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⁣Screw Consent: A Better Politics of Sexual Justice

Joseph Fischel
University of California Press

When we talk about sex—whether great, good, bad, or unlawful—we often turn to consent as both our erotic and moral savior. We ask questions like, What counts as sexual consent? How do we teach consent to impressionable youth, potential predators, and victims? How can we make consent sexy?

What if these are all the wrong questions? What if our preoccupation with consent is hindering a safer and better sexual culture? By foregrounding sex on the social margins (bestial, necrophilic, cannibalistic, and other atypical practices), Screw Consent shows how a sexual politics focused on consent can often obscure, rather than clarify, what is wrong about wrongful sex.

Joseph J. Fischel argues that the consent paradigm, while necessary for effective sexual assault law, diminishes and perverts our ideas about desire, pleasure, and injury. In addition to the criticisms against consent leveled by feminist theorists of earlier generations, Fischel elevates three more: consent is insufficient, inapposite, and riddled with scope contradictions for regulating and imagining sex. Fischel proposes instead that sexual justice turns more productively on concepts of sexual autonomy and access. Clever, witty, and adeptly researched, Screw Consent promises to change how we understand consent, sexuality, and law in the United States today.

In his October 19, 2017 presentation titled “Screw Consent: Horses & Corpses, Kink & Cannibals,” Joseph Fischel, an associate professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at Yale University, discussed the current investment in the juridical discourse on consent and the logical limits of that discourse in adjudicating various forms of pleasure and harm.

He began by presenting legal cases involving atypical cases of sex involving bestiality, necrophilia, and cannibalism to probe the limits of consent as a sufficient standard for considering sexual justice.



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