The #MeToo movement has brought sexual consent into the public eye. People of all sexes and from all walks of life have come forward to share their experiences with sexual assault and harassment. Others have reacted predictably and turned to the media to beg the question of whether “flirting” is now prohibited. A writer who is both a scholar and an activist on the subject of sexual consent provides a nuanced introduction to the topic in this MIT Press Essential Knowledge series book.
Discussions of the recent high-profile cases of Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, and others have shown that there is no consensus on what constitutes consent or non-consent or how these concepts are conveyed and interpreted in sexual contexts. This book explores the history of consent research in disciplines like psychology and feminist legal studies and highlights significant strands of feminist thought on the subject from activist and academic communities. It examines the negotiation of sexual consent, from “No means no” to “Yes means yes,” and it explains the variables that may restrict personal agency in such conversations. It analyzes the communities at the vanguard of consent activism, how popular culture, including pornography, romance novels, and sex advice manuals, impacts our conceptions of consent, as well as what real social change in this area would entail. The book provides extra tools for those looking to enhance their practice of consent, survivors of sexual assault, and readers who want to grasp current debates on this issue in greater detail, going beyond the conventional cisgender, heterosexual norm.