Sexual Citizens

A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus

Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan

Cover of 'Sexual Citizens' by Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan

W. W. Norton & Company
Jan. 14, 2020


Research has shown that by the time they graduate, as many as one in three women and almost one in six men will have been sexually assaulted. But why is sexual assault such a common feature of college life, and what can be done to prevent it? Drawing on the Sexual Health Initiative to Foster Transformation (SHIFT) at Columbia University, the most comprehensive study to date of sexual assault on a campus, Jennifer S. Hirsch and Shamus Khan present an entirely new framework that emphasizes sexual assault’s social roots, based on the powerful concepts of “sexual projects,” “sexual citizenship,” and “sexual geographies.” Empathic, insightful, and far-ranging, Sexual Citizens transforms our understanding of sexual assault and offers a roadmap for how to address it.


“Excellent....Absolutely essential reading to prepare teens for what they’ll encounter in college on both the social and sexual fronts.”


“An enthralling read.… Thank you, Jennifer and Shamus, for this remarkable work.”

— Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Ph.D., Psychology Today

“A timely and sweeping reassessment of campus sexual assault. Hirsch and Khan bring rich data and trenchant insight to bear on one of today’s most urgent issues. This is an exemplary work, sensitive to intersecting inequalities, that represents the future of social science. Provocative and profoundly relevant, Sexual Citizens opens up the possibility of crafting policies that engage the complicated realities of students’ lives with honesty and empathy.”

— Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council

“Excellent....Absolutely essential reading to prepare teens for what they’ll encounter in college on both the social and sexual fronts.”


“This extraordinary book situates campus sexual assault in context. It teaches us how any particular sexual encounter is shaped as much by the people involved as it is by the history and prior education of the participants, by economic inequality, by the physical and social geography in which they are living. All of us with a responsibility for creating the campus spaces that can generate — or harm — health need to read this book.”

— Sandro Galea, dean and the Robert A. Knox Professor, School of Public Health, Boston University

“Profoundly eye-opening....Hirsch and Khan present a novel model for explaining and responding to campus sexual assault.”

— Claire M. Renzetti , Science

“Hirsch and Khan’s systematic public health approach to campus sexual assault not only urges empathic action but also outlines possible solutions to this communal problem. A timely and persuasive contribution to today’s national conversation. A must-read!”

— Claire E. Sterk, president and the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Public Health, Emory University

“Timely, authentic, and revolutionary.”

— J. Dennis Fortenberry, professor of pediatrics, Indiana University School of Medicine

“Incisive....This detailed, practical inquiry should be mandatory reading for college administrators and parents of college-age children.”

Publishers Weekly

“A readable and thought-provoking work on a topic of concern on college campuses. The SHIFT project generated many academic publications, but this book successfully reaches a general audience, specifically students, parents, and policymakers.”

Library Journal (starred review)

“Timely, authentic, and revolutionary.”

— J. Dennis Fortenberry, the Donald Orr Professor of Adolescent Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine

“A clear, intersectional picture of the forces breeding a campus culture that bulldozes consent, as well as a path forward that emphasizes empathy, mutual respect, and bodily autonomy.”

— Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

“Written with humanity and sharp sociological insight, Hirsch and Khan’s ecological approach moves beyond the adversarial model that has embroiled debates on campus sexual assault. It opens up new ways for thinking about—and responding to—the pressing problem of sexual assault on college campuses. Sexual Citizens will be essential reading for parents, young people, medical professionals, and educators.”

— Jennifer Cole, professor and chair, Department of Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago

“A comprehensive, brilliant, groundbreaking study.”

— Louise Lamphere, distinguished professor emerita of anthropology, University of New Mexico

“A must-read for parents and administrators as well as for young people about to enter this new terrain.”

— Stephanie Coontz, author of A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s