Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure

Edited by Susie Jolly, Andrea Cornwall, Kate Hawkins

Publication date:

13 June 2013


Zed Books



ISBN-13: 9781780325729

This pioneering collection explores the ways in which positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality can empower women. Gender and development has tended to engage with sexuality only in relation to violence and ill-health. Although this has been hugely important in challenging violence against women, over-emphasizing these negative aspects has dovetailed with conservative ideologies that associate women’s sexualities with danger and fear. On the other hand, the media, the pharmaceutical industry, and pornography more broadly celebrate the pleasures of sex in ways that can be just as oppressive, often implying that only certain types of people - young, heterosexual, able-bodied, HIV-negative - are eligible for sexual pleasure. Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure brings together challenges to these strictures and exclusions from both the South and North of the globe, with examples of activism, advocacy and programming which use pleasure as an entry point. It shows how positive approaches to pleasure and sexuality can enhance equality and empowerment for all.
'This book's holistic approach to sexuality in various third-world contexts is enormously refreshing. Development discourses have yoked discussions of women's sexuality primarily to disease, risk, violence and reproduction. Transcending this narrow conceptualisation, the contributors raise the importance of embodied desires, agency and empowerment in both personal and social transformation. Case studies from such varied contexts as India, Malawi, Turkey and Uganda demonstrate that political struggles are inextricably connected to the relations, contestations, discourses and institutions surrounding sexuality. Avoiding the dangers of universalising models of resistance and understandings of sexuality, the book opens up innovative methodological, theoretical and political paths for new interdisciplinary work on women, gender and development.' Desiree Lewis, University of the Western Cape 'This is one of those uncommon books which open up new perspectives on development. It pushes forward the frontiers of feminism, challenging convention and recognising pleasure as a right. Inclusively it embraces heterosexuals, LGBTQs, sex workers, the disabled, those who are HIV positive, those married to gay partners and others so often excluded. It confronts stereotypes and taboos with the grounded evidence of experiences, both awful and inspiring. The editors and contributors have remarkably produced a book with a new theme, putting sexual pleasure on the development agenda and presenting it in a manner that is at once sensitive, nuanced, and full of humanity. The result is a remarkable book, a gripping read, exhilarating and liberating in the way it celebrates pleasure, laughter and fun. We see pleasure as an empowering win-win. We are left wondering why sexual pleasure has only now come up in the development agenda. Development professionals: read, enjoy, be enlightened, and recognise women's sexual pleasure as a human right.' Robert Chambers, University of Sussex 'This volume pulls the threads of sexual pleasure in a variety of directions as to charter connections and gaps between bodies, communities and discourses. Sexual pleasure is a domain of life, theory and research -- particularly in the case of female sexuality -- constantly torn between danger and jouissance, between objectification and empowerment. The editors and authors do not evade these minefields but rather address them as nodes to be de-constructed when articulating social, gender and erotic justice. The final result is also to be appraised as a rich, diverse and hybrid global South and North tapestry of live worlds and voices.' Sonia Corrêa, Sexuality Policy Watch 'Finally women's pleasure is being taken seriously. What a relief! Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure is a fantastic book, and will certainly be an important tool in creating a more pleasure-filled world, and isn't that what we all ultimately want? Highly intelligent, knowledgeable writers from the front lines of women's struggles from all corners of the globe make reading this collection of essays, well, deeply pleasurable, and extremely satisfying.' Annie Sprinkle, author and co-founder of sexecology.org