.” The very fact that she could face Title IX charges merely for expressing her opinion underlined Kipnis’s impression that something has gone seriously wrong—with freedom of expression on campus; with Title IX, originally created to protect students from gender-based discrimination; with higher education; and with a brand of feminism that stresses women’s fragility over their strength.
Without minimizing the seriousness of sexual assault, Kipnis calls for more honesty about the ambiguities inherent in adult sexual behavior and questions whether students should be ceding so much power to attorneys and administrators. Under the guise of shielding students from trauma, Kipnis posits, regulation is replacing education, and both individual autonomy and academic freedom are under unnecessary assault. Writing for Slate, Michelle Goldberg called Unwanted Advances “brash, juicy… an insouciant interrogation of contemporary feminism and PC campus politics.” The Wall Street Journal named Unwanted Advances one of the year’s 10 best nonfiction books, and “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” the essay that sparked Unwanted Advances, was included in Best American Essays 2016, edited by Jonathan Franzen.
Her other books include Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation, is a collection of essays on wayward masculinity; How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior, an exploration of desire and disavowal; and Against Love: A Polemic, a “ragingly witty yet contemplative look at the discontents of domestic and erotic relationships” (Publishers Weekly). She is also the author of The Female Thing: Dirt, Envy, Sex, Vulnerability and Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America.
Kipnis’s writing has been published in Slate, Harper’s, Playboy, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, and Bookforum. Her work has been translated into 15 languages, and most recently, her essay “Gender: A Melee” was included in the forthcoming 2023 Best American Essays edited by Vivian Gornick. 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 lives in New York and Chicago.here.