Criticism & Features

Year 2021: 30 Books

The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan: 2021 Criticism Finalist

By Maris Kreizman

The cover of The Right to Sex, simple, bold text on a blue-green gradient

The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century by Amia Srinivasan (FSG)

There’s something undeniably satisfying about reading a book that presents a tidy argument, one that arrives at a definitive conclusion and perhaps even ends with actionable next steps. Too rarely does a book force us to sit in the unease of ambiguity. The Right To Sex is one of those books, an incisive collection of criticism that does not claim to have many answers. Instead, philosopher Amia Srinivasan does something even more essential in her debut in which articulates so many of the contradictions of modern feminism: she asks copious, probing questions. 

In The Right To Sex Srinivasan illuminates both the triumphs and shortcomings of feminism through they years, from its first waves to the various torrents and ripples of today. In confident, lucid prose she distills the arguments of great (and not so great) feminist thinkers even as she asks us to acknowledge the women who were left out of the original conversations, namely non-Westerners.

Most importantly, Srinivasan argues that the feminist movement must embrace collective action rather than state. Until we can fight for all women, even ones we don’t agree with, particularly the most disenfranchised ones, then individualistic victories will feel hollow at best. The willingness to be uncomfortable is not just a condition of reading The Right To Sex; it’s a requisite to effectively participate in any movement that aspires to make women truly free.

You may not agree with every point that Srinivasan makes in The Right To Sex, but her collection is a work of generosity because it gives readers the framework to ponder and reconsider their own beliefs and biases. It’s fitting, then, that the book’s most trenchant call to action is that we broaden our ways of thinking about the goals and strategies of feminism, rather than to limit them. 

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