Book Review: Ask: Building Consent Culture

Ask: Building Consent Culture, edited by Kitty Stryker

This is a book full of asymmetries, and they exist in a way that does not reflect well on the editor or the various contributors to the book. And in many ways, these asymmetries point to some of the larger asymmetries that exist when it comes to matters of morality and understanding. For example, one of the writers in this book speaks somewhat contemptuously about the way that the late Rush Limbaugh understood that for the contemporary left, all that is necessary to please the moral sensibilities of such people is to say that something was done consensually. Unfortunately, the authors do not understand nor wish to understand that neither this view or its opposite is what is held by others. This points to the larger and more profound asymmetry in this book, and that is the fact that while no intimacy apart from consent is acceptable, that does not mean that everything that one might consent to happens to be good or morally acceptable. The authors of this book (and presumably its target audience) labor under the delusion that we are autonomous people who can decide what is right and wrong for ourselves and that no authority exists that can hold us accountable for our choices or that can enforce standards of morality upon us. Alas, that is not the case.

This book is a bit less than 200 pages and consists of a variety of short writings by a variety of authors who represent various whiny constituencies of the contemporary left. The book begins with a foreword and an introduction. After that comes three essays that deal with the bedroom, including an essay on sex for people who are not in good mental health, arguments about the legal framework of consent, the a critique of what popular culture tells us about consent. This is followed by essays about consent in school that include a proposal for radical and corrupting playtime, thoughts about men teaching men, and hostility to Green Eggs and Ham. This is followed by three essays on jail, including one on sexual harms, one on Miranda rights, and another on dealing with stealth as a transsexual. There are three essays on the workplace, including an essay on ethical porn, a lack of a rulebook, and the question of service with a smile. This is followed by consent in the home, including teaching consent to kids, bodily autonomy for children, and dealing with the standards of disapproving parents. After this comes questions of health, including giving birth, the issue of being overweight (labeled irresponsibly as fatphobia here), and dealing with wrestling. The last section of the book then discusses consent in the community, including role playing, largely imaginary white fragility, sex parties, and sex ed for the neurotypical, after which there is an afterword.

Indeed, a great part of this book consists of writing that does not make the writers of the book appear as good as they think they are looking. For example, one of the essays in the book consists of a sex worker who argues that ethical porn must be paid for, not addressing the question of the morality of the content to begin with. Similarly, another one of the essays in the book consists of someone who discusses her longing for sexual intimacy despite the fact that she realizes she is a basket case without a firm grasp on sanity. Another essay dodges the health concerns for being overweight by attributing a great deal of negativity to fat shaming. By and large, this book is filled with the writings of people who are in an active flight away from reality. The refusal to deal with aspects of reality–including morality and health–leads these people to rage against the natural consequences of their unwise and immoral decisions. The end result is that while they labor under the illusion that things are simple, they cannot help but complicate things with self-serving double standards that demonstrate the absence of soundness within their worldview, all of which they persistently and consistently refuse to realize. This makes reading this book something that will be a tiresome chore for someone who does not already agree with the authors.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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