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Reading The Right To Sex by Amia Srinivasan

Reading The Right To Sex by Amia Srinivasan

"Feminism is not a philosophy, a theory, or even a point of view. It is a political movement to transform the world beyond recognition. It asks, what would it be to end the political, social, sexual, economic, psychological, and physical subordination of women?"

As I sit down to pen my thoughts after closing the pages of ‘The Right To Sex’, one resounding notion runs through my mind: “This is the most powerful feminist book I have ever come across.

But why do I make such an audacious claim? 

To begin, let's acquaint ourselves with the author, Amia Srinivasan. She’s Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at All Souls College, Oxford. She is not merely an accomplished writer; she's a relentless academic, a dedicated scholar who immerses herself in thorough research to dissect the subjects she engages with. 

Her collection of razor-sharp essays is a beautiful intersection of politics, ethics and sex. 

Before getting into what I feel about this book, let’s zoom through these essays at breakneck speed:

1. In the opening essay, 'Conspiracy Against Men,' Srinivasan dives deep into the tangled web of rape accusations. She doesn't shy away from the messy stuff – she shines a spotlight on how things like skin color, social class, religion, and race all mix into the pot when it comes to seeking justice for these cases. 

2. ‘Talking to my students about Porn’  is an all-out showdown between pro-porn advocates and anti-porn proponents. She peels back the layers and shows us that for many, porn is like their secret sex-ed teacher. She says, “sex for my students is what porn says it is'' - which is a very strong statement in itself. You'll want to pull up a chair and join the debate, I promise you. 

3. In the third essay, titled as ‘The Right to Sex’, Srinivasan confronts the troubling case of Elliot Rodger, the self-proclaimed incel who killed several people triggered by his inability to find any sexual partners. She’ll take you through the turbulent waters of desire - digging into where it comes from, how the shadow of patriarchy looms large, and the extent of individual agency even within consensual boundaries. 

4. 'Coda: The Politics of Desire’ is a very reflective listicle that talks about several aspects of desire politics. Srinivasan champions fresh ideas, kicks outdated ones to the curb, and stands on the soapbox for the right to sexual satisfaction And oh boy, it wraps up with a line that'll twist your brain: "We have yet never been set free." Trust me, you'll want to pause and let that one simmer in your thoughts for a while. 

5. 'On Not Sleeping With Your Students,' you’ll look into the prohibition of student-faculty relationships. I could literally feel my brain thumping and pondering over eyebrow-raising questions around consent, power dynamics, and the unexpected plot twists that can happen when education and attraction collide.

6. The final essay, ‘Sex, Csrceralism, Capitalism’  takes us to a German drive-thru brothel. We witness a tug-of-war between two schools of thought: one wants to outlaw prostitution, while the other wants to make it safer for the people involved.

What REALLY works well

Short answer, besties : Everything! 

Let's start with the magnetic pull of the book's title itself – 'The Right to Sex.'  It's a title that grabs you by the collar from the very moment you lay eyes on it. It sounded deceptively simple, but little did I know about the profound complexity that I was just about to uncover. 

Right from the onset, she declares, “These essays do not offer a home,” she writes. “But I hope they do offer, for some, a place of recognition.” She presents evidence, insights, and ideas, but she refrains from serving up neatly packaged answers on a silver platter.  It's this refusal to hand-hold and dictate that makes her work so irresistibly compelling. 

Another enchanting facet is how she constructs each of her arguments. She lays them out meticulously, replete with facts, stories, human experiences, and the wisdom of philosophers from across time – both feminist and non-feminist. Remarkably, she does this even for the arguments she intends to dismantle later, even for those she remains unconvinced about. It's a testament to her intellectual honesty and her deep respect for the diverse viewpoints that shape our world. It's this quality that commands respect. 

One of the book's crowning strengths (and my most favorite bit about this incredible work) lies in Srinivasan's unwavering commitment to placing the most vulnerable segments of society, such as Black women and Dalit women, at the very heart of her arguments and analysis. She insists at judging each action with regards to its effect and impact on these marginalized groups. In a world where such intersections are often swept under the rug, she makes them impossible to ignore. In doing so, she crafts a truly inclusive feminist collection. 

This book also strikes a perfect equilibrium between statistics, narratives, historical context, legal frameworks, philosophical musings, and personal anecdotes – a feat not easily achieved. Srinivasan dives into some seriously tricky stuff, without ever throwing confusing words at you. 

What’s also very admirable is her ability to pose the right, and very new questions. This is one out of the many reasons why the book works well for anyone who’s well read in feminist theories and also for someone who’s looking for a first introduction into this world. 

What COULD have been better 

I'm absolutely enamored by Amia's work, but let me tell you, this book can be a bit of a mental marathon. It’s not about any fancy words, but just the sheer number of ideas, all their angles and sides that it throws at you. I found myself rereading passages to fully grasp a few points she made. It might have been a better option to spread these ideas across a couple of books instead of packing them all into one. 

However, I sincerely believe that in the end, Srinivasan accomplishes exactly what she set out to do. She did not just encourage us to peek behind the bedroom door, she flinged it wide open and showed us that sex isn't just a private act; it's got society written all over it, and we've just been missing the memo. 

Note for the Reader

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any feminist, no questions asked. In fact, I'd shout it from the rooftops a hundred times over.This book isn't just another addition to your feminist reading list, it’s a canon.

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Juicy Reads by That Sassy Thing is an initiative where we will review books that align with our vision of making the world a safer, more pleasurable space.

We'll review one book each month, and as we grow, we'll have lots more coming your way!

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About the Author 

Hemali (she/her) is an explorer of the realms of sexuality, intimacy, and dating. She talks endlessly about the evolving landscape of feminist narratives on the big screen and makes you reanalyze the portrayal of women in mainstream culture. If you're looking for alternative conversation starters, take your pick from: Biryani, Art Fairs, or Spoken Word Poetry.

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