The Right to Sex
Bloomsbury, $23.99 pb, 288 pp
The feminist philosopher Nancy Bauer once asked her female students why they spend ‘their weekend evenings giving unreciprocated blow jobs to drunken frat boys’. They tell her that ‘they enjoy the sense of power it gives them. You doll yourself up and get some guy helplessly aroused, at which point you could just walk away. But you don’t.’ The question Bauer wants to ask, but can’t, is: ‘Why the fuck are you all doing this?’ She can’t ask it because she does not want to patronise her students, she does not want to moralise, and she does not want to presume how they ought to be having sex. Yet, in the face of her students’ silence, their own failure to make sense of their desires, she wonders if what they do – be it narcissism or self-effacement, a substitution of sadism for masochism, or just a grown-up version of ‘Mommy will kiss it better’ – is what they really want? Or have they been made to want it? Have they been made to believe that this is what women want to do: kiss men’s booboos better?