Criticism: “The Right to Sex” probes the politics of desirability
These examples do not refute Srinivasan’s claim as much as they helped me explain why she might have chosen Rodgers as a case study. Where did our rich vocabulary and critical frameworks of the politics of desire disappear at that time? The answer is obvious. In the midst of #YesAllWomen, talking about the racial specificity of Rodger’s targets – “hot blonde sluts”, would have been obnoxious or worse – would have been taken out of context to suggest that non-white women do not experience sexual violence, this which is obviously not true. Yet Srinivasan cautions us against letting fear of misunderstanding prevent us from saying what needs to be said. “A truly inclusive policy, she writes, is an uncomfortable and dangerous policy.
Each individual essay in this collection is complex, requiring exegesis beyond what the reach of a single book review can handle, but there are moments that seem impossible to me to overlook. In “The Conspiracy Against Men,” her essay on #MeToo, Srinivasan discusses fears of false allegations and the disproportionate space they occupy in public discussions of rape and sexual harassment. She raises a number of provocative points, but what is striking as particularly poignant is her theory that fears of false accusations arise “from anxiety, too, about race and class: about possibility. that the law can treat rich white men as poor black and brown men. In “Talking to My Students About Porn,” she revisits the ideas and legislative turmoil of anti-porn feminists like Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin. Much to Srinivasan’s surprise, his students were “riveted,” finding in these writings a sort of recognition that sexual positivity did not translate into sexual freedom, but rather into new and unattainable expectations.
The essay drew criticism, with some accusing Srinivasan of trying to rehabilitate MacKinnon, who just published an op-ed last week in The New York Times calling the OnlyFans site a “pimp”. Still, I felt Srinivasan was careful to disentangle the ideas from the action and presented surprising information about the uneven policing of porn and sex work. In Australia, she notes, there is a ban on the possession and distribution of pornography in the Northern Territories occupied by Aboriginal communities, and yet “tthere is no ban on the consumption of pornography by white Australians. “ In another essay, “Sex, Carceralism, and Capitalism,” Srinivasan explains this further, expressing concern about the litigious nature of the #MeToo movement and its intimacy with a criminal justice system that has historically produced unfair outcomes for people in the world. color. “A feminist policy that sees the punishment of the wicked as its main objective, she insists, will never be a feminism that liberates all women, because it obscures what makes most women not free.
I took a class on feminism at university where the professor made us argue a point of view on a particular issue and then argue against it. The measure of our performance would be that we approach both with equal rigor, that we each time show evidence of being convinced. Reading The right to sex reminded me of this mission. On a given page, Srinivasan will leave you convinced that she has found a way out, only to pull the rug out from under you; every time she says “but” we want to dodge. Although far from exasperated, I felt relieved, even hopeful, that someone was asking the tough questions in public without asking for anything as absurd as one answer.