The Right to Sex: Superb look at need for nuance in sexual discourse

Book review: Amia Srinivasan’s work has its flaws but is too interesting to be perfect

The Right to Sex applies its author’s measured lens on ‘f**kability’, the limits of white and liberal feminism, the porn industry, how authority affects power in sexual relationships, and dimensions of moral accountability beyond the purely legal. Photograph: Rattankun Thongbun/iStock

The Right to Sex applies its author’s measured lens on ‘f**kability’, the limits of white and liberal feminism, the porn industry, how authority affects power in sexual relationships, and dimensions of moral accountability beyond the purely legal. Photograph: Rattankun Thongbun/iStock

Amia Srinivasan is a “yes, and” thinker. Sex is private; yes, and our world shapes how we discuss it; yes, and there are gaps between what we say and what we do. The Right to Sex applies its author’s measured lens on “f**kability”, the limits of white and liberal feminism, the porn industry, how authority affects power in sexual relationships, and dimensions of moral accountability beyond the purely legal. But Srinivasan’s true subject is the need for nuance and generosity in contemporary discourse on sex. She demonstrates the value of clear thinking by testing it on a range of topics. You don’t need to agree with her on everything to admire her even-handedness, her commitment.

Stylistically I was reminded of What White People Can Do Next author Emma Dabiri’s wit: Srinivasan shares Dabiri’s gliding rigour and sharp edges. I fell apart laughing at “It is unclear how many men have died from women sitting on their faces” – I won’t give the context so it can surprise-amuse you too. It can jar when Srinivasan has multiple “friends of mine” appear in the same essay or even on the same page, but many less honest academics work anecdotally without saying so.

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