Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Politics of Purity

Daphne Patai, Author
Daphne Patai, Author Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. $26.95 (296p) ISBN 978-0-8476-8987-3
Reviewed on: 10/26/1998
Release date: 10/01/1998
Paperback - 296 pages - 978-0-8476-8988-0
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With a lot more restraint, if also a lot less style, than Katie Roiphe or Camille Paglia, Patai argues that the proliferation of sexual harassment lawsuits, particularly in academia, is bad for feminism. She blames feminist ideologues for creating a repressive--and sexually repressed--atmosphere in universities, and she forcefully documents cases in which faculty members (both men and women, though mostly men) have had their reputations and careers ruined by false allegations, frivolous complaints and opportunistic charges. Patai, a professor of women's studies and comparative literature at U. Mass-Amherst, calls herself a ""still-avowed feminist"" who rejects the presupposition of a rigidly patriarchal world in which men are innately predatory while women are inherently virtuous and potential victims. She criticizes the ""sexual harassment industry"" comprised of campus administrators, radical feminists and ""post-trauma"" therapists who continue to expand the definition of sexual harassment and habitually disregard due process. Not surprisingly, she singles out Catharine MacKinnon, Andrea Dworkin and Mary Daly as ""notorious heterophobes,"" slamming their ""pathological aversion to men...and antipathy to heterosexuality."" While her basic arguments--that women are not protected but infantilized by such zeal and that we neither can nor should try to expunge sexuality from the fabric of everyday life--have been articulated by others, Patai brings common sense and muscular reason to the task. Though focused on academia, her outspoken study should be required reading for the workplace. (Dec.)
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