Unspeakable Things: Sex, Lies and Revolution by Laurie Penny

Laurie Penny will piss you off, or rather the light she shines on how fucked things are will piss you off.

Profile+Picture+by+Nadya+Lev copyright Naday Lev

This book made me so angry it nearly brought me to tears because it was the first time I’ve ever heard some of these topics called out so perfectly. Her theory as to what causes self harm in women for example rang truer to me than other psychological text I’ve read. It was like hearing the term mansplaining for the first time and finally having words for countless experiences I’ve had.


This is a book for everyone but mostly it is a book for outsiders, for those of us who are chafing under societies neoliberal thumb wondering if they are the only ones with blisters. It’s impossible to put Unspeakable Things down and not want to talk to someone else about it. Sometimes confirming you’re not the only one thinking things are fucked up is the best thing you can do for yourself.  I have worked almost all of my adult life in the romance industry (yes it’s literally an industry) and everything Penny says about how our modern portrayal of love perverts the emotion into something that damages everyone was like a breath of fresh air after years of gaging on perfume.

I’m an activist and I’m fighting for a world like the one Penny proposes. Most of the time it feels like we won’t win and I have to sit back and remind myself that the women who started the fight for suffrage in this country didn’t live to see the vote. But I have it and my niece has it and the black women in my family have it. Progress is slow but it’s there in real ways. One thing I’m passionate is the idea of Book-A-Tactic meaning literally using a book to help change peoples minds. Books have a lot of function and one of them is to be the textbook for revolutions. I will gladly add Penny to my it’s time to change the world shelves.

If my words haven’t convinced you I’ll lave you with some gems from the lady herself.

“Public ‘career feminists’ have been more concerned with getting more women into ‘boardrooms’, when the problem is that there are altogether too many boardrooms, and none of them are on fire.”

“That’s how oppression works. Thousands of otherwise decent people are persuaded to go along with an unfair system because changing it seems like too much bother. The appropriate response when somebody demands a change in that unfair system is to listen, rather than turn away or yell, as a child might, that it’s not your fault. Of course it isn’t your fault. I’m sure you’re lovely. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to do something about it.”

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