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19Feb

Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again by Katherine Angel – review

From ‘No means No’ to #MeToo – original thoughts on consent and the complexities of female desire

“In recent years, two requirements have emerged for good sex: consent and self-knowledge,” Katherine Angel writes. Judging by the number of freshers’ week workshops and op-ed articles devoted to the subject, consent is vital for better sex. This seems like progress – it takes women at their word and defuses the potential for sexual violence. But its conceit of absolute clarity, Angel argues, “places the burden of good sexual interaction on women’s behaviour”.

Faced with the hurt that many experience as a result of sex, the idea of transparent self-knowledge is appealing. Angel marks the development of consent from the “No means No” slogan of 1970s anti-rape campaigners through to the sex-positive “post-feminism” of the 1990s and early 00s (with obligatory reference to the Spice Girls). As consent culture has evolved, it has assumed some of the characteristics of Sheryl Sandberg-style confidence feminism, prizing sassy self-expression and individual empowerment over political transformation. The risk for Angel is that exhorting women to know and express their desires in the language of positive affirmation places the responsibility for preventing sexual violence on women’s conduct, rather than examining why violence occurs in the first place. As such, “rape … and responses to it, are privatised”.

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