Kate Millett’s ‘Sexual Politics’: 40 years on

Kate Millett’s book Sexual Politics was pivotal for the developing second wave feminist movement. It was regarded as very important both by feminists at the time and by the media. Time magazine labelled Millett as the Mao Tse-Tung of women’s liberation, but the book is not as well known today as might be expected for a work that had such an impact. In this article I seek to remedy the neglect of Sexual Politics. I examine the problem of why her work has been buried and suggest that the main reason was the development of a pro-sex feminist politics in the academy. Millett demonstrated the importance of sexual practice in the subordination of women, she showed that sex was political. She showed how male left intellectuals of the 1960s wrote famous erotica which treated women as disgusting objects to be violated. She described many of the misogynist ideas in these works which have formed the stock in trade of the very profitable pornography industry which has developed in recent decades. I argue that her work should be seen as a progenitor of later anti-pornography campaigns and regarded with the respect accorded to other significant social theorists.

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