What We Don't Talk About

What We Don't Talk About:Sex and the Mess of Life

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A searing indictment of modern sexual politics.

What if we took sex out of the box marked ‘special’, either the worst or best thing that a human person can experience, and considered it within the complexity of reality? In this extraordinary book, despite longstanding tabloid-style sexual preoccupations with villains and victims, shame and virtue, JoAnn Wypijewski does exactly that.

From the HIV crisis to the paedophile priest panic, Woody Allen to Brett Kavanaugh, child pornography to Abu Ghraib, Wypijewski takes the most famous sex panics of the last decades and turns them inside out, weaving what together becomes a searing indictment of modern sexual politics, exposing the myriad ways sex panics and the expansion of the punitive state are intertwined.

What emerges is an examination of the multiple ways in which the ever-expanding default language of monsters and victims has contributed to the repressive power of the state. Politics exists in the mess of life. Sex does too, Wypijewski insists and so must sexual politics, to make any sense at all.

Reviews

  • What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About #MeToo speaks for many women who resist (sometimes quietly) the peer pressure that has no name, and for women dismayed by the politics of belief infecting our secular conversations about sex. Injustice has become a sustainable resource, and JoAnn Wypijewski has been documenting its variations quite eloquently for 25 years. Her reporting is solid and energetic. Wypijewski knows how to unpack a monster.

    Tracy Quan, author of Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl
  • Just causes, Wypijewski reminds us, have a bad habit of overreaching justice. Revisiting some of the most notorious sex abuse cases of recent times, she shows how little attention the media has given to actual facts and alternative interpretations. These incisive and controversial essays are a tour d'force by a brilliant journalist with unbounded empathy.

    Mike Davis
  • JoAnn Wypijewski stimulates us to think freshly about sex and sexual politics, and she is not afraid to infuriate both those who consider themselves sexual progressives and traditional conservatives. Let’s call a town meeting of the whole country to grapple with the insights, the fury, and most of all the wisdom in this essential book.

    Peter Davis, Academy Award winning filmmaker of Hearts and Minds, author of Girl of My Dreams