In Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention, Donna Freitas delivers a forensic examination of the years she spent stalked by her professor, and uses her nightmarish experience to examine the ways in which we stigmatize, debate, and attempt to understand consent today.
As a writer and lecturer on sexuality, consent, and Title IX on college campuses, [Freitas] applies her research skills to her own long-undisclosed story and is unflinching in her examination. It is a harrowing and brilliant personal exploration of consent, shame, and power ... Freitas writes beautifully; she is both a probing academic and a poet ... The title is important. The book is called Consent, not, say, Stalked, or My Creepy Teacher. Consent is the nagging question that runs through the book—when and how or whether consent took place. Freitas does not owe anyone an examination of her role, but she probes it, pokes it, turns it over in her hand, and exposes it to light in a way that is a great gift to her reader ... It is painful to witness. And important and generous, even, of her to do ... In spite of her experience, as both a passionate student and teacher Freitas is quick to defend the sanctity of a bond between teacher and student, and it only underscores how tragic it is when people like Father L. and his brethren violate the pact ... The writing of this book feels like an exorcism of sorts of that residual shame. To expose it to the sunlight, as they say, and kill the germs. The book is important beyond that though. It walks us through why our intuition is worth its weight in gold. And walks us through the complexity of consent, of power dynamics, and of what shame can do to even the brightest. In the end, Freitas comes to her conclusion with humility and honesty. She hasn’t conquered every demon left behind by the experience, but there is a sense of release, and, critically, a voice returned.
In Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention, Freitas recounts with great thoughtfulness how her perception of the power differential between them, as well as her faith in the religious and educational institutions she’d grown up with, lulled her into susceptibility and disbelief ... [The book includes] nuanced explorations of the meaning of 'consent' but also the hurried, underedited quality of a manuscript written on deadline ... Freitas’s [book] would benefit from tightened prose. But these are small complaints given the service...provide[d], which is to show without a shadow of a doubt that sexual harassment is often more terrorizing than many people understand it to be (particularly those lucky enough to have avoided its reach). For that reason, I’m grateful for Freitas’s reclamation of her voice[.]
... an important book because it illustrates how victims blame themselves, and how institutions are eager to maintain their good public image and not help those who have been wronged. It also shows that women who are being harassed are in no position of power and are forced to remain silent --- sometimes forever --- while emphasizing that stalking and harassment must be taken seriously as it can leave deep psychological wounds ... Freitas has written an honest, brutal and raw memoir not only about the unwanted attention she received, but about sexuality, philosophy and feminism. In order not to be written out of her own story, she decided to tell it 20 years later. It is never too late for accounts about violence against women to see the light of day. Consent is a must-read.