As consent culture has evolved, it has assumed some of the characteristics of Sheryl Sandberg-style confidence feminism, prizing sassy self-expression and individual empowerment over political transformation. The risk for Angel is that exhorting women to know and express their desires in the language of positive affirmation places the responsibility for preventing sexual violence on women’s conduct, rather than examining why violence occurs in the first place ... Part of what bothers Angel is that formalising such an idiosyncratic, unwieldy thing as desire is practically impossible. Desire doesn’t work like a legal contract: it’s difficult to always know what you want, a sense of intimacy changes in the heat of the moment, and a 'yes' given at one point may be retracted soon afterwards. The language of consent is asked to stand for so much it begins to strain under the weight of its significance ... she is reaching towards something else: a world where desire does not have to be known and fixed in advance to protect people from violence. That this is an unlikely prospect doesn’t make it any less attractive.
Angel uses snippets of contemporary culture to illustrate her arguments ... The problem with an over-emphasis on consent, she points out, is that it shifts the responsibility for societal imbalances of power onto individuals. Consent only works as a standard if one feels one has the right to refuse ... Armed now with the tools of consent and sex research, 'we are, yet again, in a moment in which it seems to be tomorrow … that sex will be good again,' writes Angel. In her view, neither offers the emancipatory potential that their proponents would have us believe, as both underplay the contextual and emergent nature of desire.
... as Katherine Angel shows in her succinct and thought-provoking book Tomorrow Sex Will Be Good Again, consent itself is a murky concept that cannot be separated from existing power dynamics ... To insist that women discover their sexual preferences independently and then communicate them clearly to prospective partners, or otherwise bear the blame if the experience turns out to be unsatisfactory or damaging, is just another, subtler version of the idea that it is a woman’s responsibility to avoid being raped ... she makes a clear and well-researched case.