“Laser-cut writing and a stunning intellect. If only every writer made this much beautiful sense.”
—Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women
“Amia Srinivasan is an unparalleled and extraordinary writer—no one X-rays an argument, a desire, a contradiction, a defense mechanism quite like her. In stripping the new politics of sex and power down to its fundamental and sometimes clashing principles, The Right to Sex is a bracing revivification of a crucial lineage in feminist writing: Srinivasan is daring, compassionate, and in relentless search of a new frame.”
—Jia Tolentino, author of Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self Delusion
Thrilling, sharp, and deeply humane, philosopher Amia Srinivasan's The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century upends the way we discuss—or avoid discussing—the problems and politics of sex.
How should we think about sex? It is a thing we have and also a thing we do; a supposedly private act laden with public meaning; a personal preference shaped by outside forces; a place where pleasure and ethics can pull wildly apart.
How should we talk about sex? Since #MeToo many have fixed on consent as the key framework for achieving sexual justice. Yet consent is a blunt tool. To grasp sex in all its complexity—its deep ambivalences, its relationship to gender, class, race and power—we need to move beyond yes and no, wanted and unwanted.
We do not know the future of sex—but perhaps we could imagine it. Amia Srinivasan’s stunning debut helps us do just that. She traces the meaning of sex in our world, animated by the hope of a different world. She reaches back into an older feminist tradition that was unafraid to think of sex as a political phenomenon. She discusses a range of fraught relationships—between discrimination and preference, pornography and freedom, rape and racial injustice, punishment and accountability, students and teachers, pleasure and power, capitalism and liberation.
The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century is a provocation and a promise, transforming many of our most urgent political debates and asking what it might mean to be free.
Philosopher Srinivasan debuts with a fascinating collection of essays on issues facing the feminist movement today. Calling on feminism to be "relentlessly truth-telling, not least about itself," Srinivasan discusses consent, intersectionality, misogyny, and gendered violence, among other topics. In "The Conspiracy Against Men," she points out that false rape accusations are more often made by law enforcement officials (in an attempt to convict the wrong suspect for an actual crime) than by women, and describes the slogan "Believe women" as both a "corrective norm" to a legal system that skews in favor of wealthy white men and a "blunt tool" that obscures how race, class, religion, and other factors affect the handling of sexual assault allegations. In "Talking to My Students About Porn," Srinivasan revisits the anti-porn/pro-sex debates of the 1980s and early '90s in light of how digital pornography has become a "built-in feature" of her students' lives. Throughout, Srinivasan returns to the question of who has power, and how it is wielded to protect the status quo, rather than to remake the world as a fairer and more equitable place. Marked by lucid prose, innovative thinking, and a penchant for resisting easy answers, this is a must-read.