Home                                 Kate Millett "Sexual Politics"



"Sexual Politics" by Darian Ramirez 

“Sexual Politics” is a book by Kate Millet that was published in 1970. It is considered as one of the most important works in the struggle for women liberation. When it was first published, it provoked a wave of irritation among the defenders of male domination and patriarchy. Nevertheless, the defenders of women rights praised the book. In 1968, Millet wrote an essay that later became the second chapter. In the essay she explained:
                “ Is it possible to regard the relation of the sexes in a political light at all? It depends on how one defines politics. I do not define the political area here as  that narrow and exclusive sector known as institutional or official politics of the Democrat or Republican  – we have all reason to be tired and suspicious of them. By politics I mean power structured relationships, the entire arrangement whereby one group of people is governed by another, one group is  dominant and the other subordinate.”
Throughout the different chapters of the book, Millet discusses the dynamics in sexual relations that and the impact that patriarchy has over them. She analyzes works from Norman Mailer, Henry Miller and D. H. Lawrence and explains how their opinion about sex is sexist and patriarchal. She also suggest a meaningful analysis of different works from different authors that are relevant to the subject of sexual relations. According to the University of Illinois Press: 

                 Sexual Politics laid the foundation for subsequent feminist scholarship by showing how cultural discourse reflects a systematized subjugation and  exploitation of  women.  Identifying patriarchy as a socially conditioned belief system masquerading as nature, Millett demonstrates in detail how  its attitudes and systems penetrate literature,  philosophy, psychology, and politics”  

Those who praised the book, admired its theoretical value for the women liberation movement of the 70's. A few decades later, we can also praise the literary criticism found within its pages. In fact, there were no major feminist works that criticized literature before Millett published Sexual Politics. Being the first of its kind, the book was disliked by many critics who thought the style in which it was written had nothing to do with academic literary criticism. Such a work cannot be praised unanimously, but the essence of the book is still very relevant in the fight against the oppressing patriarchal system. As Millet herself pointed out:
             “It is time we developed a more cogent and relevant psychology and philosophy of  power relationships not yet considered in out institutional politics. It is time we gave attention to defining a theory of politics which treats of power relationships on the less  formal than establishmentarian grounds  of  personal  intercourse between members of well defined and coherent groups – races, castes, classes and sexes. It is precisely because such groups  have no representation in formal political structures that their oppression is so entire and so continuous.”


Works Cited

Clough Ticineto, Patricia, Kate Millet. “The Hybrid Criticism of Patriarchy: Rereading Kate Millett's "Sexual Politics"” The Sociological Quarterly,  35.3 (1994) : 473-486.

Marxists Internet Archive. 2011. 20 November 2011 <http://www.marxists.org/subject/women/authors/millett-kate/sexual-politics.htm>

University of Illinois Press. 2011. 20 November 2011<



©Martine Pelletier