Tom MacWright

I read The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan on


I envy Srinivasan’s students. She poses powerful questions, enthusiastically creates and defends points of view, and in general, “makes you think.” Whether you agree with the individual arguments in it or not, this book will make you reconsider a lot of your assumptions and get lost in thought experiments.

In contrast to Bad Sex, The Right to Sex is mostly a treatise, and it includes historical references mostly to support its ideas. It’s a provocation, and mostly a successful one.

I didn’t always agree with her points of view. Her views on porn and sex work in The Right to Sex are complex enough that they’re sort of a rorschach test for people’s other views - her words have been used, or twisted, by some conservative people to make other, adjacent arguments that mostly line up with conservative talking points.

The Right to Sex is also a strongly critical and radical work, in the sense that it always looks for both more complexity in movements - like where it discusses the “believe women” movement and how it affects non-white women, or how it engages with sex work from the perspective of the possibility of a socialist standard in which such work is unnecessary. This was equal parts inspiring and annoying for me.

Just in the way that any sort of thing, in practice, is less sophisticated, more conflicted, less thrilling than the theory that inspires it. Especially the mainstream: it’s frustrating to read about how the mainstream is singular and simplistic as a critique because that’s what the mainstream is, by definition. And it’s also occasionally a bummer to read, and get engaged, and end up with an answer that relies first on the revolution.

But on the other hand, it’s right and it’s always interesting to take a step back and see how our basic assumptions - the economic system we live under, our ideas of marriage, our definitions of gender - underpin everything, and by shifting one of them another world might be possible. Whether any of those will shift, I don’t know, but it’s nice to have a chance to think it through, thoroughly.


  • The Right to Sex by
  • ISBN: 0374721033
  • ISBN13: 9780374721039
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    • Published:
    • Publisher: MacMillan