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Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention


Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention

As a woman in her early 20s, Donna Freitas happily accepted the invitation to a Catholic university to pursue her Masters and a PhD in Philosophy and Theology. A bright and enthusiastic student, she enjoyed talking to her professors during office hours --- especially her elderly mentor, who was also a Catholic priest.

Somehow, little by little, things started getting weird between them. It all began with an invitation to a play, followed by letters and phone calls, and then eventually turned into stalking. At first, Freitas thought it was just her imagination, but after a while, she became very aware that this situation was heading in the wrong direction. Yet she decided to remain silent, hoping that everything would go back to normal. But when her professor somehow inserted himself into all spheres of her life, she resolved to do something to stop this unwanted attention.

"Freitas has written an honest, brutal and raw memoir not only about the unwanted attention she received, but about sexuality, philosophy and feminism."

This all might sound like the plot of a good thriller, but unfortunately CONSENT is a memoir, and Freitas lived through this nightmare during her first two years of graduate school. The book is divided into four parts. First, Freitas tells how it all started and how her professor indirectly declared his love for her. Next, she continues to recount the stalking nightmare that was part of her daily existence. Then, she describes what she endured when she made the brave decision to tell her colleagues, some professors and the university’s administration what was happening. Finally, she updates readers on her life after getting her PhD and the consequences of both being stalked and speaking up about it.

CONSENT is 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.

As Freitas so eloquently puts it: “We live in a culture where the harassment and assault of women and girls take place so regularly, so commonly, so consistently, that we need to take stock of the splitting of the person that occurs during acts of trauma. Of the ways that women must learn to become good actresses and excellent liars so they can endure and live as though nothing terrible has happened to them. Of the personal and professional cost of having to live with two brains, be of two minds, of the secrets a person’s own body can keep from her for years, of the ongoing feeling that somehow she is the one who failed and the damage this does to her sense of self, of her ability to perceive what is true and what is false about who she is and who she is not.”

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.

Reviewed by Dunja Bonacci Skenderović on November 1, 2019

Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention
by Donna Freitas

  • Publication Date: August 13, 2019
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • ISBN-10: 0316450529
  • ISBN-13: 9780316450522