Book Review: Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and What We Can Do about It, Kate Harding (2015)

Friday, August 28th, 2015

An Insightful, Sometimes-Snarky, Surprisingly Readable Interrogation of Rape Culture

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through Edelweiss. Obvious trigger warning for rape.)

I’ve been a fan of Kate Harding’s ever since her days blogging at Shakespeare’s Sister (now Shakesville). I think I first caught wind of her latest project, Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture–and What We Can Do about It, more than a year ago, and have spent the interim occasionally checking the book’s Amazon listing, where the publication date seemed to creep further and further away. And it’s no wonder: every month brings with it a new development in the national conversation about rape and rape culture.

As Harding explains in the Author’s Note:

When I sold the proposal for this book in 2012, I foolishly agreed to finish the manuscript in six months, because my agent, editor, and I agreed that rape culture was having a moment, as it were. News of the Steubenville, Ohio, gang rape case was picking up steam, and the memory of Missouri Representative Todd Akin’s “legitimate rape” gaffe was fresh in all our minds. Sexual violence was suddenly a popular topic, but – based on national conversations about rape in the 1970s and 1990s that started strong and dissipated quickly – we feared that if we waited too long, this book might be released to a public that was already over it.

The bad news is that it took me way longer than six months to finish the manuscript. The good news – amazingly, wonderful, really sort of mind-blowing news actually – is that years later, Americans are still walking seriously about rape and rape culture.

Asking for It is a welcome addition to the conversation: smart, witty, and surprisingly enjoyable. Well, not enjoyable, exactly – that’s not quite right – but Harding’s sometimes-snarky tone and penchant for calling bullshit as needed make for a slightly less depressing read.

(More below the fold…)