Thanks to Title IX cases, #MeToo, and #Times Up, the issue of rape seems to be constantly in the news. But our thinking on the subject has a long history, one that cultural critic Mithu Sanyal elegantly reconstructs. She narrates a history spanning from Lucretia—whose legendary rape and suicide was said to be the downfall of the last Roman king—to second-wave feminism, Tarzan, and Roman Polanski.
Sanyal demonstrates that the way we understand rape is remarkably (and alarmingly) consistent across the ages, even though the world has changed beyond recognition. It is high time for a new and informed debate about sexual violence, sexual boundaries, and consent.
Mithu Sanyal shows that our comprehension of rape is closely connected to our understanding of sex, sexuality, and gender. Why is it that we expect victims to be irreparably damaged? When we think of rapists, why do we think of strangers rather than uncles, husbands, priests, or boyfriends? And in the era of #MeToo, what should “justice” look like?
Rape: From Lucretia to #MeToo examines the role of race and the recurrent image of the black rapist, the omission of male victims, and what we mean when we talk about “rape culture.” Sanyal takes on every received opinion we have about rape, arguing with liberals, conservatives, and feminists alike.
“This is a book for today. Mithu Sanyal is insightful, thoughtful, and provocative. She encourages us to think about sexual violence in new ways and, most importantly, has challenging things to suggest about the way we should deal with rapists. A ‘must read’ for anyone curious about sex and sexual harms.”
“An essential book for our times by a writer at the height of her powers. Gripping, informed and accessible, this will be an instant feminist classic.”
“The shockingly mundane debate over #MeToo has met its match in Mithu Sanyal. In her elegant, crisply written book, she peeks into the dark crannies we want to avoid. Joining her on this journey is the only way to understand the origins and context of the current problem.”
“If our culture is going to change, we need books like Rape. Mithu Sanyal is able to see past salacious scandal, simplified narratives of who rapes and why, and the usual carceral feminist response to sexual harm. As vexing as it is thoughtful, Sanyal produces original thought on a subject that is pontificated over more often than understood. It feels instantly essential.”
“Offers a refreshing perspective on how and what feminists should prioritise”