A provocative, elegantly written analysis of female desire, consent, and sexuality in the age of MeToo
Women are in a bind. They are told that in the name of sexual consent and feminist empowerment, they must proclaim their desires clearly and confidently. Sex researchers tell us that women don't know what they want. And men are on hand to persuade women that what they want is, in fact, exactly what men want. In this environment, how can women possibly know what they want—and how can they be expected to?
In this elegantly written, searching book Katherine Angel surveys medical and psychoanalytic understandings of female desire, from Freud to Kinsey to present-day science; MeToo-era debates over consent, assault, and feminism; and popular culture, TV, and film to challenge our assumptions about female desire. Why, she asks, do we expect desire to be easily understood? Why is there not space for the unsure, the tentative, the maybe, the let's just see? In contrast to the endless exhortation to know what we want, Angel proposes that sex can be a conversation, requiring insight, interaction, and mutual vulnerability—a shared collaboration into the unknown.
In this crucial moment of renewed attention to violence and power, Angel urges that we remake our thinking about sex, pleasure, and autonomy without any illusions of perfect self-knowledge. Only then will we bring about Michel Foucault’s sardonic promise, in 1976, that “tomorrow sex will be good again.”
About the Author
Katherine Angel is a writer and a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, and the author of Unmastered: A Book On Desire, Most Difficult To Tell (2012) and Daddy Issues (2019). Her writing and research focus on sexuality, psychiatry, feminism, and gender in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Katherine has a PhD in the history of psychiatry and sexuality from the University of Cambridge's History and Philosophy of Science Department.
“Thought-provoking … [Angel’s] jargon-free prose and nuanced readings of popular culture and postmodern theory enlighten. Readers will value this lively and incisive inquiry into the sexual dynamics of the #MeToo era.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“An ardent, rigorous, nuanced investigation into the question of consent, at once illuminating and empowering. A truly vital guide to navigating the difficult waters of 21st century desire.” —Olivia Laing, author of Funny Weather
Praise for Unmastered by Katherine Angel
“A genre-busting nonfiction account that reads like poetry, revels in ambiguity, and intentionally defies definition, the book explores the slippery emotions of sex in fiery, collage-like scenes intended to reconcile the contradictory ‘metaphors we love by.'” ―O Magazine
“Unconventional, deeply personal … often poetic.” ―The New Yorker Page Turner blog
“Angel embraces the impossibility of extricating fact from feeling.” ―Julia Klein, The Boston Globe
“Poetic … Sharply truthful, musical, and beautifully patterned … An act of cultural resistance, and a book you immediately start to reread.” ―Adam Foulds, author of The Quickening Maze
“Absorbing . . . [A] vigorous testament to a female libido undaunted by the cold shower of self-analysis.” ―Talitha Stevenson, The Guardian
“Ghostly and poetic . . . [A] thinking woman's meditation on sexual desire.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Unmastered is an intriguing literary and cultural study . . . Erudite and personal . . . The strength of Ms. Angel's writing . . . makes the book seem both universal and intimate at once.” ―The Economist "Unmastered is a giddily joyful book . . . Days after reading, its images linger in the mind . . . [An] elegant and uplifting journey through the labyrinth of female lust.” ―Olivia Laing, The Observer