cover image Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention

Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention

Donna Freitas. Little, Brown, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-316-45052-2

Scholar Freitas (Consent on Campus: A Manifesto) delivers a probing and painful account of being stalked by her graduate school mentor and the professional and emotional consequences it has had in the intervening 20 years. Because her mentor was a priest, an older professor, and an important figure in her field, Freitas couldn’t avoid Father L.’s “sustained unwanted attention,” even when he called daily, sent stacks of mail to her home and work, and creepily ingratiated himself with her ill mother. She lays bare in vivid scenes and complex reflections the overriding shame, confusion, and fear she felt as a productive professional relationship turned personal, then to persecution. Freitas’s narrative illustrates how self-doubt, denial, and self-blame can silence victims—she suffered for over a year before finally asking for help at her university (only to be paid off as a “nuisance” when she filed a formal complaint)—and affect them long-term (she continues to blame herself even in these pages, writing, “I did want the attention from my professor that I got in the beginning.... That was my crime.... I will blame myself forever for these initial, intimate offerings that I brought to him”). Freitas’s delicate study of her torment and its devastating effects, which raises thorny, meaningful questions about how to define consent, is an important testament for the #MeToo era. Agent: Miriam Altshuler, DeFiore and Company. (Aug.)