Camille Paglia and Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism

I love reading books on feminism. Though sometimes you’ll get something you didn’t expect. Yeah – The Feminist Gospel wasn’t what I though it would be.

And neither is Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism by Camille Puglia.

Camille Paglia is the best, most smartest feminist ever. Just ask her – she’ll tell you. I wish I had marked all the times she describes her own writing as prophetic.

She has such an interesting voice. She considers herself a libertarian feminist, taking the best from both the liberal and conservative sides. In addition to what you might expect, she is also very anti-PC language, suggesting the policing of language doesn’t belong on college campuses. She also seems to be pointing fingers at feminists that want to weaken men. I still think that’s a bit overblown by conservatives. But she wants to give a voice to all women – I’ve just never seen intersectionality in feminism include conservatism. I don’t know what to think about all that. She also takes on a more assertive voice, which I think makes sense, after seeing the silencing of women in the 50s. Plus there’s that saying of always have the confidence of a mediocre man. Which I think applies.


This book slowly descends into madness.

Sex is violence 

This is interesting – but you don’t realize the extent to which she believes this:

Civilized man conceals from himself the extent of his subordination to nature.

Okay. I thought about this and it made my wonder, could this be why some people fight against renewable energy? Because they feel like they have to submit to nature and they can’t be the one to control it?

But, wait – she really goes crazy on the nature/nurture debate.

And holy crap! She is so goddamn cynical. (Though to be fair she did call the first essay “Wagnerian” and said that going from the first essay to the second was going to be like the sun rising.)

Back to the nature/nurture debate – she seems to be all nature and no nurture. Violence and aggression are just part of who we are, and the function of society is to hold that back. In her view, violence natural. I guess she would probably say she is not cynical. Violence and power is man’s natural state. And society is the fight to keep that back.

And sex is that intersection of the society and nature that we will never be rid of. Sex can never be wholly pure and beautiful, because it is natural, and by definition will always contain a dark side. This is why, in her view, whenever you see a period of sexual freedom, it is always followed by a period of a wave of S&M. Okay…

But she flips this idea with sexual orientation — in her view, the idea that someone might be innately gay is completely ludicrous. She suggests that orientation is purely an adaptation. So, in her view gender has all basis in biology, but sexual orientation has all basis in environment?

Some quotes to see where she starts to go off the rails…

On how all sex is violent: A perfectly humane eroticism may be impossible.

Children are monsters of unbridled egotism and will, for they spring directly from nature, hostile intimations of immorality.

In western culture there can never be a purely physical or anxiety-free sexual encounter. Every attraction, every pattern of touch, every orgasm is shaped by psychic shadows. The search for freedom through sex is doomed to failure and sex compulsion and ancient necessity rule.

Interesting, I think she believes that instead of women having penis envy, men have uterus envy, and all of our tension (between the sexes) is because women get to procreate, but men cannot.

And men’s violence against women, in a super Oedipal way, has to do with them being scared of their mothers.

Psycho was popular because “it was about the vampiric maternal domination of a sons psyche.” This literally made me laugh out loud. It was one of the funniest lines in the book.

She goes on to say, “I view many cases of rape as attack on mother-power.”

Men are the weaker sex. This is why they attack women. We should be encouraging meant to be stronger, because when we act like we don’t want them stronger they will be more likely to attack women. But here she is a contradiction, because she suggests that historically men have always rightly protected women and children.

This starts to sound so much like my fundamentalist upbringing. “Sex is innately bad.” I fought for so many years to come out of this, so weird to see a feminist arguing for it.

And she is so deterministic. There is no free will. She is very Freudian.

And her diatribe on the femme fatale and women’s power in sex is some throwback Freudian fantasy and comes across like crazy MRA bullshit.

The femme fatale is one of the most mesmerizing of sexual personae. She is not a fiction but an extrapolation of biologic realities in women that remain constant. The North American Indian myth of the toothed vagina, vagina dentata, is a gruesomely direct transcription of female power and male fear. Metaphorically, every vagina has secret teeth, for the male exits as less than when he entered. The basic mechanics of conception require action in the male but nothing more than passive receptivity the female. Sex as a natural rather than social transaction, therefore, really is a kind of drain of male energy by female fullness. Physical and spiritual castration is the danger every man runs in intercourse with a woman. Love is the spell by which he puts his sexual fear to sleep.


Women’s latent vampirism is not a social aberration, but a development of her maternal function for which nature has equipped her with tiresome thoroughness. For the male, every act of intercourse is a return to the mother and a capitulation to her. For men, sex is a struggle for identity. In sex, the male is consumed and release again by the toothed power that bore him: the female dragon of nature.

All of our attempts at social progress – more individual freedom – will end up in violence. Or as the author says “every road from Russo leads to Sade.”

We are instinctually immoral.

Oddly enough, as a feminist, her primary criticism of Christianity seems to be its introduction of the ideas of love and peace which she deems impossible.

Some of the crazier ideas espoused by Paglia:

Why have man created more art than women? It’s not because men have oppressed or suppressed women. It’s because women don’t need to create art. But men need to create art because they have a penis. WTF?

Also, men being able to pee anywhere has led to a disassociation of sex and emotion. This is why gay men have sex in bathrooms. What the hell are you talking about?

She suggests that the domination of man over woman is NOT a product of our society. It’s a part of our nature. We cannot fight this by attacking patriarchy as a societal construct.

If I was interested in what she was saying, I might like the flowery and poetic language. But because the content is just so crazy, it just comes across as annoying and self-aggrandizing. Here’s an example, and it doesn’t matter if it’s out of context, it represents her writing.

Sex, I said, is a descent to the nether realms. A daily syncing from sky cult to earth cult. It is abdominal, abominable, daemonic.

It’s really fucked up – rape is inevitable without society set up to protect women against men. Men can’t help it. This is a dangerous way to think. I do love her emphasis women being strong, but I think she dangerously overexpresses this. Especially when she uses it to decry feminism, and at the same time suggest that sexual tension is women’s fault.

Feminism, coveting social power, is blind to women’s cosmic sexual power. To understand rape, you must study the past. There never was, and never will be sexual harmony. Every woman must take personal responsibility for her sexuality, which is nature’s red flame. She must be prudent and cautious where she goes and with whom.

And she is so sure that she is so right.

It’s funny, because she exhibits all the worst characteristics of men — those characteristics which make me hate the way men are. She has so much ego about her opinions — everyone who is intelligent must see the obvious wisdom and truth in everything she says. I don’t think the solution for women’s equality is for them to take the worst male characteristics and adopt them.

American feminists are complete morons who are destroying our society 

She loves to attack feminists. She blames feminists for prohibition and hates the anti-porn feminists of the latter 20th century. I get when she attacks feminists for not being inclusive of all women. But (for a feminist) she seems so be overly obsessed with the flaws of feminists.

She suggests that popular culture in Hollywood has done so much more for women than feminists have. That the commodification of women by Hollywood is a bunch of hogwash. And she and Madonna and their feminism and their Mediterranean sensibilities, with their pro sex-views, are saving feminism from the Anglo-American feminists.

She thinks the patriarchy does not exist. She suggests that the idea of workplaces being possibly hostile toward women actually makes women weak.

At some level she seems to raise up the same man-hating feminist straw man that conservatives like to suggest.

[Feminist ideology’s] portrayal of history as male oppression and female victimage is a gross distortion of the facts.

In the matters of history and men taking care of the family: “feminist theory has been grotesquely unfair to man,” “ feminism has been very small-minded in the way it has treated male history,” “ feminism cannot continue with this poisoned rhetoric.”

She would be right at home at a fundamentalist church service or a an MRA convention.

I find this really interesting. What is the cause of eating disorders so rampant on college campuses? It is definitely not the unreachable standards that the media and society display for women to reach. It’s really the fault of ambitious feminists that try to force women to stay in school when they really want to become housewives and raise children.

Plus, American feminism is effectively castrating man and making them undesirable to women. What?

Feminism can only move forward when we accept that our differences are pretty much all nature and that we must use society to fight against that.

Also, Sigmund Freud is “the seminal theorist of the 20th century and a another male genius who callow feminists have sought to overthrow.”

As she describes the pictures in the back of the book, she suggests that feminists like Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolfe don’t have the “intellectual wherewithal” to even read her books. Wow, the ego.

I can’t even — this is crazy.


Where are you?

Question: “When you take an extremely long hiatus from the blog that nobody was following, what do you do when you decide to get back to writing it?”