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Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution [Paperback]

Laurie Penny
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
RRP: 12.99
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Book Description

3 July 2014

'This is not a fairytale. This is a story about how sex and money and power police our dreams.'

Clear-eyed, witty and irreverent, Laurie Penny is as ruthless in her dissection of modern feminism and class politics as she is in discussing her own experiences in journalism, activism and underground culture.

This is a book about poverty and prejudice, online dating and eating disorders, riots in the streets and lies on the television. The backlash is on against sexual freedom for men and women and social justice ­- and feminism needs to get braver.

Penny speaks for a new feminism that takes no prisoners, a feminism that is about justice and equality, but also about freedom for all. It's about the freedom to be who we are, to love who we choose, to invent new gender roles, and to speak out fiercely against those who would deny us those rights. It is a book that gives the silenced a voice ­- a voice that speaks of unspeakable things.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (3 July 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408824744
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408824740
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Laurie Penny is such an insightful, provocative and bold commentator. She is always relevant without slavishly following a supposedly 'topical' agenda set by others. Most importantly, she never compromises her compassion and humanity in the myopic pursuit of an idea. It's such qualities that make Unspeakable Things essential for anybody who truly believes in equality and freedom (Irvine Welsh)

Full of the rhythm and repetition on oratory and persuasive and unsettling in its view of western society as a damaging dystopia causing untold harm to all but those at the very top. It is angry and challenging, but also full of compassion - including for men, many of whom have also been disenfranchised by systems they did not choose . Unspeakable Things is an impressive, inspiring and, I suspect, important manifesto (Melissa Harrison, Financial Times)

Penny thrills in being provocative and dramatic . She writes well about the social pressures they are under to behave with macho "masculinity" at all times (Daisy Wyatt, Independent)

Powerfully argued . Penny has a great turn of phrase (Evening Standard)

As Penny demonstrates, in a great, defining chapter on the internet, we are dealing with a new world order . This book is funny and cheeky . and refreshingly generous (Observer)

A raw, bright, urgent voice . Like Caitlin Moran, another compulsive and essentially self-taught writer, she went to places others didn't and brought back things they had missed . Dazzling . Penny writes ... with intimacy and insight that smack of real knowledge (Guardian)

Laurie Penny can certainly coin a phrase . she writes well, inclusively and cogently with passion ... Let's hear it for "young, lady writers" behaving badly (Herald)

Book Description

Britain's youngest and smartest activist and columnist gets to grips with the sexual counter-revolution and all it entails for women and for men

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
149 of 194 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading thoughtfully 20 July 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A good book outlining the harm that sexism and bigotry does to women and society as a whole. It's clear, lucid, often very funny, and illustrated with the author's personal experiences and those of friends, which are unsettling at times.

Lewis's Law applies to this book, sadly: there are a lot of 1-star reviews written by sexist trolls and these justify why it was written.
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46 of 63 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started off well but.... 21 July 2014
By Karen
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book seemed to start off well but went downhill towards the end. I thought the first two or three chapters were well written and thought provoking. She discusses her time in hospital with anorexia and talks about self harm and how both males and females are affected deeply by our patriarchal society.

She then discusses porn and and cybersexism but as I got to this part of the book I began to get bored and felt I couldn't relate to any of it. She discusses her experience of harrassment online which is her personal experience and thats fair enough but it isn't a typical experience for the vast majority of women online. Most women don't have thousands of followers on Twitter. Most women don't receive death threats and bomb scares from hundreds of trolls. Of course this kind of thing happens to high profile feminists online because men are threatened by this kind of thing but we knew that anyway. Nothing new is being learned by any of this. It's just the experience of high profile middle class feminist writers on Twitter.

Laurie then goes further into detail about her online life and discusses the misogyny among geeks online etc and again I just felt this was her experience but still nothing new to learn or say about misogyny apart from men are misogynists in an online environment just the same as they always have been everywhere else. Well so what?

I have seen other people review this book as the future of feminism and things like that but as a woman I see nothing to relate to here. Nothing new is being said. I normally enjoy feminist literature but by the end of this book I just felt a bit sad inside. I really wanted to love this but I didn't find it that inspiring I'm afraid.
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31 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 21 July 2014
An interesting perspective. (Don't agree with all of it but it's well written.)
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Complex, clever and a cracking good read 22 July 2014
I enjoyed Laurie Penny's 'Unspeakable Things' very much - it's complex, clever and a cracking good read. Penny is a gifted polemicist who combines personal narrative, reportage and factual examples to weave arguments around a variety of different areas related to gender equality, including disordered eating, masculinities, sexual violence, sex work, relationships and the internet. Penny could turn out to be the Germaine Greer of her generation - but what the book lacked, compared to The Female Eunuch for example, was a a central idea or metaphor to draw the different threads together. Because of that, I felt it was not fully realised and lost a little of its potential impact. Nevertheless, there are numerous moments of hard-hitting insight in the volume - Penny's writing is as compelling as ever. I will definitely be recommending it to my students.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Just bought this book on the basis that if it annoys the kind of creepy weirdos who have been ranting in the reviews then it's a class bit of work.
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18 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
First of all: Unlike the armies of opposing trolls giving this book either one or five stars I don't have any strong feelings about Laurie Penny -I find her columns interesting and would say I agree with her about 60% of the time, but that's it. My motivation to write a review doesn't go beyond the fact that so many of the responses on Amazon seem to be from people with an agenda, rather than an informed opinion on the book. You have to read it before you can review it!

That said I was a little disappointed. I was surprised how much of the book I'd already read online -it's not presented as a collection of columns, but a great deal of it has been published before in one format or another. As a result the book didn't really seem to hang together -there wasn't one powerful argument running through it, and there wasn't any hint of what direction to go in to get to a solution for the many competing and sometimes contradictory problems that were raised.

In short it seemed a lot like a smart and gifted writer writing very fast and sticking together some big articles in order to fulfil a book contract.
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129 of 186 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Making gender politics relevant for millennials 8 July 2014
(Judging by all the one star reviews posted by people who clearly haven't even read the book, it appears the MRA hordes have become aware of its existence and as per their MO are collectively spamming this page with negative commentary in the hope that anyone who glances at it will be turned off. All I can say is, don't be fooled by these mouth-breathing imbeciles)

Having been a fan of Laurie Penny's journalism and commentary for a few years now, I was more than excited for this book; which acts as a kind of summation of all her political/gender-related ideas thus far. It certainly didn't disappoint.

Not only that, but I think this may very well be the most important book written about gender issues in at least two decades. If not, it's certainly the most important to the millennial generation; those currently in their late teens to their early thirties who came of age with the advent of the internet.

Unspeakable Things is part scholarly analysis of a host of significant gender-related topics - from a left-wing/anarchistic perspective - and part personal exploration of how these topics have affected Penny herself. The chief theme of of the book is how neoliberal capitalism affects hierarchies of gender, and how hierarchies of gender subsequently affect everything else in society.

The chapters oscillate between deeply personal recollections/explorations of the subject matter and more objective and critical commentary from a detached viewpoint. Though even when in critical-reflective mode Penny certainly doesn't let up the frank tone and deliberately in-your-face language (there's a casual f-word or c-word every two or three pages) making it read like a cross between Naomi Wolff and Hunter S. Thompson.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars READ IT.
After reading many feminist books and being a active feminist myself, this book is thought provoking beyond any else out there at the moment. Read more
Published 2 hours ago by Miss Sl Major
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
A book review that is saturated with hate suggests that the person behind it may be less concerned with providing helpful advice to fellow readers than they are with attacking the... Read more
Published 4 hours ago by P. Mostyn
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and important book
A very powerful and necessary book. Laurie Penny tackles broad themes with a lot of wit and heart and experience and sense. Read more
Published 5 hours ago by Donna Herrity
5.0 out of 5 stars Pennie blends her personal experiences into the book wonderfully:...
Very lucid & comprehensive. Pennie blends her personal experiences into the book wonderfully: definitely worth reading. Read more
Published 5 hours ago by Paula Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars I cannot recommend this book highly enough - and yes
Unspeakable things is an important book, that addresses a lot of topics that, sadly, still need to be addressed in this day and age. Read more
Published 8 hours ago by Liselore
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Penny Red is full of insights, and gets you thinking.
Published 13 hours ago by L. Tower Jr.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great!
Published 17 hours ago by BishWah
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely phenomenal.
This book is great, a truly insightful piece of work outlining the everyday struggles of a middle aged black man in 1920's America. Read more
Published 18 hours ago by Candyass
5.0 out of 5 stars Honestly, I feel that the fact this book has ...
Honestly, I feel that the fact this book has mostly 5-star and 1-star reviews tells you all you need to know. Read more
Published 18 hours ago by Kitty_Jimjams
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a good book.
4chan and reddit are spamming "one stars" in the review section because they do not like women who aren't in the kitchen.
Published 19 hours ago by adam mills
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