“Pedagogies of Desire” explores how women’s studies—a field that has long engaged sex as a space steeped in power, hierarchy, and inequality—has come to invest in affirmative consent as the sexual ethic that can produce sex as a territory free of violence. This essay explores that question as a strategy for considering one of the myriad challenges facing institutional feminism. In thinking through this question, the author bridges two scholarly conversations: first, a set of persistent conversations in women’s studies about the politics and ethics of feminism’s institutional projects and, second, a set of conversations emerging from an array of fields including critical legal studies and black feminist historiography thinking critically about the idiom of consent in precisely the moment that consent—particularly “enthusiastic” affirmative consent—has been hailed as how sexual freedom is to be secured. This exploration of institutional feminism’s imbrications with affirmative consent focuses on the space of the university precisely because it is the location of an emphatic amplification of affirmative consent as the paradigmatic form of ethical, legal, and Left political sex and because this amplification has been made possible by the labor of student activists, often under the mantle of feminism.

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