Amia Srinivasan

Amia Srinivasan is the Chichele Professor of Social and Political Theory at Oxford. The Right to Sex is published by Bloomsbury.

What does Fluffy think? Pets with Benefits

Amia Srinivasan, 7 October 2021

The idea that it is impossible to know what non-human animals are feeling or thinking can serve as cover for their exploitation, domination and extermination. Do we really know nothing of how animals, even animals as physiologically different from us as lizards or bats, feel about the burning of their forests, the melting of their ice floes, the contamination of their water? Or is it that we do know, and simply fear what acknowledging it would mean? In sex of all things, where humans so often misconstrue what other humans want, where the temptation to project our fantasies and images onto the other is always pressing, where coercion and control figure all too easily – can we ever trust ourselves to know, really know, what an animal wants? Perhaps one day there will be members of the animal species Homo sapiens who are able to have sex with other animal species in a way that has nothing to do with the will to dominate, fetishise or transgress. If so, I think, those people would be of our species, but not of our kind.

How would any of us – trans or not, binary or non – feel if others, convinced that they knew the truth of who we really were, insisted on referring to us using words that, so far as we were concerned, didn’t apply to us? If you think you would not feel like a failure or a freak, could it be because you can’t imagine being so wildly misnamed by the world? People use non-standard pronouns, or use pronouns in non-standard ways, for various reasons: to accord with their sense of themselves, to make their passage through the world less painful, to prefigure and hasten the arrival of a world in which divisions of sex no longer matter. So too we can choose to respect people’s pronouns for many reasons. We can do it because we buy into the idea that there is no simple sex or gender binary, or because we want a world in which the binary, whether it exists or not, is stripped of its cultural weight. But we can also respect people’s pronouns simply because we want to be kind, because we too know what it is to feel like a failure and a freak, because when we talk about someone, we want them to feel that it is them we are speaking of, really and wholly.

From The Blog
3 December 2019

Last Wednesday, at a time when I would have been delivering an undergraduate lecture on feminism, my students organised a teach-out on some of the themes of the course: capitalism, work and reproduction. I sat at the back of a crowded seminar room in Balliol College – the Oxford colleges don’t recognise the UCU, which means that when we strike it is only with respect to our university, not college, contracts – and listened as students spoke about wages for housework and sex work, marketisation and commodification, Rosa Luxemburg and Silvia Federici.

Sharky Waters

Amia Srinivasan, 11 October 2018

On 15 September​, 26-year-old Arthur Medici was killed by a great white shark off Newcomb Hollow Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He was thirty yards from the shore, boogie boarding, when the shark attacked. A witness says that everything was calm until he saw ‘a giant eruption of water’ and then ‘a tail and a lot of thrashing’. Medici was pulled from the water...

Does anyone have the right to sex?

Amia Srinivasan, 22 March 2018

To take this question seriously requires that we recognise that the very idea of fixed sexual preference is political, not metaphysical. As a matter of good politics, we treat the preferences of others as sacred: we are rightly wary of speaking of what people really want, or what some idealised version of them would want. That way, we know, authoritarianism lies. This is true, most of all, in sex, where invocations of real or ideal desires have long been used as a cover for the rape of women and gay men. But the fact is that our sexual preferences can and do alter, sometimes under the operation of our own wills – not automatically, but not impossibly either.

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