Camille Paglia Quotes

Camille Paglia (1947-)

Camille Paglia, a feminist with a strong critique of feminism, has proposed controversial theories about the role of sadism and perversity in Western cultural art, and the "darker forces" of sexuality that she claims feminism ignores. Her more positive assessment of pornography and decadence, relegation of feminism to political egalitarianism, and assessment that women are actually more powerful in culture than men are has put her at odds with many feminists and non-feminists.

Selected Camille Paglia Quotations

• It is not male hatred of women but male fear of women that is the great universal.

• There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.

• Serial or sex murder, like fetishism, is a perversion of male intelligence. It is a criminal abstraction, masculine in its deranged egotism and orderliness. It is the asocial equivalent of philosophy, mathematics, and music. There is no female Mozart because there is no female Jack the Ripper.

• The prostitute has come to symbolize for me the ultimate liberated woman, who lives on the edge and whose sexuality belongs to no one.

• Men know they are sexual exiles. They wander the earth seeking satisfaction, craving and despising, never content. There is nothing in that anguished motion for women to envy.

• I consider myself 100 percent a feminist, at odds with the feminist establishment in America. For me the great mission of feminism is to seek the full political and legal equality of women with men.

However, I disagree with many of my fellow feminists as an equal opportunity feminist, who believes that feminism should only be interested in equal rights before the law. I utterly oppose special protection for women where I think that a lot of the feminist establishment has drifted in the last 20 years.

• Let's get rid of Infirmary Feminism, with its bedlam of bellyachers, anorexics, bulimics, depressives, rape victims, and incest survivors. Feminism has become a catch-all vegetable drawer where bunches of clingy sob sisters can store their moldy neuroses.

• I'm a feminist, but I am liberating current feminism from these false feminists who have a death grip on it right now, who are antiporn and so on. I'm bringing, like Madonna, a sense of beauty and pleasure and sensuality back into feminism. Because, you know, feminism's main problem for the last twenty years has been that it is incapable of appreciating art, okay? There is no aesthetics in feminism. All there is, is a social agenda. Art is made a servant to a prefab social agenda. So what I'm doing is allowing feminism to take aesthetics into it, and also psychology.

• It is woman's destiny to rule men. Not to serve them, flatter them, or hang on them for guidance. Nor to insult them, demean them, or stereotype them as oppressors.

• We cannot have a world where everyone is a victim. "I'm this way because my father made me this way. I'm this way because my husband made me this way." Yes, we are indeed formed by tramas that happen to us.

But you must take charge, you must take over, you are responsible.

• If middle class feminists think they conduct their love lives perfectly rationally, without any instinctual influences from biology, they are imbeciles.

• My reply is simply that interpretation relies upon the idea that western culture is a complex combination of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Greco-Roman. These two traditions are in conflict and so we have this terrible tension going on in our culture, particularly about sex and aggression. Much of our artwork -- the titanic achievements of Michelangelo or Picasso or Rubens -- is wrestling with the inner conflicts of our tradition. So the greatness of western art is not due to western myopia -- it is due to the neuroticism that's built into the western brain.

• Instruction at the college level should begin in the most remote past and only barely touch the present.

No teacher has any business telling the young about the present: the young are the present and they are making the future day by day. Every teacher, the moment that he or she steps from the classroom, is already history.

• A pagan education would sharpen the mind, steel the will, and seduce the senses. Our philosophy should be both contemplative and pugilistic, admitting aggression (as Christianity does not) as central to our mythology. The beasts of passion must be confronted, and the laws of nature understood. Conflict cannot be avoided, but perhaps it can be confined to a mental theater.

• The trauma of the Sixties persuaded me that my generation's egalitarianism was a sentimental error. I now see the hierarchical as both beautiful and necessary. Efficiency liberates; egalitarianism tangles, delays, blocks, deadens.

• If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.

• Patriarchy, routinely blamed for everything, produced the birth control pill, which did more to free contemporary women than feminism itself.

• I reaffirm and celebrate woman's ancient mystery and glamour. I see the mother as an overwhelming force who condemns men to lifelong sexual anxiety, from which they escape through rationalism and physical achievement.

• The visual is sorely undervalued in modern scholarship. Art history has attained only a fraction of the conceptual sophistication of literary criticism. Drunk with self-love, criticism has hugely overestimated the centrality of language to western culture. It has failed to see the electrifying sign language of images.

• From first chapter to last, my thesis is that all writing, all art is Apollonian. Every woman who takes pen or brush in hand is making an Apollonian swerve away from nature, even when nature is her subject.

• Gay men may seek sex without emotion; lesbians often end up in emotion without sex.

• Sex is the point of contact between man and nature, where morality and good intentions fall to primitive urges.

• Entertainment, media and the arts are nonstop advertisements for homosexuality these days.

• The challenge in reading so melodramatic a writer is figuring out which ideas are genuinely new (and not just unexpected departures from an otherwise predictable ideological platform), which are genuinely original (and not simply designed to shock), and which are sufficiently valuable as to make all the other stuff worth wading through. [from critic Elizabeth Kristol]

• A book by Paglia is a lot like sex itself. When it's good, it's very, very good. And when it's bad, it's still pretty good. [from critic David Link]

• This is megalomania on a lunatic scale. [Mary Beard on Paglia's Vamps & Tramps: New Essays]

• There is one area in which I think Paglia and I would agree that politically correct feminism has produced a noticeable inequity. Nowadays, when a woman behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion, we say, "Poor dear, it's probably PMS."' Whereas, if a man behaves in a hysterical and disagreeable fashion, we say, "What an asshole." Let me leap to correct this unfairness by saying of Paglia, Sheesh, what an asshole. [from Molly Ivins]

• As Camille Paglia's success has demonstrated, what is most marketable is absolutism and attitude undiluted by thought. [from Wendy Kaminer]

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About These Quotes

Quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Each quotation page in this collection and the entire collection © Jone Johnson Lewis 1997-2005. This is an informal collection assembled over many years. I regret that I am not be able to provide the original source if it is not listed with the quote.

Citation information:
Jone Johnson Lewis. "Camille Paglia Quotes." About Women's History. URL: Date accessed: (today). (More on how to cite online sources including this page)