Sharon Presley

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Sharon Presley
Sharon Presley
Born (1943-03-23) 23 March 1943 (age 76)
Alma materCity University of New York
Known forWriter / libertarian feminism

Sharon Presley (born 23 March 1943)[1] is an American libertarian feminist, writer, activist,[2] and retired lecturer in psychology.[3]

Education and work[edit]

Presley received a B.A. in psychology from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. in psychology from San Francisco State. In 1981, she received a Ph.D. in social psychology from City University of New York.[2][4] Between 1982 and her retirement in 2009, she had a succession of instructor, adjunct, and visiting, positions at thirteen different schools,[3] most recently California State University, East Bay where she was a lecturer.[5] According to Rebecca Klatch, much of Presley's research focuses on "issues of power, obedience, and resistance to authority."[6]


Presley was apolitical until she read Ayn Rand at the age of nineteen.[7] She was radicalized when her boyfriend, who was leader of the [Cal Conservatives for Political Action], was arrested in Berkeley, California. She joined the Free Speech Movement, Students Opposed to Conscription, and the Alliance of Libertarian Activists ("ALA").[8][9]

In 1972, Presley helped owner John Muller launch Laissez Faire Books, a libertarian store in Greenwich Village, New York. She worked on promotional materials there until 1977.[5][10][11]

In the mid-1970s, Presley became the national coordinator for the Association of Libertarian Feminists.[12][13] She currently is executive director of the group.[14]


Presley said in 2013 that libertarian feminism is not different from mainstream feminism except in the unwillingness of libertarians to resort to government solutions to social problems. She said she prefers "a hand up" from private sources such as mutual aid societies "rather than a handout" from government.[15] She said in 1980 that libertarian feminists "don't believe in seeking government solutions to women's problems".[2][16]

Presley rejects the view that transgender women are not women, or that they should not take part in the feminist dialogue and says that transgender people should be judged on their merits, like other people. She said, "Depending on distant bureaucracies run by white men who have no understanding has been problematic for women; there is no reason to assume that trans people will be any better served by those bureaucracies.[15]

Presley believes that the government should not subsidize abortion for the poor, nor make any laws limiting or banning abortion; she maintains that abortion should be available as a choice.[15][17] Likewise, she believes that birth control pills should not be subject to government subsidy or restriction.[18]

Presley says that the government should not make any laws regarding prostitution. She also says that the customers of prostitutes should not be prosecuted. In this regard, Presley differs from feminists who wish to restrict prostitution.[2] She says that, despite the general agreement among feminists that violent pornography is degrading to women, that there should be no government laws limiting such pornography, which she describes as a symptom of a societal problem. Instead, she suggests that the problem's cause should be identified and treated with education.[2] She disagrees with Susan Brownmiller that anti-obscenity laws would solve the problem.[18]

Presley's self-help book, Standing Up to Experts and Authorities: How to Avoid Being Intimidated, Manipulated, and Abused, came out in 2010. In the first chapter she cites scholarly studies to describe how people may unknowingly disengage their critical thinking in the face of apparent authority. This reaction masks the possibility that the authority's assertions may be challenged. Presley continues by giving the reader pointers on how to overcome their initial reaction and regain a calm and assertive footing.[19]

Selected bibliography[edit]


  • Presley, Sharon; Gladstein, Mimi R.; Sciabarra, Chris M. (1999). Feminist interpretations of Ayn Rand. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 9780271018300.
  • de Cleyre, Voltairine (author); Presley, Sharon (editor); Sartwell, Crispin (editor) (2005). Exquisite rebel the essays of Voltairine de Cleyre: feminist, anarchist, genius. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 9780791460948.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  • Presley, Sharon (2010). Standing up to experts and authorities: how to avoid being intimidated, manipulated, and abused. New York, New York: Solomon Press. ISBN 9780934623872. OCLC 694395027.

Ph.D thesis[edit]

  • Presley, Sharon (1982). Values and attitudes of political resisters to authority (Ph.D thesis). New York, New York: City University of New York. OCLC 313314438.


  1. ^ "Presley, Sharon". Library of Congress. Retrieved 13 July 2014. (Sharon Presley; b. Mar. 23, 1943; Ph.D., social psych., City Univ. of N.Y.; founder and exec. dir., Resources for Independent Thinking)
  2. ^ a b c d e Brookmire, Paula (July 25, 1980). "Of traps, trade-offs and women". The Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved July 26, 2013.
  3. ^ a b Curriculum Vita, at
  4. ^ Sharon Presley: About at Sharon
  5. ^ a b Laissez Faire Club. "History of Laissez Faire Books". Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  6. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, University of California Press, 1999, p 286, ISBN 9780520217140.
  7. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, 69.
  8. ^ Doherty, Brian, Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, PublicAffairs, 2007, p354, ISBN 1-58648-350-1
  9. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, 118.
  10. ^ Ramsey, Bruce. ""Laissez Faire": R.I.P.?". Liberty. Archived from the original on 2008-01-18. Retrieved 2011-03-31.
  11. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, A Generation Divided: The New Left, the New Right, and the 1960s, p 273.
  12. ^ "ALF News" (PDF). 85. Association of Libertarian Feminists. Fall 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2013.
  13. ^ Rebecca E. Klatch, Generation Divided: The New Left, The New Right and the 1960s, p 269.
  14. ^ Cavanaugh, Tim; Detrick, Paul (May 26, 2012). "Sharon Presley on Libertarian Feminism". Reason TV. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  15. ^ a b c Williams, Cristan (August 21, 2013). "Libertarian Feminism and trans people". The Transadvocate.
  16. ^ Association of Libertarian Feminists. "About ALF". Archived from the original on 15 June 2014. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  17. ^ Presley, Sharon; Cooke, Robert; Association of Libertarian Feminists; Sallie Bingham Center for Women's History and Culture (1979). The Right to Abortion: A Libertarian Defense. Association of Libertarian Feminists.
  18. ^ a b Presley, Sharon; Kinsky, Lynn (1995). "Government is Women's Enemy". In Lyman Tower Sargent (ed.). Extremism in America: A Reader. NYU Press. p. 252. ISBN 9780814780114. Originally published in 1976 by the Association of Libertarian Feminists.
  19. ^ Bock, Alan (December 3, 2010). "Alan W. Bock: How to stand your ground with authorities". Orange County Register. Article updated on August 21, 2013.

External links[edit]