Quaker Universalist Voice

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Sexual Citizenship

Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus (2020) by Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan - A Book Review

J.S. Hart and S. Khan, Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus is a careful study of sexual assault and related issues among students at a major urban university. The book is limited to the college, an elite college, and the New York City location, but its authors imply that their findings are valid for all similar situations.

The book title misses the target.  The main subject is sexual assault in a large university community.  The “Landmark” title reference is an odd self-congratulation for an academic study.  History may apply this title.  A more accurate title for the current book would be: “Sexual Citizenship: A Study of College Sexual Assault”.

The book’s solution to the constancy of college sexual assault is to offer a framework of “sexual citizenship”.  It could also be called “sexual education” and “personal sexual management”. Sexual citizenship is a refreshing category that includes attention to caring for others. The book addresses the usually listed elements of sexual education (spaces, alcohol, drugs, peer groups. cultural standards, consent, and intimacy).  “Sexual projects” are the intended goals of the individual student. The “sexual geography” includes the indoor and outdoor spaces for sexual projects.

The sexual citizenship framework concept is the book’s major contribution.  It focuses attention on universal rights of self-determination, freedom, agency, and responsibility with equivalent rights in others.  This may sound simple, but it recognizes and documents the reality of adolescents and links understanding of reality with behavior and conduct, subject to mutual values and practice.

The book offers few practical proposals for public policy and nothing new. There are no surprise remedies in this study beyond comprehensive sex education.  The idea of sexual geography remedies may be new to some readers. The study documents what thoughtful parents, policy makers, and teachers already know from their experiences and observations. 

The book’s argument fails to offer a reading list and media list for providing supplemental sexual education by family, K-12 education, and religious communities.

The book includes a clear table of contents, an index, an extensive bibliography, and copious end notes.  Appendices address the methodology of the study. 

The book itself should be made available to every college-bound student.  Students will be fascinated, and informed and moved to cautionary reflection. It may be less than sufficient to assure a healthy college experience, but it can be a life saver.

Quakers: There is no reference to Quakers in this book.

Quaker parents, particularly those uncomfortable with direct discussion of sexuality, should provide a copy of this book in the house.  Several copies should be available in the library of every religious community.  Do not force or flash it, but make it available.  It will inform and mature Quaker students.


  • Is sexual citizenship what parents can realistically hope for college-bound youth?
  • What can the Quaker tradition offer to season and complete sex education for Quaker youth?
  • Can Quaker parents manage the reality of determined sexual projects among college-bound youth?


Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, Jennifer S. Hart and Shamus Khan (W. W. Norton & Co. (2020)

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