Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (14.07 MB)

On Desire: The politics of sex in women's post-#MeToo literature

Download (14.07 MB)
posted on 2024-06-17, 09:55 authored by Alannah Bradbury

This thesis explores the literary work of contemporary women authors in the wake of the #MeToo movement. From its online insurgence in 2017, #MeToo has marked a cultural shift in discourses on women’s sexual injustice, bringing millions of intimate stories and personal narratives on the realities of women’s sexual experiences into the public sphere. Yet #MeToo continues to hold a contested place in contemporary feminist politics, due to its reliance on the carceral system and other punitive efforts to enact social change. While feminists continue to debate what system of consequences serve to redress the sexual exploitation of women, this thesis asks: what becomes of these women’s stories? In the post-#MeToo era, a popular literary landscape that is marked by women authors and their explicit engagement in discourses of women’s sexual desire has emerged. Fuelled by the power of intimate, personal, and individual narratives, contemporary women authors are using literature to explore how women are renegotiating the terms on which they have sex. In an analysis of Three Women (2019) by Lisa Taddeo, Luster (2020) by Raven Leilani, and Acts of Desperation (2021) by Megan Nolan, “On Desire” draws from the feminist sexual politics of Audre Lorde to Amia Srinivasan, to consider how the contemporary literary landscape offers a new form of engagement in the politics of sex in the post-#MeToo era. Each text illustrates the potential of literature to offer richly subjective accounts of women’s sexual experiences, and to add nuance and depth to #MeToo discourses. Paving the way for a new literary contemporary, Taddeo, Leilani, and Nolan write into a rapidly growing interdisciplinary inquiry into #MeToo’s reconsideration of sexual power, agency, pleasure, and consent. Interrogating their stories of individual women’s experiences of sex and sexuality, this thesis considers how literary discourses of desire can remake the political critique of sex in the twenty-first century.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

English Literature

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

130203 Literature; 280116 Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture; 280122 Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of English, Film, Theatre, Media Studies and Art History


Ross, Sarah