Players’ Rep Paglia on Shelley: his sublimity, his atheism, his fastball.

MM: Marla Muse here, and we’re back with Scarriet Poetry Baseball League Players’ Rep Camille Paglia.  Camille, you seem to view the current state of poetry in academia with a jaundiced eye.

CP: During the past quarter century, humanistic principles and honest practical criticism could more reliably be found among low-paid adjuncts faithfully teaching service courses at community colleges than in the vain, showy professoriat of the elite schools.

MM: Body blow!!!

CP: I don’t agree with the assessments (pro or con) of contemporary poetry by most of the leading poetry critics and reviewers. Those who turn their backs on media (or overdose on postmodernism) have no gauge for monitoring the metamorphosis of English.

MM: Poetry has perhaps become too precious, too affected?

CP: Any poetry removed from popular diction will inevitably become as esoteric as eighteenth-century satire (perfected by Alexander Pope, starting pitcher, Philadelphia Poe), whose dense allusiveness and preciosity drove the early Romantic poets into the countryside to find living speech again.

MM: Poetry has a religious dimension for you as well.

CP: I sound out poems silently, as others pray.

MM: Wow!

CP: The concentrated attention demanded by poetry is close to meditation. Reading a poem requires alert receptivity, perpetual openness, and intuition.

MM: Absolutely.

CP: The sacred remains latent in poetry, which was born in ancient ritual and cult. For Donne, (London Eliots) God is an eternal, transcendent judge and king. For Wordsworth, (New England Frost)  the divine suffuses nature and manifests itself in numinous moments of intensified consciousness. For Roethke, (starting pitcher, Cambridge Cummings) the divine is a ghostly Muse who emanates from his own psyche—a pattern seen differently in “Hamlet”, with its purgatorial stalking father.

MM: Then the religious aspect of poetry is present in secular poetry as well?

CP: Poetry’s persistent theme of the sublime—the awesome vastness of the universe—is a religious perspective, even in atheists like Shelley (starting pitcher, Philadelphia Poe). Despite the cosmic vision of the radical psychedelic 1960s, the sublime is precisely what poststructuralism, with its blindness to nature, cannot see.

MM: So you feel strongly about this religious aspect of poetry.

CP: Poets have glimpses of other realities, higher or lower, which can’t be grasped cognitively.

MM: Beyond cognition, yes.

CP: And commentary on poetry is a kind of divination, resembling the practice of oracles, sibyls, augurs, and interpreters of dreams.

MM: Wow, criticism has a spiritual aspect as well?

CP: Criticism at its best is re-creative, not spirit-killing.

MM:  But Camille, poetry isn’t “just religion,” is it? What else is it?

CP:  Like philosophy, poetry is a contemplative form, but unlike philosophy, poetry subliminally manipulates the body and triggers its nerve impulses, the muscle tremors of sensation and speech.

MM:  Okay, a kind of “physical philosophy.”  That’s where the baseball comes in, obviously. What else?

CP: Poetry, which began as song, is music-drama: I value emotional expressiveness, musical phrasings, and choreographic assertion, the speaker’s self-positioning toward other persons or implacable external forces.

MM: Yes, implacable external forces – “the inherent difficulty of things” – or as my kids say, “Physical reality is a b—ch!”

CP:  Marla, I’m reminded here that we live in a time increasingly indifferent to literary style, from the slack prose of once august newspapers to pedestrian translations of the Bible. The Web (which I champion and to which I have extensively contributed) has increased verbal fluency but not quality, at least in its rushed, patchy genres of e-mail and blog.

MM: So true.

CP: It’s poetry on the page—a visual construct—that lasts. The eye too is involved. The shapeliness and symmetry of the four-line ballad stanza (descending from medieval England and Scotland and carried by seventeenth-century emigres to the American South and Appalachia) once structured the best lyrics of rhythm and blues, gospel, country and western music, and rock ‘n’ roll. But with the immense commercial success of rock music, those folk roots have receded, and popular songwriting has gotten weaker and weaker.

MM:  Tell me about it! Camille, we’re almost out of time—anything else you’d like to add?

CP:  Artists are makers, not just mouthers of slippery discourse. Language, the poets’ medium, should not be privileged over the protean materials of other artists, who work in pigments, stone, metals, and fibers. Poets are fabricators and engineers, pursuing a craft analogous to cabinetry or bridge building.

MM: Beautifully said.

CP: The poem is a methodical working out of fugitive impressions. It finds or rather projects symbols into the inner and outer worlds.

MM: That external, physical reality again.

CP: Poetry is not just about itself: it does point to something “out there”, however dimly we can know it. The modernist doctrine of the work’s self-reflexiveness once empowered art but has ended by strangling it in gimmickry.

MM: Yes, so much poetry is so obscure and subjective that it is ultimately undecodable by a reader.

CP:  I maintain that the text emphatically exists as an object; it is not just a mist of ephemeral subjectivities. Every reading is partial, but that does not absolve us from the quest for meaning, which defines us as a species.

MM:  In the remaining minutes we have, can I ask you a little about the Scarriet Baseball Poetry League itself?

CP:  Sure.

MM:  Camille, what do you think of all the riots in the games (both on and off the field), pitchers plunking batters, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, manifestos pinned to outfield walls, the unusual dimensions and features of home parks (like the spreading chestnut tree in Longfellow Park, growing in rightfield)?

CP: I think it’s wonderful!

MM:  But Harold Bloom, the Commissioner’s office, has said—

 CP: Oh, Commissioner Bloom just talks for the sake of talking…he knows all of this is great for the game…players and fans need a certain amount of freedom to express themselves…

MM:  OK…thanks, Camille…but I don’t think we’ve heard the last about this from Commissioner Bloom

CP: Yea, whatever…again…love your dress!

MM:  Thanks so much, Camille, and good luck in running Scarriet poetry baseball this season alongside Commish Bloom.

CP: Thanks, Marla.

MM: And we go now to “60 Minutes” which is already in progress….

Part 1 of the interview can be found at



  1. Bob Tonucci said,

    May 15, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Part 1 of the interview can be found at the below link:

    Here’s a joke I think Camille Paglia would like:

    God had just about finished creating the world, and Adam and Eve stood before him. God said to them, “I have only two things left to give you, then I will be done with creation. You each get one. Now, the first one gives you the ability to direct your urine in a perfectly directed stream. The second—”

    “I want that one!” yelled Adam.

    “Hold on, Adam, let Me finish—”

    “But I want that one! That’s the one I want!”

    “But you haven’t even heard what the other one is yet—”

    “I don’t care, that’s the one I want! Please, give me that one!”

    “OK, OK, you got it,” said God, and Adam ran off, peeing against a tree, writing his name in the sand, and having a wonderful time with his new toy.

    “Well, Eve, I guess you get what’s left,” said God.

    “What’s that?” asked Eve.

    “Multiple orgasms.”

  2. The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

    June 27, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Camille is back and there’s gonna be trouble….

  3. notevensuperficial said,

    June 27, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    the sexual malaise that appears to have sunk over the country

    Are there many foax who still believe that Paglia ever read five consecutive pages of Foucault or Lacan or Derrida?

  4. thomasbrady said,

    June 28, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Camille should read ‘The Lost Jewels’ by Rabindranath Tagore (1898). The issue didn’t start with the 1950s U.S.—which Camille turns into the silliest cliche. Is repression good or bad? The Hollywood Code made for better films, according to her. So what’s she saying, exactly? Does she care about the amount of sex that soccer moms are having? Don’t we already have a Dr. Ruth? Is she really afraid the genders will disappear? She needs to pull back, read some new books and strike out in a new direction. She needs to spice up that old rhetoric of hers. The bedroom of her philosophy needs some new toys.

  5. The Noochie-Coochie Man said,

    June 28, 2010 at 11:42 pm

    It seems as if Heav’n
    Had seen fit to send her—
    If she didn’t exist,
    We’d have to, you know—

    From the milk of her writings
    I’ll never be weaned—
    Please let me know, Madam,
    If you’d like your house cleaned.

  6. The Noochness said,

    September 11, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    The link goes to the latest missive by Paglia—
    She seems to be nostalgic for the Saturnalia.

  7. Poem support said,

    April 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Country Music

    February 1999

    Oh Monica, you Monica
    In your little black beret,
    You beguiled our saintly Billy
    And let that creep astray.

    He’d never seen thong underpants
    Or met a Valley girl;
    He was used to Southern women,
    Like good old Minnie Pearl.

    You vamped him with your lingo,
    Your notes in purple ink,
    And fed him Vox and bagels
    Until he couldn’t think.

    You were our Bill’s Delilah
    Until Acquittal Day;
    You’re his-tor-y now, Monica,
    In your little black beret.

    John Updike

  8. noochinator said,

    January 28, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Speaking of sex and baseball,
    Here’s a story that still stands tall:

  9. noochinator said,

    June 27, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Camille P. in a remarkable 60 minute interview with Reason magazine!

  10. noochinator said,

    January 27, 2016 at 2:08 pm

    Camille Paglia on Hillary Clinton and “blame-men-first” feminism — please pardon that the link will take you to the ‘Salon’ website:

    • thomasbrady said,

      February 11, 2016 at 10:52 pm

      No surprise here.

      Every time I see these old posts, I really miss Scarriet baseball. One day, when I have time, there will be more Scarriet baseball!

      • noochinator said,

        February 12, 2016 at 1:12 pm

        When Ms. Clinton gets the nomination, Ms. Paglia won’t be able to jump on board — she’ll have to vote for a third (or fourth or fifth) party candidate….

        • thomasbrady said,

          February 12, 2016 at 2:48 pm

          She will get the nomination, too. The cigar-smoking men in the backrooms have decreed it. Bernie energizes the far left and then throws his support to Hillary at the end. All part of the plan…

  11. noochinator said,

    February 21, 2016 at 12:17 am

    The 1995 Playboy interview with Camille Paglia!

    PLAYBOY: Are you a feminist?

    PAGLIA: I’m absolutely a feminist. The reason other feminists don’t like me is that I criticize the movement, explaining that it needs a correction. Feminism has betrayed women, alienated men and women, replaced dialogue with political correctness. PC feminism has boxed women in. The idea that feminism—that liberation from domestic prison—is going to bring happiness is just wrong. Women have advanced a great deal, but they are no happier. The happiest women I know are not those who are balancing their careers and families, like a lot of my friends are. The happiest people I know are the women—like my cousins—who have a high school education, got married immediately graduating and never went to college. They are very religious and they never question their Catholicism. They do not regard the house as a prison.

    PLAYBOY: But what about the women who stay home and are still suffering?

    PAGLIA: The problem is the alternative handed to them by feminism. I look at my friends who are on the fast track. They are desperate, frenzied and frazzled, the most unhappy women who have ever existed. They work nights and weekends and have no lives. Some of them have children who are raised by nannies.

    PLAYBOY: What’s your point? Do you want women to go back to the home?

    PAGLIA: The entire feminist culture says that the most important woman is the woman with an attaché case. I want to empower the woman who wants to say, “I’m tired of this and I want to go home.” The far right is correct when it says the price of women’s liberation is being paid by the children.

    PLAYBOY: Are you siding with the far right?

    PAGLIA: No. What I’m doing is pointing out the bind the women’s movement has created not only for women but for the culture as well. Children are abandoned. There is no doubt that it’s better for kids to have contact with mothers for those early years. When I go to work in the morning, I see black women and Hispanic women pushing strollers filled with rich, white babies. These women provide the best human contact that those kids have. So we have gone back to the mammy. It’s Gone with the Wind again.

    PLAYBOY: What’s a better solution?

    PAGLIA: Women should be free to choose. For the ones who decide to work, child care should be provided. The problem is that only large corporations can afford to have on-site day care. Mothers can visit their children during coffee breaks and lunch, which is wonderful. Other women are in difficult positions, and the feminist movement offers nothing except scorn if they choose their children’s well-being. Of course, the other thing the women’s movement has done is caused a destructive division between the sexes. Men are in a terrible position.

    PLAYBOY: Do you support the men’s movement?

    PAGLIA: I think it’s absolutely necessary. It’s no coincidence that Tim Allen’s book is vying with the Pope’s for the top of the best-seller lists. He is one of the voices of men who are looking to define masculinity in this age. Robert Bly does this, too. We have allowed the sexual debate to be defined by women, and that’s not right. Men must speak, and speak in their own voices, not voices coerced by feminist moralists. Warren Farrell, in The Myth of Male Power, points out how much propaganda has infiltrated the culture. For example, he says that the assertion that women earn so much less than men is bullshit. The reason women earn less than men is that women don’t want the dirty jobs. They aren’t picking up the garbage, taking the janitorial jobs and so on. They aren’t taking the sales commission jobs that require you to work all night and on weekends. Most women like clean, safe offices, which is why they are still secretaries. They don’t want to get too dirty. Also, women want offices to be nice, happy places. What bullshit. The women’s movement is rooted in the belief that we don’t even need men. All it will take is one natural disaster to prove how wrong that is. Then, the only thing holding this culture together will be masculine men of the working class. The cultural elite—women and men—will be pleading for the plumbers and the construction workers. We are such a parasitic class.

    I began to realize this in the Seventies when I thought women could do it on their own. But then something would go wrong with my car and I’d have to go to the men. Men would stop, men would lift up the hood, more men would come with a truck and take the car to a place where there were other men who would call other men who would arrive with parts. I saw how feminism was completely removed from this reality.

    I also learned something from the men at the garage. At Bennington, I would go to a faculty meeting and be aware that everyone hated me. The men were appalled by a strong, loud woman. But I went to this auto shop and the men there thought I was cute. “Oh, there’s that Professor Paglia from the college.” The real men, men who work on cars, find me cute. They are not frightened by me, no matter how loud I am. But the men at the college were terrified because they are eunuchs, and I threatened every goddamned one of them.

    PLAYBOY: Do you think that feminism is antisexual?

    PAGLIA: The problem with America is that there’s too little sex, not too much. The more our instincts are repressed, the more we need sex, pornography and all that. The problem is that feminists have taken over with their attempts to inhibit sex. We have a serious testosterone problem in this country.

    PLAYBOY: Caused by what?

    PAGLIA: It’s a mess out there. Men are suspicious of women’s intentions. Feminism has crippled them. They don’t know when to make a pass. If they do make a pass, they don’t know if they’re going to end up in court.

    PLAYBOY: Is that why you’ve been so critical about the growing number of sexual harassment cases?

    PAGLIA: Yes, though I believe in moderate sexual harassment guidelines. But you can’t the Stalinist situation we have in America right now, where any neurotic woman can make any stupid charge and destroy a man’s reputation. If there is evidence of false accusation, the accuser should be expelled. Similarly, a woman who falsely accuses a man of rape should be sent to jail. My definition of sexual harassment is specific. It is only sexual harassment—by a man or a woman—if it is quid pro quo. That is, if someone says, “You must do this or I’m going to do that”—for instance, fire you. And whereas touching is sexual harassment, speech is not. I am militant on this. Words must remain free. The solution to speech is that women must signal the level of their tolerance—women are all different. Some are very bawdy.

    PLAYBOY: What, about women who are easily offended and too scared or intimidated to speak up?

    PAGLIA: Too bad. You must develop the verbal tools to counter offensive language. That s life. Feminism has created a privileged, white middle class of girls who claim they’re victims because they want to preserve their bourgeois decorum and passivity.

    PLAYBOY: You’re expecting girls to stand up for themselves in a culture that discourages them from doing just that?

    PAGLIA: That’s right. We must examine the degree to which we coddle middle-class girls. There is something sick about it. The girls I see on campuses are often innocuous, with completely homogenized personalities, miserable, anorexic and bulimic. The feminist movement teaches them that it’s men’s fault, but it isn’t. These girls go out into the world as heiresses of all the affluence in the universe. They are the most pampered and most affluent girls on the globe. So stop complaining about men. You’re getting all the rewards that come with the nice-girl persona you’ve chosen. When you get into trouble and you’re batting your eyes and someone is offending you and you are too nice to deal with it, that’s a choice. Assess your persona. Realize the degree to which your niceness may invoke people to say lewd and pornographic things to you—sometimes to violate your niceness. The more you blush, the more people want to do it. Understand your part of it and learn to parry. Sex talk is a game. The girls in the Sixties loved it. If you don’t want some professor to call you honey, tell him.

    PLAYBOY: Let us consider Anita Hill. Did Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson’s revelations about the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in their book Strange Justice influence your feelings about that case?

    PAGLIA: That pathetic book? The idea that they found great new evidence of Thomas’ guilt is nonsense. Here is the major revelation: There were centerfolds in his kitchen. What a crime against humanity! I laughed out loud. He had five years of PLAYBOY. And here’s the kicker: They were arranged chronologically. OK? My response is this: Any man with five years Of PLAYBOY in his kitchen should be placed on the Supreme Court immediately! The fact is that Clarence Thomas doesn’t have the judicial excellence to be a Supreme Court justice. But that’s not the issue. I maintain that Thomas flirted with Anita Hill, who batted her eyes at him and was a little embarrassed and didn’t know what to do. Come on, he was looking for a wife. But how uncomfortable was she? She followed him from job to job. Feminists get around that by saying, “Well, she was ambitious.” I say, “Apparently her ambition was greater than any sexual harassment that occurred.” She chose her ambition. Anita Hill is just a yuppie. I’m the only leading feminist who went against her, and history will bear me out.

    PLAYBOY: You once said that you look through the eyes of a rapist. What did you mean?

    PAGLIA: I have lesbian impulses, so I understand how a man looks at a woman.

    PLAYBOY: Why did you say a rapist rather than a man?

    PAGLIA: Men do look at women as rapists. When I was growing up, it wasn’t possible for me to do anything about my attraction to women. Lesbianism didn’t exist in that time, as far as I knew. If I were young today, when everyone is experimenting—bisexuality is in with a lot of young women—it would have been different. But I always felt frustrated and excluded, looking in from a distance. As a woman, I couldn’t rape—it’s not possible—but if I had been a man with similar feelings, who knows? I developed a stalking thing.

    PLAYBOY: When does that kind of lust become rape?

    PAGLIA: There may have been cases when I would have gone over the line. I understand when men complain about women giving mixed messages, because women have given me a lot of mixed messages. I understand the rage that this can cause.

    PLAYBOY: Give us an example.

    PAGLIA: A woman I’m talking with at some event says, “Let’s leave here and go to this bar,” which is a lesbian bar. We go to the bar and we’re talking and then she says, “Let’s go have coffee,” and we go to this coffee shop and end up, at three in the morning, half a block from her apartment. Finally, she says, “All right, well, goodnight.” She’s ready to go home alone and I look at her, like, “What do you mean? Aren’t we going to go back to your apartment?” “No.” “What?” And she says, “Do you think I was leading you on?” Un-fucking-believable. I can’t tell you the rage. I am, at that point, looking at her and…. All I can say is, if I had been an 18-year-old street kid instead of a 45-year-old woman, I would have stabbed her. I was completely humiliated and furious. If I had been a guy with a hard-on, I would have hit her.

    PLAYBOY: Would you have been justified in hitting her?

    PAGLIA: That’s not the point. The point is that I would have. Women must be aware of the signals they send out, aware that, at three in the morning, with that flirting, they have created expectations. If they fail to fulfill those expectations, they can be in trouble. They could be out with a Ted Bundy or a Jeffrey Dahmer. A woman cannot go on a date, have a bunch of drinks and go back to some guy’s dorm room or apartment and then, when he jumps on her, cry date rape. Most people aren’t sure what’s going to happen on a first date. Given that ambiguity, every woman must be totally aware at every moment that she is responsible for every choice she makes.

    PLAYBOY: You also blame women who are abused for their complicity in abusive relationships. You said that the victims are “addicted to the apology.” But aren’t many women just terrified of leaving their violent boyfriends or husbands?

    PAGLIA: In many cases, there is a weird psychological thing going on. It’s almost masochistic. You can hear it in the tapes of Nicole Simpson when she called the police on O.J. It’s not just that she didn’t press charges, even though she had ample evidence. It was a game. Everyone hears that tape and says, “How awful, that poor woman.” I don’t. I say, “Listen to Nicole’s voice.” You do not hear fear. You hear a woman who is playing a game. She is almost bemused. “Here he is again.”

    PLAYBOY: It was a dangerous game.

    PAGLIA: It was, but she was a party in it. Of course she didn’t deserve to die. But that’s not the point. The point is, as it relates to other women, protect yourselves. See trouble coming.

    PLAYBOY: Have you studied the kind of obsession that would explain Simpson’s behavior?

    PAGLIA: Men suffer from sexual anxiety their whole lives. The domination by women is a crushing burden. I understand the stalker. I understand how John Hinckley became obsessed with Jodie Foster. It was similar to the way I was toward beautiful women. I saw Catherine Deneuve in a department store and followed her and spied on her.

    PLAYBOY: You have stalked Catherine Deneuve?

    PAGLIA: I followed her into the glove department at Saks. I would kill anyone who chased me for an autograph while I was shopping at Saks.

    PLAYBOY: Is there a certain personality type that becomes obsessed?

    PAGLIA: I collected 599 pictures of Elizabeth Taylor—some people find that obsessive. I collected 599. Not 600, but 599. I feel that genius and obsession be the same thing. It is rare when a woman is driven by obsession. Similarly, it is rare when a woman is a genius. That’s why I said one of my most notorious sentences, that there is no woman Mozart because there is no woman Jack the Ripper. Men are more prone to obsession because they are fleeing domination by women. They flee to a chess game or to a computer or to fixing a car, or whatever, to attempt to complete their identities, because they always feel incomplete.

    PLAYBOY: Why do cars or computers complete our identities?

    PAGLIA: Because they are separate from the emotion that is fixated on women. Very masculine men are not at home in the world of emotion, which requires judgments that are not cause and effect. Heterosexuals have a kind of tunnel vision, which is a virtue, in my opinion. It allows them to make the great breakthroughs in music or science. The feminist line is that there are no women Mozarts because we have been trained to believe that we can’t succeed in that field or we were never given the opportunity to excel because we were being groomed to be wives. I don’t think that anymore. It’s hormones.

    PLAYBOY: You have said that you disagree with Germaine Greer’s contrary opinion—that the greatest artists are not women because “you cannot get great art from mutilated egos.”

    PAGLIA: The fact is, you get great art only from mutilated egos. Only mutilated egos are obsessive enough. When I entered graduate school in 1968, I thought women were going to have all these enormous achievements, that they would redo everything. Then I saw every one of my female friends—these great minds who were going to transform the world—get married, move because their husbands moved and have babies. I screamed at them: What are you doing? Finish your great book! But they all read me the riot act. They said, “Camille, we are not you.” They said, “We want life. We want love. We want happiness. We are not happy—like you are—just living off ideas.” I am weird. I am more like Dahmer was or Hinckley. I’m like one of those obsessives. Or Dante.

    PLAYBOY. Let’s discuss other feminists. What is your relationship with Betty Friedan, the founder of modern American feminism?

    PAGLIA: I have always loved her—I love that style. The National Organization for Women banished her, and she has troubles with the movement leaders like I do. It was a shame she didn’t embrace me from the moment I came on the scene.

    PLAYBOY: In her Playboy Interview, we asked her about you and she said, “How can you take her seriously? She is an exhibitionist, and she takes the most extreme elements of the women’s movement and tries to make the whole movement antisexual, antilife, antijoy. And neither I nor most of the women I know are that way. ”

    PAGLIA: The truth is we have similar opinions. If she had come into line with me when I came onto the scene, we could have smashed everybody.

    PLAYBOY: How about Naomi Wolf?

    PAGLIA: Daddy’s little girl? Her Rolodex feminism?

    PLAYBOY: Rolodex feminism?

    PAGLIA: She always says to [pantomiming] get a Rolodex and keep the names of all the women we know and we’ll be able to call them up and get a job and we’ll have women power. [Cringing] She is so naive. I can’t stand her. She’s hopeless.

    PLAYBOY: Don’t you acknowledge the existence of what Wolf describes in her book The Beauty Myth : a culture manipulated by Madison Avenue that trains women to associate their self-worth with their looks?

    PAGLIA: That’s hilarious. Wolf says we shouldn’t succumb to an this bullshit, but she spends four hours having makeup applied before her TV appearances and—I’ve heard—can’t pass a window without looking at herself. I mean, look at her hair! It is the only thing that gave her cachet when she came onto the scene. Her book was one of many tired feminist books. What distinguished her was her hair; she owes everything to that hair. But then she cut it off. She’s trying to find a more serious persona. She’s looking for a hairstyle. It’s horrible. It’s embarrassing.

    PLAYBOY: How about Gloria Steinem?

    PAGLIA: She is so deluded that she genuinely believes she speaks for all women. She’s a victim of her own success. I liked the early Steinem. There was once a survey conducted for Time about who would make a good candidate for the first female president, and I wrote in Gloria Steinem. But now? Gloria Steinem is dissing men and dissing fashion and she’s out having her hair streaked at Kenneth’s. She became a socialite with a coterie. A lot of middle-aged white ladies still love her, but the media have been negligent regarding her.

    PLAYBOY: Susan Faludi?

    PAGLIA: At least Faludi is smart and a real journalist. I call her the Mary Tyler Moore of feminism—like, “Gee, Mr. Grant.” In some photos, with her knees pulled up, sitting there coyly, she looks like a little girl or a puppy. She says a solution for women is for men to do more at home and help out. But she has no idea. The big problem with them all—the Faludi-Wolf-Steinem feminists—is that they blame men. We have to get past the male-bashing. All the work a man does at home isn’t going to solve the problem. Nature, not men, is compelling women to have babies.

    PLAYBOY: Do you acknowledge the backlash Faludi described in her book?

    PAGLIA: There was no backlash. It’s a complete myth. On the contrary, the period Faludi is writing about, through the Eighties, was a great time for women. We made enormous gains, financially and otherwise. Women rose in the corporate and political realms like never before.

    PLAYBOY: But because of those gains, Faludi postulates, there was a movement to put women back in their place.

    PAGLIA: There was a backlash, perhaps, but it was to the Sixties, not to feminism. After the Sixties there was a collapse in almost everything we believed in. It culminated in the biological disaster of AIDS—an answer to every one of us who preached free love.

    PLAYBOY: That’s ridiculous. People aren’t responsible for random acts of nature—in this case, the unleashing of a virus.

    PAGLIA: AIDS is a price paid for sins committed in the Sixties, and by gay men who took free love to extremes throughout the Seventies and had unrestrained, decadent, pagan sex. I support paganism in all its forms, but a price must be paid. I believed in free love, too, but we were wrong. It wasn’t the Pope who was the problem. It wasn’t the struggle with old-fashioned moral codes that was the problem. It was nature. Nature said, “Guess what? If you’re going to be that promiscuous, I will off you.”

    PLAYBOY: But you are moralizing about something that’s random. No one could have predicted the virus.

    PAGLIA: I believe that nature rewards things that are in its best interest and punishes things that are not. Homosexual promiscuity is not in nature’s best interest. Certainly not anal sex. Nature wants us to procreate.

    PLAYBOY: That’s a dangerous attitude, the same message we hear from fundamentalists who say that gay men are responsible for AIDS and that their sexual practices are immoral.

    PAGLIA: It isn’t about morality. It’s about nature. In fact, it’s not gay men who are ultimately responsible. It’s all of us who set up a series of things that allowed the change of behavior for which gay men paid the price. Gay men put into full effect the ideas created for heterosexuals. The Sixties went too far and it collapsed. It all unraveled in the Seventies. AIDS, appearing in the early Eighties, was the period at the end of the sentence. AIDS forced most people to wake up to the fact that the sexual revolution had failed. But I realized it earlier. By the mid-seventies, something had gone wildly wrong. Feminism and the radical left alienated as many people as possible. Everyone splintered. It has resulted in the Republican sweep, which I had been warning about for years. This radical move to the right is the result, and it was caused by the progressives.

    PLAYBOY: How?

    PAGLIA: These groups alienated everyone they could. The radical gay groups, for instance, screaming at people, storming into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, caused a backlash in certain communities that has caused even more homophobia. They managed to bring together people who have never spoken before. How stupid! Where is the thinking behind it?

    PLAYBOY: Come on. Most homophobia has nothing to do with radical groups.

    PAGLIA: There are times when gay men are indeed persecuted. There are isolated incidents of gay-bashing on the streets, but they are rare. My point is that you cannot force social change at a speed that it cannot go. Social change is evolutionary, not revolutionary. Deep social change takes time. And slowly the culture is changing. The MTV generation is far more tolerant, and that tolerance is growing.

    PLAYBOY: Should gays be able to serve in the military?

    PAGLIA: Sure. The military has no right to tell you what you can or cannot do when you are out of uniform. The fact is, there should be no sexual anything when you’re in uniform. But out of uniform, you can do whatever you want—parade for gay rights, anything. You should be able to go to a gay bar and to have sex in the street, as far as I’m concerned.

    PLAYBOY: Were you optimistic when Clinton was elected?

    PAGLIA: Of course. We finally had a great opportunity. It was a chance to rethink everything that had failed as a result of the shoddy thinking in the Sixties and to try again with a new, reasoned approach. The Clinton administration should have been a think tank for the nation—he himself should have led the debate, reaffirming all Sixties ideals but correcting them where they had become excessive. It’s a tragedy that he didn’t. Instead of surrounding himself with progressive intellectuals, he surrounded himself with Eighties yuppies—like George Stephanopoulos, whom I loathe with a passion. I wish Clinton would fire everyone around him. I want a Saturday night massacre. I hate them all. But Clinton has totally lost the persona of leadership. It’s pathetic. He’s looking like a salesman.

    PLAYBOY: How did you feel about President Clinton’s firing of Joycelyn Elders?

    PAGLIA: It was about time.

    PLAYBOY: It’s surprising that you don’t support Elders for her progressive views. Isn’t she the kind of free-speaking Sixties person you miss?

    PAGLIA: Clinton is in trouble and she opens her mouth about masturbation. Can’t she control herself? She was in the wrong job. In some ways she’s like me—she says what she thinks. But then you shouldn’t be part of politics. I would like Joycelyn Elders to be in a position to speak her mind and not worry about political consequences. You cannot have a non-diplomatic figure in a political appointment.

    PLAYBOY: What is your opinion of Newt Gingrich, Phil Gramm and other Republican leaders?

    PAGLIA: I think they’re going to be a lot harder to fight. They are men of ideas. I don’t demonize them, but I’m uneasy about them because there is no room for art in the world they would create—no room for art or free expression.

    PLAYBOY: Then what’s the solution for the left in American politics?

    PAGLIA: The Democratic Party has to return to its populist base, to rediscover the party of FDR, the one that appealed to my grandfather and the factory workers and others. To do this, there must be a period of self-criticism. We must face this head-on or continue to be governed by the Republicans. We must examine how we set up the rise of Republicans on campuses, where the dissent should be coming from. It is explained by the lack of energy, and ideas from the other side. As a result, campuses are the most depressing places, devoid of passion.

    PLAYBOY: Where else has the left failed?

    PAGLIA: On abortion. The people who are pro-abortion—I hate the cowardly euphemism of pro-choice—must face what they are opposing. The left constantly identifies the pro-life advocates as misogynists and fanatics, but that doesn’t represent most of those people. They are deeply religious and they truly believe that taking a life is wrong. If the left were to show respect for that position and acknowledge the moral conundrum of unwanted pregnancy, the opposition to abortion would lessen. We must acknowledge that people should be a little troubled by abortion. Not to acknowledge that this is a difficult decision is wrong. The procedure snuffs out a potential personality.

    PLAYBOY: But much of the fanaticism of the opposition—fanaticism that you discount—leaves no room for a woman to make the decision for herself

    PAGLIA: You have a stronger case if you give due respect to the other side. An abortion should be something that is wrestled with. And herein is the point. Though most people agree that abortion should be an option, there is something attractive about the deeply moral position of those against abortion, particularly when the other side is in a spiritual vacuum. There is nothing in kids’ education anymore that tells them to revere anything. Traditional religions, with all their moral codes, are becoming increasingly attractive in light of the alternatives: the Prozac nation, or heroin, which has come back with a vengeance.

    PLAYBOY. Where do you stand on the legalization of drugs?

    PAGLIA: How dare we have a culture that bans drugs, that says that heroin and marijuana are illegal, while we dope kids with Ritalin? “Kids don’t sit still in a classroom? Attention-deficit disorder!” Millions of kids are being maimed right now on Ritalin. I would have been given Ritalin. And there would have been no Sexual Personae, no nothing. We are castrating a whole generation of kids. Prozac is legal, why not marijuana? I think drugs should be controlled like alcohol. I have demonstrated how the international drug cartels have destroyed our urban youth, white and black. Why should they work in the factories when they can earn $10,000 as drug runners? Most important, laws do not stop anyone from using drugs. Deprive them of one drug and they will get a spray can and inhale and kill themselves that way. It’s not that I think drugs are good. For the most part, drugs destroy. But who cares? So what? That’s a choice people make. The government has no right stopping that choice. And the government is incapable of grasping the true problem—that kids have nothing. So they flounder or, in some cases, follow the only spirituality offered to them—represented by the right, where the energy is.

    PLAYBOY: Aren’t kids focusing much of their energy on things other than religion, for instance, on new technology and the Internet? Is that good or bad?

    PAGLIA: The only problem I have with computers and television is that when all cultures on earth reach the stage we are at it will lead to a kind of homogenization. Also, the young are so adept with computers, which is fine. But whereas music was for everyone, a class issue is emerging with technology. No doubt the white middle-class kids have access to computers in ways that black kids don’t. Charles Murray is right about one thing: We are moving toward a two-tier society. It’s very dangerous. We are producing an underclass and this technology will further isolate them.

    PLAYBOY: What do you think of Murray’s book The Bell Curve ?

    PAGLIA: If you want to see a good example of the folly of leftist censorship, here it is. This same issue—that blacks are mentally inferior—was circulated by William Shockley some years ago. Shockley and Arthur Jensen were shouted down, harassed and ultimately silenced. Consequently, this entire issue of genetic differences between the races was driven underground. Neutral or moderate or even liberal investigators were driven out of the field. Twenty-five years later it re-emerges, but now it is exclusively attached to a conservative agenda. The problem I have with the book’s conclusion is that it has no resemblance whatsoever to my experience as an academic. In the real world, very smart people fail and mediocre people rise. Part of what makes people fail or succeed are skills that have nothing to do with IQ. Also, the idea that intelligence can be gauged by an IQ test is erroneous. The failure of this book to address different definitions of intelligence is appalling. Also, for this book to appear at this moment is terrible. It’s the last thing we need—something that further divides us. But once again, the left cannot deal with it.

    PLAYBOY: The entire culture seems to be turning against intelligence and is now celebrating dim-wittedness. Look at the popularity of movies such as Forrest Gump and Dumb and Dumber. Why is stupidity now so cool?

    PAGLIA: As we have moved into a new culture based on computer technology, we have elevated what used to be called nerds and geeks to the forefront. These are the most important people. People who best understand computer technology are simpletons—at least they’re socially inept. I think this is a rebellion against the advanced skills that are required. There is a history of this. Candide is about a simple and naive person who does not fully understand the complex world. Chauncey Gardiner, in Being There, was another. So the movies are symptomatic of the quest for truth, a turn away from false complexity.

    PLAYBOY: What are the trends in the porn movie industry symptomatic of?

    PAGLIA: Feminist PC bullshit has taken over the industry so the videos, except for the gay male ones, are all boring. There has been a horrible decline in quality. There is just a bunch of professional porn actresses simulating orgasm. The hot movies are from the Russ Meyer period, the late Sixties and early Seventies. I loved that period. And Debbie Does Dallas. Good and lewd. I mean, Deep Throat was a revelation.

    PLAYBOY: How so?

    PAGLIA: Good fellatio is an art form. I know this from gay men; one of them said that they should have federal funding for the development of fellatio skills—it should be underwritten. Well, when I was growing up, good middle-class white girls never discussed it. We’d never even heard of it. Women went with their boyfriends to see Deep Throat, and their mouths were hanging open. No one could believe it. Now, after 20 years, we’ve seen so many demonstrations of it that it has become a part of the culture. I think it’s a very good skill.

    PLAYBOY: Let’s move to mainstream movies. What do you have against Meryl Streep?

    PAGLIA: I loathe Meryl Streep. She was good in Silkwood, but she began to take herself very seriously. I’m reacting to the horrendous overpraise she has received. She is a calculated actress, a victim of her own WASP culture. I find her totally unconvincing. She has no passion. She has no deep elemental vibration. Jodie Foster is overpraised, too. I thought she was good in Silence of the Lambs and The Accused, but she’s getting on my nerves.

    PLAYBOY: Who sends you?

    PAGLIA: The great actresses in film are Jeanne Moreau, Elizabeth Taylor. I love an actress as sensual as Raquel Welch. She and Liz Taylor and that type of woman are the great queens of Hollywood. They have the lush sexuality that I admire, as opposed to the WASPy, desexualized Meryl. I love Jessica Walter. Even Vanessa Redgrave and Jane Fonda are better than Meryl Streep. I love Catherine Deneuve.

    PLAYBOY: Meg Ryan is another actress who has incurred your wrath.

    PAGLIA: I loathe Meg Ryan. Loathe her. Naomi Wolf’s culture deserves Meg Ryan. She is Sandra Dee reborn but without Sandra Dee’s talent for comedy. I read in an interview that Meg Ryan doesn’t speak to her mother. So this is a woman who has all kinds of untapped dark stuff that she could draw on, but she’s not doing it. She is so superficial. She used to be on As the World Turns. I hated her on that and she has been doing the same goddamned act since then. The woman has two facial expressions, OK? The fact that she is one of the great actresses of our culture right now is a testament to our poverty, to our sexual poverty. She is so sexless. Julia Roberts is another one who drives me crazy.

    PLAYBOY: What about Cindy Crawford?

    PAGLIA: I like her very much. I saw her in person once, and I thought she was more beautiful than in her pictures. She has a wonderful manner and is so misty and charismatic.

    PLAYBOY: How about male stars? How do you explain the popularity of Arnold Schwarzenegger?

    PAGLIA: I like him and find him humorous. He has a wonderful sense of comedy; I love the way he satirizes himself. Actresses always complain that they don’t get the salaries that male stars like Schwarzenegger get. Excuse me, but when you pull in the box office they do, you’ll get their salaries. It’s interesting that the stars who pull in the greatest salaries are those who have retained the masculine glamour. Schwarzenegger doesn’t mind portraying a pregnant man because he is so confident in his masculinity he can play with his image.

    PLAYBOY: What about Woody Allen?

    PAGLIA: I love him. He’s one of the great commentators on sexual mores of our time. I think he was totally shafted when the media turned against him for his thing with Soon-Yi Previn. The child-abuse charges were baseless. There is an incestuous tinge to his relationship with Soon-Yi, but the only thing I would hold against him is that he didn’t tell Mia. If he was having an affair, he had an obligation to his lover. I don’t care that it was Mia’s adopted daughter. Big deal.

    PLAYBOY: But you admit that it appears to be incestuous?

    PAGLIA: It has an incestuous tinge, OK? It is not incest legally. And Soon-Yi is not a baby. She is over the age of consent. But I hate double-dealing. I’m very honest. I think two-timing is wrong.

    PLAYBOY: You were once Madonna’s most serious fan.

    PAGLIA: I remain a fan of Madonna. She is a brilliantly talented woman who is at a low point right now. I’m hoping that she can recover. She may—many great stars went through a period of being box-office poison and then came back. I don’t know if she will, though, because I think she cuts herself off from anyone interesting—look at Sandra Bernhard and me. She won’t have anything to do with two of the smartest women in the world.

    PLAYBOY: How does that affect whether or not she’ll be able to make a comeback?

    PAGLIA: She needs people to inspire her intelligence. Instead, she hangs out with disco trash. Too bad. I think we would get along. But now I know too much about her. I’ve heard too much about her from Sandra and her friends. I heard she never just sits around and talks. She always has to be princess of the room. She comes in with an entourage. Sandra still has friends from high school; she’s still friends with a manicurist she met once. Madonna, on the other hand, drops people. That’s weird because Italians are usually loyal. My lover, Alison, loves Madonna. Our only fights are about Madonna, because I’m in a state of disillusion. I like her new album. I call it Prozac music—she’s very depressed. Anyway, people have suggested that I just wanted to sleep with her. That’s ridiculous.

    PLAYBOY: Did you at one point?

    PAGLIA: That’s not my attitude toward great stars. I am reverential to great stars. I don’t want sexual congress with them. The writer in me reveres the artist in them.

    PLAYBOY: Do you have a favorite television show?

    PAGLIA: Monday Night Football. I love it. Any woman who wants to understand what’s going on in the workplace should study football. It’s all there. I never miss The Young and the Restless. I love reruns.

    PLAYBOY. Do real men like baseball or football?

    PAGLIA: Baseball is an intellectual game, but the center of the culture is football. A lot of Jewish men don’t get it, but most men—not men of the cultural elite or the literati—love football. Why? Because it’s about the masculine. We are in this industrial-capitalist period, very safe, at least, relatively safe. We think we can do without the masculine. But we respond to it. Even straight men who are looking at sports are responding. It’s not sexual, but it is sensuous. I think there is a sensuous appreciation of beautiful bodies and sports. No one gives a fuck about women’s group sports—it embarrasses me to see women’s basketball. But men bonding on teams is the essence of human history.

    PLAYBOY: Can you give us an overview of the state of women’s magazines?

    PAGLIA: They are being overrun by PC types and men. They are in a state of chaos and transition right now. I have a nice association with Allure, which is one of the only non-PC magazines. But I love fashion magazines. I think they’re works of art for the masses. They in no way cause anorexia, OK? Nor do they cause low self-esteem in the women who look at them. Just the opposite. And for $4.95 you can get all that fantasy and beauty. It’s interesting that the world of fashion, frivolous as it may be to some people, is where a lot of high-art energy now is. High art is in the doldrums. The painting world is for shit right now. The real artistic energy is only in the fashion world.

    PLAYBOY: How about music?

    PAGLIA: I love Sixties music. John Lennon. The Beatles. The Stones. The Who. Cream. Hendrix. Jefferson Airplane. I came to love Led Zeppelin. Van Halen. I like the Pretenders.

    PLAYBOY: Are you interested in any of the new stuff?

    PAGLIA: I listen to anything big. I try to monitor substantial achievements.

    PLAYBOY: So it’s more about research than pleasure?

    PAGLIA: Well, no. But there’s such a turnover now that there’s no point running after every band that comes along that doesn’t last more than an album or two. I’m looking for rock to advance as an art form. I loved the double album from Guns n’ Roses, but that was simply a continuation of my favorite Rolling Stones album, Exile on Main Street. I like Pearl Jam. I like Metallica. I thought Metallica’s performance at Woodstock was wonderful.

    PLAYBOY: What about Kurt Cobain?

    PAGLIA: Kurt Cobain’s suicide is a good example of Generation X’s despair.

    PLAYBOY: Do you view him as more than another rock star with drug problems?

    PAGLIA: He was a revealing symbol. He called himself passive-aggressive. There was self-pity, whining. There was a diminishment, a diminution. He was sitting there in his sweater, hunched over his guitar, looking like a little lost boy. Compare that with the great figures of my generation: Jimi Hendrix. Pete Townshend. Keith Richards. The great achievements of rock—of the Sixties, in fact—were done by assertion and energy. This is why I’m worried about the future.

    PLAYBOY: How about the new women rockers?

    PAGLIA: I’m listening. I like Liz Phair, but there were these stupid women reviewers who said she’s surpassing the Stones. Dream on.

    PLAYBOY: You’ve said that bisexuality should be the universal norm. Do you still believe that?

    PAGLIA: It’s the cure for many problems. I don’t believe in gay versus straight. The message of the gay liberation movement should have been freedom of sexuality, not antagonism toward sexuality other than gay sex. Most people are going to want to be straight, this is true, because most people breed, and nature wants us to breed. However, I believe in the liberation of all avenues of pleasure, and I want all straight people to have their options open without it implicating them. The impulses are there if they aren’t repressed, so people should choose to live without those labels.

    PLAYBOY: Have you examined why some heterosexual men focus on breasts and others on asses?

    PAGLIA: Yes. It’s very interesting. There’s no doubt in my mind that Fifties eroticism for men in America was based on the bosom. That’s where Hugh Hefner came in. Hefner has never gotten the credit he deserves—not merely for his influence on the culture’s view of sex but for creating a whole motif, a style for men that was a departure from the World War One rough-and-ready type—the kind in the action magazines. The style he created wasn’t just about women, it was about connoisseurship. He said it’s possible to be a new kind of man, a European-style man interested in fine stereo equipment, good wine, sophisticated conversation and progressive ideas. Certainly PLAYBOY emerged at a time when the bosom was the focus of eroticism in America. I remember being puzzled when friends went to Italy and got pinched on the butt by men. In Italy, there is a huge emphasis on the butt. Women with large buttocks are pursued on the streets in Italy. Throughout the Sixties, women in England and America had no butts. With the Twiggy look, big breasts were out. They were unfashionable. The exercise boom may have brought more attention to the butt. Women have become conscious of developing it. Cheryl Tiegs was the first exercise model. The butt started to be more appreciated here after that. It also could be multicultural, because as more black women and Hispanic women have come into imagery in the past 20 years, the butt has become more important. There is an appreciation of good asses in the Hispanic and black cultures. In Mediterranean cultures large buttocks are a sign of fertility. At any rate, this has been an important part of my evolution as an erotic thinker. I now have tremendous appreciation of butts. I’m very aware of them and I’m responsive to them—equally with breasts.

    PLAYBOY: Theories such as this—described in your books and in your other writings—continue to receive criticism from all circles, including feminists, gays, lesbians and liberals. Do you set out to incite?

    PAGLIA: I’m afraid it’s unavoidable. There never was a time when I did not incite.

    PLAYBOY: From where did your incendiary personality emerge?

    PAGLIA: Growing up in my family in the Fifties. I was always trying to escape from the Fifties. The decade was a horror.

    PLAYBOY: Someone once said that you talk fast because your father wouldn’t let you speak. Is that true?

    PAGLIA: Actually, I was silent as a child. But it’s true that my father was very opinionated, and he trained me in my earliest years to be an individual thinker. Italian culture is like Chinese culture. There is respect for elders. You never raise your voice to elders. There are no explosions. My father was totally in control. I had no Walkman—I wish I had. They’re wonderful. Kids now put on Walkmans when they’re in the car with their parents so they don’t have to hear them talking to each other. I think there would have been much less stress. I certainly did become a maniacal fast talker.

    PLAYBOY: Did you always know you were a lesbian?

    PAGLIA: I had crushes on women—actually I loved charismatic, extreme people, women or men. By high school I was saying I must be a lesbian, because if you are attracted to women, you’re a lesbian. I was also attracted to men, but I didn’t get along with men.

    PLAYBOY: Did you have sexual experiences with both?

    PAGLIA: There weren’t opportunities with women. In Girl Scout camp or something all the girls were fooling around. But there was no chance; I never even heard the word lesbian. Even in college, I was looking for women but dating men.

    PLAYBOY: Was your mother at home—living the feminine mystique?

    PAGLIA: When I was three she began working as a bank teller. Even before that she worked at home—sewing wedding dresses.

    PLAYBOY: What was your father like?

    PAGLIA: A firstborn daughter, it’s been proven, is very achieving because her father projects to her his ambition for a son. From early on, my father talked to me like an adult. One of the earliest things he did was teach me the Latin names of the parts of the body. He was very analytic. We had no money, but intellectual curiosity was encouraged, and my parents constantly talked with each other. This develops the brain. I remember listening and thinking, listening to voices talking, talking, talking.

    PLAYBOY: Because they value intellectual discussion, are they proud of you?

    PAGLIA: I think so. My father died of cancer but lived long enough to see me famous, though not long enough to read my book fully. If he were alive I wouldn’t be quite so outrageous, speaking about my sex life, for instance. I don’t believe in embarrassing my family. My sister told my mother, “Look, Ma, just think how Mick Jagger’s mother must have felt.” My mother will say to me, “Try to be nice, all right?” Or she’ll say, “Can’t you tone it down?”—just like Madonna’s father says to her in Truth or Dare. I think my mother is mollified because the priests, of all people, congratulate her.

    PLAYBOY: How do you feel when critics go beyond criticizing the work and get personal?

    PAGLIA: That’s inevitable. Even if people don’t agree with me, however, I think intellectuals should be fascinated by my rise, what it reveals about the time. My critics are irrelevant, though. It tells how much I’m getting to them by how vitriolic they are. They refuse to deal with the ideas. But reviews don’t reflect anything; the books are selling. A friend told me, “The attacks make you.”

    PLAYBOY: You criticized your former idol, Susan Sontag, for becoming too mainstream and losing her outsider’s perspective. Could that happen to you?

    PAGLIA: I take measures to avoid that. I saw what happened to Germaine Greer and Sontag. Here I am, still at the University of the Arts, still at the same office that I share with two other people, with a $34,000 salary. And I keep my speaking fee low—$2000.

    PLAYBOY: But the book advances must be high by now.

    PAGLIA: The biggest lie in the world is that I am in this for money. Now I don’t have to worry about the unemployment line. But there are eight phone lines. It becomes a hassle. It’s frustrating, too, because there’s only so much you can do. You can criticize academe, but there is tenure and these snobs are locked in. I am popular with certain people, but I’m still blocked out of the establishment. I hate that incestuous world. It makes me sick. It’s impossible for anything truly original to get done. Thinking is not allowed. It’s all PC. It is so horrible because it is a fossilized, parasitic version of Sixties philosophy.

    PLAYBOY: Then why don’t you get out? You have a much larger popular audience anyway.

    PAGLIA: You can’t abandon academe. It’s important and it must be fought. We want to bring the real world into academe, to make the academe relevant again. We need people who are bridging those two worlds.

    PLAYBOY: What is it like to finally have a relationship? You once described how new relationships quickly become boring, descending into, “You make love and it’s, ‘How do you want your eggs?'” You claimed to hate that. Well?

    PAGLIA: I lost a big part of my act when I couldn’t complain about my sex life anymore. It’s terrible [laughs]. We’ve been together a year and a half. We’re perfect for each other.

    PLAYBOY: Where did you meet Alison?

    PAGLIA: She came to a lecture. She sent me an application.

    PLAYBOY: For a job?

    PAGLIA: I was used to getting applications. Everyone knew that I was looking. Men and women were sending me applications. And she got it right. People tried all kinds of things, and nothing ever convinced me. She sent me her resume, her picture and artwork. I knew immediately. One of her works was a photomontage of a woman in black panties in a fashion magazine that she put with advertisements of pancakes and syrup. It was absolutely right. And then she sent me a formal letter and a picture of herself in a very short skirt. It was bold. I checked her resume; I don’t want any psychopaths, thank you. She was a teacher. She had a job. Still, I was cautious. I called her voice mail and listened to how she sounded. I thought, all right. Then we met. By the second date, that was it. I didn’t think it was possible, because I’m 47.

    PLAYBOY: How does she like her eggs?

    PAGLIA: In fact, she’s very into cooking. She watches cooking shows on TV She is on a low-fat diet, though, and doesn’t make eggs.

    PLAYBOY: What’s next in the battle of the sexes in an era of Lorena Bobbitt? What’s the significance of that case?

    PAGLIA: A woman cutting off a man’s penis is the ultimate castration for 5,000 years of human history. Someone finally did it, right? It was revolutionary. But I abhor the fact that she struck a sleeping enemy. It’s cowardly to attack your enemy while he’s sleeping. If she had attacked him while he was awake, or stabbed him in the chest with a knife while they were arguing, that’s different.

    PLAYBOY: Do you think she should have been acquitted?

    PAGLIA: I reject that she was a victim. They had an S&M relationship—like the one O.J. and Nicole Simpson had. The claim that she feared for her life was ridiculous. She was revenging herself on him. I love how she threw his severed penis out the car window. Then she told the police where it was, and they found it. I love that. But she should not have been acquitted. She was guilty. It was a crime of passion. Anyway, this case brought to the forefront the fact that men are constantly forced to deal with their sexuality. The issue for a woman is menstruation, when her blood pours forth. But generally women can be removed from their own sexuality—they never have to think about it or confront it like men do. Every time men pee, it’s right there. They have to worry about it constantly. It’s a part of their bodies that they are not in control of. It can be embarrassing. In gym class or wherever, they can suddenly be humiliated, embarrassed. It defines so much about men. Because of the nature of the penis, men have performance anxiety, whereas no woman ever has to prove herself in this way. So men’s egos are totally involved in performance, in doing, achieving. An erection is a kind of achievement. So is peeing. As I’ve said, a boy has to learn to aim in order to no longer be infantile. So it’s an accomplishment. The male orgasm is short-lived and transient—and that’s the irony of men’s sexuality. It’s ironic that feminism looks at the penis as power and violence when in fact it is very weak. Every time a man approaches a woman, he is overcome with anxiety because he is approaching the place where he was born. There is a subliminal memory of that and there is always the nightmare that he can be shot down. All of a sudden, whoosh, and like Alice in Wonderland, you are shot through the looking glass. Every time a man puts his penis in a woman, he is gambling that he is going to get it back again. And in a sense, he loses that gamble each time. It goes in, he is very powerful, and then it’s over and he is no longer so powerful. This highlights where feminists have erred. It took most of my life to realize that men are not tyrants or egomaniacs. I had an epiphany in a shopping mall recently that put it all in perspective. I was having a piece of pizza and I saw all these teenage boys running around in the mall. They were wild. I looked at them and saw this desperation. When I was their age I hated those kinds of boys because they were so obnoxious. They are so involved in their status, gaining it, afraid of losing it. I’m glad I don’t have to be that age again. So they sat down near me and they didn’t notice me. I didn’t exist on their radar map. I was thinking, This is great. I was watching. They were full of energy and life. And I suddenly realized, My God, the reason they are so loud, the reason they are so uncontrolled, the reason I hated them at that age is that they bond with each other against women. It was the first time they were able to be away from the control of a woman—their mothers. They were on their own and for this period they’re very dangerous. Women have to watch out when they go to fraternity parties, because the men are all trying to up their status among one another and there is all this testosterone. And then some girl will snag them. And that’s it. It’s over for them. They get married and they’re under the control of their wives forever. You hear these women all the time, on, like, Ricki Lake, saying, “You know, I have two children, but actually I have three children” about the husband, and it’s true: The husband becomes a child again. Even when men are doing their share, taking out the garbage, doing the mopping, whatever, women are still running the household. They are in control and the men become subordinate again. So that’s what the feminists are so worried about? Men who are subordinated by their mothers and then by their wives? Men are looking for maternal solace in women, and that’s the nature of heterosexuality. Now you tell me, who really has all the power?

  12. noochinator said,

    March 24, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Camille Paglia does a post-mortem on the 2016 GOP presidential field:

    Republicans need to wake up and realize that Trump’s triumph is not due to some drunken delusion by a benighted rabble but is a direct result of the proven weakness of their other candidates. Ted Cruz, the last one still standing, is bombastic, sanctimonious and coldly sharkish behind that forced smile. Is Cruz a truly convincing model of Christian values of charity, compassion and humility? Jimmy Carter did it way better than this. Cruz seems consumed by a vainglorious conviction of his own destiny, tied to an apocalyptic view of history. He reminds me of glad-handing televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, who were loved and trusted by so many but whose careers ended in disgrace.

    The humiliating wholesale rejection of cash-glutted Jeb Bush, dynastic crown prince, should have clued the GOP moguls into how out of touch they are with primary voters this year. Jeb’s first mistake (perhaps due to his wife’s dislike of the public eye) was not to run for president soon after serving as Florida governor, when he still had his chops. His second mistake was to loaf on the sidelines and play no role whatever in public debates over pressing national issues. By the time he returned to the scene, he was both uncertain and irrelevant. Then someone foolishly prodded him to lose weight, which reduced his gravitas along with the flab by now highlighting his bland, snub-nosed baby face.

    Another victim of perpetual-boy syndrome is Marco Rubio, who at 44 seems to have strangely stalled in post-pubescence. How is it possible that Rubio played football (defensive back) in college and none of it shows? During high-wire gigs in Washington or at the primary debates, he chronically flubbed, either by autopilot glibness or painfully palpable anxiety attacks. Oh, right, we’re going to have this skittish, sweaty guy with five o’clock shadow and a bad comb-over going toe-to-toe with Vladimir Putin. Rubio seems bright and affable, but there’s nothing remotely presidential about him.

    As for the rest of the GOP pack, they all flamed out in one way or another. Despite his bold history of confronting and defeating the greedy public-sector unions, Scott Walker with his wide, wary eyes and pretty-boy pout looked like a deer caught in the headlights at the first debate. Bobby Jindal and Rand Paul also struggled with boy-regression—is this a Republican disease? On TV, the snarly, petulant Paul, with his sprig of retro forehead curls, looked like a mummified Dorian Gray dressed by Sears Roebuck, circa 1959.

    Carly Fiorina: smart and nimble but too taut and wired, like a buzz saw. Too much of a political novice and without Trump’s bumptious exuberance and slashing humor. Her campaign imploded when she went all histrionic (voice tragically breaking) about the secretly taped Planned Parenthood videos, a serious issue that the mainstream media had tried to bury but that should not have been used for blatant political grandstanding. Ben Carson: a thoughtful, dignified private citizen with an illustrious medical career. But was he ever remotely credible as a statesman on the international stage in the age of terrorism? His rote deep-think mode was to close his eyes and press his fingers together, like Madame Arcati conducting a séance in Blithe Spirit.

    Chris Christie: the lib Manhattan media just loved him to death. He was their fave Republican—he licked their boots, and they licked his. This blathering, gassy, waddling narcissist with his over-trimmed Pinocchio nose and lispy, quacking voice never had a prayer of a chance on the national stage. The Christie boomlet was always a media mirage. John Kasich: the man who could have been king. I think Kasich won the first GOP debate but then blew it. He has exactly the kind of gubernatorial executive experience and legislative budget-balancing record that are sorely needed in the White House. But Kasich’s unfocused, overblown, compulsively self-referential rhetoric is a major liability. And his skills as a public figure are embarrassingly rudimentary: he blurts, lurches, and waves his arms around like a windmill. He lacks patience, subtlety, and finesse. Not presidential.

  13. noochinator said,

    October 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    Ms. Paglia interviewed in June 2016!

  14. noochinator said,

    October 19, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Camille in April 2016 at George Mason U.:

    View story at

  15. noochinator said,

    October 29, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Dateline: 10/29/2016!

    ‘The woman is a disaster!’: Camille Paglia on Hillary Clinton
    A wide-ranging interview with the iconoclastic professor
    by Emily Hill

    Talking to Camille Paglia is like approaching a machine gun: madness to stick your head up and ask a question, unless you want your brain blown apart by the answer, but a visceral delight to watch as she obliterates every subject in sight. Most of the time she does this for kicks. It’s only on turning to Hillary Clinton that she perpetrates an actual murder: of Clinton II’s most cherished claim, that her becoming 45th president of the United States would represent a feminist triumph.

    ‘In order to run for president of the United States, you have to spend two or three years of your life out on the road constantly asking for money and most women find that life too harsh, too draining,’ Paglia argues. ‘That is why we haven’t had a woman president in the United States — not because we haven’t been ready for one, for heaven’s sakes, for a very long time…’

    Hillary hasn’t suffered — Paglia continues — because she is a woman. She has shamelessly exploited the fact: ‘It’s an outrage how she’s played the gender card. She is a woman without accomplishment. “I sponsored or co-sponsored 400 bills.” Oh really? These were bills to rename bridges and so forth. And the things she has accomplished have been like the destabilisation of North Africa, causing refugees to flood into Italy… The woman is a disaster!’

    Not that Paglia was always opposed to the Clintons. She voted for Bill Clinton twice before becoming revolted by the treatment meted out to Monica Lewinsky: ‘One of the very first interviews I did here — the headline was “Kind of a bitch — why I like Hillary Clinton”. My jaundiced view of her is entirely the result of observing her behaviour. And last election, I voted for Jill Stein’s Green party. So I have already voted for a woman president.’

    As far as most feminists are concerned, such a view is unconscionable. Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright made it their business to castigate American girls who wanted Bernie Sanders, while Madonna has promised a blowjob for every Clinton vote. Professor Paglia does not seem to mind much if she makes herself violently unpopular with her contemporaries — she’s an expert at it. Currently professor of the humanities at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, she first shot to fame in 1990 with the publication of Sexual Personae — a manuscript turned down by seven publishers before it became a bestseller.

    Paglia’s feminism has always been concerned with issues far beyond her own navel and the Hillary verdict is typical of her attitude — which is more in touch with women in the real world than most feminists’ (a majority of Americans, for example, have an ‘unfavourable view of Hillary Clinton’ according to recent polling).

    ‘My philosophy of feminism,’ the New York-born 69-year-old explains, ‘I call street-smart Amazon feminism. I’m from an immigrant family. The way I was brought up was: the world is a dangerous place; you must learn to defend yourself. You can’t be a fool. You have to stay alert.’ Today, she suggests, middle-class girls are being reared in a precisely contrary fashion: cosseted, indulged and protected from every evil, they become helpless victims when confronted by adversity. ‘We are rocketing backwards here to the Victorian period with this belief that women are not capable of making decisions on their own. This is not feminism — which is to achieve independent thought and action. There will never be equality of the sexes if we think that women are so handicapped they can’t look after themselves.’

    Paglia traces the roots of this belief system to American campus culture and the cult of women’s studies. This ‘poison’ — as she calls it — has spread worldwide. ‘In London, you now have this plague of female journalists… who don’t seem to have made a deep study of anything…’

    Paglia does not sleep with men — but she is, very refreshingly, in favour of them. She never moans about ‘the patriarchy’ but freely asserts that manmade capitalism has enabled her to write her books.

    As for male/female relations, she says that they are far more complex than most feminists insist. ‘I wrote a date-rape essay in 1991 in which I called for women to stand up for themselves and learn how to handle men. But now you have this shibboleth, “No means no.” Well, no. Sometimes “No” means “Not yet”. Sometimes “No” means “Too soon”. Sometimes “No” means “Keep trying and maybe yes”. You can see it with the pigeons on the grass. The male pursues the female and she turns away, and turns away, and he looks a fool but he keeps on pursuing her. And maybe she’s testing his persistence; the strength of his genes… It’s a pattern in the animal kingdom — a courtship pattern…’ But for pointing such things out, Paglia adds, she has been ‘defamed, attacked and viciously maligned’ — so, no, she is not in the least surprised that wolf-whistling has now been designated a hate crime in Birmingham.

    Girls would be far better advised to revert to the brave feminist approach of her generation — when women were encouraged to fight all their battles by themselves, and win. ‘Germaine Greer was once in this famous debate with Norman Mailer at Town Hall. Mailer was formidable, enormously famous — powerful. And she just laid into him: “I was expecting a hard, nuggety sort of man and he was positively blousy…” Now that shows a power of speech that cuts men up. And this is the way women should be dealing with men — finding their weaknesses and susceptibilities… not bringing in an army of pseudo, proxy parents to put them down for you so you can preserve your perfect girliness.’

    In an hour’s non-stop talking, Professor Paglia is only lost when asked which younger feminists she would pass the baton to. ‘I would love to inspire dissident young feminists to realise that this brand of feminism is not all feminism…’ she says, before citing Germaine Greer as the woman she admires most alive, and Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn as heroines alas dead.

    As with Greer, it is Paglia’s power of speech that utterly devastates. Her collected works read like a dictionary of vicious quotations. (Leaving sex to the feminists? ‘Like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist.’ Lena Dunham? ‘She’s a big pile of pudding.’) Paglia is pro-liberty, pro-pornography, pro-prostitutes and anti- any and all special treatment when it comes to women in power: ‘I do not believe in quotas of any kind. Scandinavian countries are going in that direction and it’s an insult to women — the idea that you need a quota.’ Which brings us back to Hillary and the so-called victory her re-entering the White House would represent: ‘If Hillary wins, nothing will change. She knows the bureaucracy, all the offices of government and that’s what she likes to do, sit behind the scenes and manipulate the levers of power.’

    Paglia says she has absolutely no idea how the election will go: ‘But people want change and they’re sick of the establishment — so you get this great popular surge, like you had one as well… This idea that Trump represents such a threat to western civilisation — it’s often predicted about presidents and nothing ever happens — yet if Trump wins it will be an amazing moment of change because it would destroy the power structure of the Republican party, the power structure of the Democratic party and destroy the power of the media. It would be an incredible release of energy… at a moment of international tension and crisis.’

    All of a sudden, the professor seems excited. Perhaps, like all radicals in pursuit of the truth, Paglia is still hoping the revolution will come.

    Camille Paglia was a speaker at the Battle of Ideas in London last weekend. Her book ‘Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, Feminism’ will be published next year.

  16. noochinator said,

    December 14, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    This just in: Camille Paglia released a statement on Madonna to Daily Mail Online :

    “Madonna is one of the most creative and influential women artists of the modern era. She transformed music and dance and produced stunning videos that were among the major works of art of the late twentieth century. She single-handedly broke the power of the Stalinist puritans of old-guard feminism and was instrumental in the triumph of pro-sex feminism in the 1990s.

    “Hence it is truly tragic to see Madonna descend into embarrassing displays of maudlin self-pity and irrational accusations against others. She is turning into a horrifying combination of delusional, vampiric Norma Desmond and bitter Joan Crawford on the bottle.

    “I was Madonna’s first major defender, when she was still considered a pop tart and a sham puppet created by shadowy male producers. In my ultra-controversial 1990 op-ed on her in the New York Times, ‘Finally, a Real Feminist’, I hailed her cutting-edge work and celebrated her embrace of sex, beauty, and Hollywood glamour, which had been under attack for the past quarter century of dreary second-wave feminism. I was widely attacked for my finale, which was dismissed as preposterous but which in fact came true: ‘Madonna is the future of feminism’.

    “It is absolutely ridiculous for Madonna to now claim that she longed to ally with other women at the start of her career but was rebuffed from doing so. The media, in the U.S. and abroad, constantly asked Madonna about me or tried to bring us together, and she always refused.

    “For example, in 1994, Esquire magazine asked me to interview her for a cover story, but she rejected the proposal. Instead, they got the geriatric novelist Norman Mailer, who knew nothing about Madonna or popular music, with predictably vapid results. HBO wanted to film Madonna and me conversing at a restaurant. Again, she rejected it. And Penthouse too proposed a joint cover story that was shot down.

    “The real issue is that while Madonna’s world tours have remained highly successful, her artistic development has been stalled for 20 years. The last truly innovative work she did was with electronica producer William Orbit. Madonna has become a prisoner of her own wealth and fame. Her most authentic ideas were inspired by her childhood rebellion against the repressive code of American Catholicism.

    “When she switched over to Hollywood chic Kabbalah, with its easy-going ethic and pat bromides, she lost her creative drive. Furthermore, Madonna seems to lack the humility and persistence that are required for the study of serious art. She collects art for display, but obviously it has not broadened or deepened her imagination.

    “The number one issue in Madonna’s current path of self-destruction is her embarrassing inability to deal with aging. She has failed to study the example of her great role model, Marlene Dietrich, who retained her class and style to the end. Madonna keeps chasing after youth, humiliating herself with vulgar displays, like the horrendously trashy, buttock-baring outfit she wore to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in May.

    “She has become a cringe-making pastiche of ratty blonde hair extensions and artificially swollen cheeks, obscuring the magnificent classic bone structure that made her one of the most photogenic celebrities of the 1990s. In her struggles to stay relevant, Madonna has debased herself with adolescent, pitifully inept Instagrams that cannot compete with Rihanna’s brilliant work in that genre.

    “Instead of lugubrious rants and hysterical recriminations, perhaps Madonna should try a little honest self-critique.”

  17. noochinator said,

    January 25, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Camille Paglia in London in October 2016:

  18. noochinator said,

    May 9, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    On the release of her new book on art history entitled Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars (Random House, 2012), American author and social critic Camille Paglia has been interviewed by ParisLike about her intellectual journey, her views on free thought, activism and her critical approach to dogmatism.

    Alessandro Mercuri: You often refer to your Italian heritage and to the pagan dimension of the Roman Catholic Church. From the Renaissance to the age of the Baroque, the representation shifted from iconic Christian art to the painting of Greek myths and metamorphosis. This artistic revolution, in which Jesus and Dionysus coexist or like Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, seems important to your vision. It’s almost as if postmodern visual issues dated back from the Renaissance. How do you relate this artistic period to your interest in our modern mass media culture?

    Camille Paglia: The principal over-arching idea of my work is that Western culture has been formed by a long, irresolvable conflict between ancient paganism and Judeo-Christianity. I state in my first book, Sexual Personae, that it is a historical error to claim that Christianity defeated paganism at the start of the Middle Ages. No, paganism went underground and erupted, in my view, at three key moments: the Renaissance (a revival of Greco-Roman humanism and aesthetics); Romanticism (a return of Dionysian nature-worship with its emotionalism and its primal sexuality verging on the barbaric); and modern popular culture (Hollywood as a restoration of the pagan pantheon of physically perfect, openly sexual gods and goddesses).

    Paganism was stubbornly preserved among the rural Italians who were my ancestors. (My mother was born in Ceccano in Lazio, and my paternal grandparents were born in the Campania around Avellino and Benevento.) Indeed, the Latin word “paganus” meant “person of the countryside”—initially untouched by the trend of Christianity that arrived from the Eastern Mediterranean and first took root among the patricians in Rome. The worship of the great goddesses of antiquity (Cybele, Isis) eventually took new form in the cult of Mary, which the Protestant reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin correctly attacked as an intrusion into biblical Christianity. Similarly, veneration of the saints (also rejected by Protestants) was a survival of paganism. In some cases, gods were simply re-named, as happened when the Roman god Janus became Saint Gennaro, the patron of a huge annual festival in New York’s Little Italy.

    For me, the creation of “glamour” by the Hollywood studio system in the 1930s (notably by M-G-M and Paramount) had magical pagan properties. I am still obsessed with the movies made during that great period, when ordinary men and women were turned into divinities by the vast machinery of the star system. The glamour portraits by photographers George Hurrell or Edward Steichen, who show Hollywood stars radiating with dazzling charisma, are as beautiful to me as great masterwork paintings. Today, Hollywood stars are ordinary and banal—too familiar to us because of the excess number of award shows and casual photos snapped by paparazzi in the street. The movies, as well as their stars, have lost their magic.

    A.M.: Your work could be considered in connection with the idea of freethinking outside the ideologically legitimate paths or ideologies whether dogmatically feminist or Marxist. Thinking beyond good and evil in a Nietzschean way seems to be for you an essential moral attitude. As a social activist who grew up in the sixties, you’ve been fighting against many forms of power including political correctness. What is the function of an intellectual or thinker in today’s American or global society?

    C.P.: I left the Roman Catholic Church when I discovered that it would not tolerate free thought and free speech. The moment was very precise: I was sitting in a church pew as a nun was instructing us in the “Religious Education” class for which Catholic students were released one afternoon per week from public high school in Syracuse, New York. At one point I asked, “If God is all-forgiving, is it possible he will ever forgive Satan?” The nun’s reaction to what seemed to me (then and now) as a very interesting question was astounding. She turned red and began shouting angrily at me in a way that I found both rude and irrational. That was the end of my attempts to initiate any kind of dialogue with the Catholic hierarchy.

    My commitment to free thought and free speech is a primary, foundational principle of my life and career. The radical Free Speech movement at the University of California at Berkeley exploded into the news during the same month (September 1964) that I entered college. It was for me the essence of the fiery and rebellious 1960s spirit. Hence I do not understand the disastrous descent of my generation into the era of political correctness which began in the 1970s. Both liberalism and feminism became outrageous suppressors of free speech—all in the name of an ideological purity that soon resembled the authoritarianism of the Roman Catholic Church. Liberal “speech codes” are now deeply established at all major colleges and universities in the U.S. There are severe penalties for “offensive speech”—usually something which wounds the feelings of a particular protected group (women, blacks, gays, etc.). The situation is absolutely outrageous. It is partly why cultural criticism in the U.S. has become so insipid and mediocre. Students are trained to obey, not to think.

    There are no intellectuals left in the U.S. Several years ago, Bernard-Henri Lévy said after visiting the U.S. and lecturing at major universities, including Harvard, that he had met no intellectuals in America—only partisans. He was exactly correct! The leading humanities professors at the elite colleges and universities strike poses of fashionable Leftism, but they are naïve about economics and history, and they simply parrot the latest shallow “talking points” of the Democratic Party. I am a registered Democrat (I voted for Obama in 2008 but the Green Party in 2012, as a protest against the Obama administration’s military adventurism), but I consider it the obligation of an intellectual to critique all political positions and parties, including his or her own. The herd-like groupthink of American liberals is childish and cowardly. It is just as intellectually inert as the antiquated religious dogma on the conservative Right.

    The polarity of Left versus Right is not a universal aspect of history. It dates only from the late eighteenth century. How absurd to treat these increasingly clichéd concepts as eternal absolutes—just as medieval theologians regarded divine law. It is the duty and function of the intellectual today to remain outside of all categories and to attack cliché and cant wherever they appear.

    A.M.: In the 2006 Drexel InterView you mentioned that you and Andy Warhol grew up in an industrial town, Endicott, NY, for you and Pittsburgh for Warhol. As the pope of pop art, you’ve been witnessing the tremendous impact of popular culture and mass consumerism. Like him, your views are not fueled with a critical so-called armchair leftist approach. As you put it, you “don’t want to ignore the commercial mission of popular culture or its financial underpinning” but you also say that: “I’m an appreciator, an enthusiast. I’m a fan, I celebrate.” Could you tell us more about this concept of celebration?

    C.P.: I detest the cynicism of post-structuralism and postmodernism, which pretend to discover deception and slippage in every text, no matter how revered. This methodology has become a tiresome gimmick—snide game-playing of the kind that infatuates callow adolescents. The once daring and authentically avant-garde gestures of Marcel Duchamp or Salvador Dalí have become the pretentious stock-in-trade of third-rate academics. I am a fierce and savage critic known for my attacks on false ideas or inflated reputations, but my most characteristic mode is celebration—whether of the Nefertiti bust or early Madonna videos. It is important to honor art in all its forms and to communicate that enthusiasm to students. But the elite universities today are filled with careerist vandals who systematically destroy their students’ ability to appreciate and value art.

    As for commercialism, I am well-positioned to reject the rote condemnation of capitalism that flows from humanities professors ignorant of economics. As the product of an Italian immigrant family, I personally witnessed the transition from a static, tribal, agrarian culture in the old country to industrialization in an American factory town to today’s middle-class, office-centered professional life. It was capitalism that gave opportunity and liberation to my family, which escaped the impoverished Italian countryside. My entire life as a teacher and writer was made possible by capitalism. Indeed, capitalism gave birth to the modern emancipated woman, who for the first time in history is no longer dependent on a father or husband.

    A.M.: You’re known as an intellectual figure and essayist. What seems most relevant for you in the phrase “non narrative writer” is ostensibly the word “writer”. You said once that most people don’t write sentences anymore and that for you writing is architectural. Your preference is more for the aphorism or the epigram than to long, abstract and laborious developments. The intimate “I” who also guides your writing is not an abstract and disembodied objective narrator. Your work is filled with passion, a certain form of creative paranoia or a kind of rebellious “hubris”. What is your viewpoint on the essay as a literary genre in the history of literature?

    C.P.: It is certainly true that I love the epigram, which I first studied in a British book that I stumbled upon in a second-hand bookstore during high school: The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde. It was a collection of short, startling quotes from Wilde’s essays, plays, and conversation. Wilde’s imperious tone was partly derived from Baudelaire, an uncompromising apostle of art and beauty who would later deeply influence my work. I also read about the 1920s Algonquin wit Dorothy Parker and her talent for devastating barbs. In fact, I was inspired by an amusing cartoon drawing of Parker wearing a dress but holding a dripping pen like a spear that she was about to fling, as if in battle. That is exactly how I think of my writing! My long appreciation of the epigram form helped me enormously when I was suddenly the subject of media attention in 1990, after the publication of my highly controversial first book. Newspapers and magazines found that I was very “quotable”. They could ask me about anything, and I would instantly produce vivid “one-liners” that fit perfectly in their news stories with limited space. It’s simply the way I think and talk! Through so many years of practice, I have the ability to project my personality and polemical positions into a single sentence. I remember being intrigued in college by fragments of Greek lyric poetry: sometimes only a single line survives from the work of many famous poets, including Sappho, and yet that one line contains everything. I admire that quality of concise intensity and try to imitate it.

    As for long developments of thought, Sexual Personae itself, a 700-page magnum opus which took 20 years to write, is one of the most ambitious and complicated works of non-fiction ever produced by a woman. Its ancestry is in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, an immense and imposing work that I first read and admired when I was 16. I would point to my chapter on Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest as an example of innovative argumentation. It is implacable in its series of surprising turns and ascents. The structure of that long chapter is completely original and without precedent in literary criticism.

    A.M.: In terms of French intellectual influences, you often mention your admiration for Sade and his philosophy of nature and you aversion for the French theory and thinkers such as Foucault and Derrida. How could you define the creative influence of the former and the negative influence of the latter?

    C.P.: Sade was a figure of towering imagination and incessant creativity. He penetrated to the heart of the West’s moral systems; he exposed every taboo in order to violate it. What a mind! He was also a scathing satirist who could generate comedy out of horror. Sade’s major works were available everywhere in Grove Press paperbacks when I was in college and graduate school. He was hailed as a prophet of the sexual revolution. Then he disappeared from U.S. bookstores. Humanities academics shamefully stampeded after Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault in the 1970s. Sade was erased and forgotten. It is an unforgivable scandal. Post-structuralism may have been needed in France, with its heavy burden of great high culture along with its Racinian constraints on language, but it was completely unnecessary in the U.S., where there has never been an oppressive high-culture establishment. Quite the opposite! America is the land of Hollywood, hamburgers, and fast cars. Derrida, Lacan, and Foucault had nothing to contribute to American criticism, which should have gone in the direction of Marshall McLuhan and Leslie Fiedler instead (two pivotal influences on me in college).

    Beyond that, Foucault is a fraud. In 1991, I wrote a long and detailed attack on post-structuralism, centered on Foucault: “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf” (it was reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture). Every important new idea which misinformed acolytes attribute to Foucault was deviously borrowed by him from someone else—from Émile Durkheim to Erving Goffman. Foucault was completely unscholarly. He knew very little about any subject, including classical antiquity and sexuality, and he did not bother to do deep research. A century from now, the naive fad for Foucault will look as bizarre as the feverish fad for Emanuel Swedenborg looks to us now. Too many secular humanists, having abandoned religion, are still looking for a Messiah or father figure. As I once wrote, “Better Jehovah than Foucault”—because at least Judeo-Christianity has a great book of visionary Hebrew poetry to offer.

    A.M.: In France, the current socialist Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem wants to abolish prostitution and to eradicate it from society. Most French feminists have praised the project while many prostitutes have expressed their disapproval. What is your view and your libertarian approach on such an issue?

    C.P.: French feminists want to abolish prostitution? What reactionary Puritanism. What has happened to the France of the great art films which electrified me in college because of their daring sexuality and their seductive stars like the world-weary Jeanne Moreau and the young Catherine Deneuve? My position as a libertarian is that the state has no right to intervene in any matter involving our personal choice about our bodies. Hence prostitution, abortion, drug-taking, and suicide lie beyond the legitimate reach of the government. But while I would warn my students about the dangers of drugs (which produce short-term pleasure but long-term harm), I would express no such caution about prostitution, as long as it is voluntary. I support both prostitutes and prostitution whole-heartedly. I condemn the relentless assault by social workers and psychologists on the characters of prostitutes, who are endlessly portrayed as victims or products of abusive backgrounds. Yes, this might be true in some or even many cases, but it is not the whole story. As I have written, the most successful prostitutes are so intelligent and adept that they are invisible. It is perfectly reasonable to require that prostitutes not create a public disturbance; hence they should not loiter around schools or churches or aggressively solicit at sidewalk cafés. And it is also reasonable that brothels not be licensed in small apartment buildings where other residents might be inconvenienced. But in a modern democracy, prostitutes have a perfect right to conduct their lives as they wish. Whether they function as employees or independent operators, prostitutes provide an important service that has been of clear value to a significant portion of the population since civilization began. Indeed, their very existence, challenging the authority of Judeo-Christianity, is intrinsic to our freedom of sexual imagination.

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