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A daring feminist collection considers pornography, desire and the boundaries within student-teacher relationships. And it is something her black friend did not have. Enter philosophy, particularly moral philosophy, which can play a part, not in the morali sing sense of telling individuals what sorts of sex they can and cannot have, but rather so individuals can reflect on their own sexual choices.
Sex cannot be made just, but examining how much of our sexual desires are programmed by the dark side of our beliefs can lessen the injustice. It is a compelling argument; the world of pornography, as Srinivasan notes, has largely evaded any sort of philosophical dissection, and who better to take it on than an Oxford professor?
Indeed, it is the very refusal to admit to the relative fuckability of persons as a politically relevant problem that has magnified the power of distortions of oppression. And to convince us of this point, Srinivasan presents a plethora of other examples; one is that of Grindr a gay dating appwhich appears to admit to the very different levels of attention white versus Asian males receive but without acknowledging their own role in creating the set of structural choices that permit this disparity to exist.
It is not enough, she says, merely to educate young people about sex to counterbalance the effects of sexual imagery.
Srinivasan identifies with the work of second-wave US feminists such as Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkinwho demanded a ban on pornography and that men be punished for violence against women the two wrote portions of the Violence Against Women Act. But this is not an all-encompassing embrace.
The book effectively highlights how sexual desire — who we are and are not attracted to — is political and affected by the prevalent injustices in society and relevant to their elimination. In the end, Srinivasan accomplishes what she sets out to do: deliver a treatise both ambivalent and discomfiting, one which reveals the inadequacies in what we had imagined to be solutions.
The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan review — the politics of sexual attraction. Srinivasan delivers a discomfiting treatise. Photograph: Nina Subin.
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The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan review – the politics of sexual attraction