Sexual Politics by Kate Millett is an examination of how thoroughly culture and society are dominated by men. The book was published in 1970 and sold 22,000 copies in its first month of publication.
Examination of Patriarchy
Sexual Politics was seen as a cornerstone of feminist theory. Kate Millett’s study of women in literature, art, psychology, and politics began as her PhD dissertation. Her bold approach shed light on a complacent society that accepted the in-place male establishment.
In Sexual Politics, Kate Millett explores the treatment of women in art and literature. The book begins with a graphic passage from Henry Miller’s Sexus. The analysis of Miller's matter-of-fact male dominance reveals how readers take for granted the “compliant woman” role in both literature and society.
A Controversial Work
Sexual Politics discusses Freudian thought and critiques the sexism of other significant authors, including D. H. Lawrence and Norman Mailer. Because Kate Millett confronted and analyzed revered authors in the literary canon, Sexual Politics was the subject of much controversy. Norman Mailer responded with a piece called “The Prisoner of Sex,” in which he defended Henry Miller and D.H. Lawrence.
Sexual Politics was widely praised and widely criticized. It has been called the first scholarly work of Women’s Liberation and a feminist classic. The book went out of print, but was reissued in 2000 with a new introduction further examining cultural patriarchy. The original publisher, Doubleday, included Sexual Politics in a list of the ten most important books it had published in 100 years.