The Politics of Sexual Pleasure. A Plenary at the Open Forum 2012 on the theme #MoneyPowerSex

I’m writing right now at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in South Africa, and thinking ahead to a plenary I will be participating in tomorrow morning. The plenary is on the topic of ‘The Politics of Sexual Pleasure’. Its a plenary I argued for (My organisation the African Women’s Development Fund is a technical partner to the Open Forum, and I was in the enviable position of being able to make a case for the importance of this plenary) yet not one that I had thought of being on myself. In my mind I wanted distinguished African feminist sex researchers like Dr Sylvia Tamale to be on the plenary but Dr Tamale is not available, and somehow the technical organisers of the forum thought I would be ideal for the plenary.

So let me tell you the formal description of the session for tomorrow:

“Over the last decade, there have been various attempts by states to regulate women’s attire, while there have also been regular outbreaks of public violence against women who wear clothing deemed to be ‘too skimpy’. So what lies behind this urge to determine what women should wear – and also how they should act and who they should desire? This session seeks to understand the politics around women’s rights to sexual pleasure, the policy implications of this desire to control women’s bodies and, more importantly their sexualities, as well as how masculinities are often framed in ways that encourage violence and unhealthy sexual relationships.”

The sentences I have put in bold are the areas which I am particularly interested in, and the subjects on which I feel I can speak on with some degree of experience, at least in terms of my lived realities. At the same time I am kind of nervous about tomorrow’s plenary. I hear there are about 500 participants at the conference, and even though I am used to (and actually enjoy) public speaking I am a tad nervous about speaking on a subject in which I do not have a degree or the background of years of academic research. So I will speak about my personal experiences, my personal thoughts on the politics of sexual pleasure, the ways in which I feel our societies try to control our sexuality. Why our governments want to get all up in our bedrooms (and wherever else we choose to have sex) and legislate what we do, who we do, and for what purposes it is done.

But as usual I am keen to have the opinions of my African sisters who motivate me to keep blogging about sex and sexualities. What are your thoughts on the politics of sexual pleasure? Do you feel that society (or anything else) tries to control your body? Can you name who or what tries to control your sexuality? What kind of policies, laws and rules govern (or attempt t0 govern) your sexuality?

If its at all possible I would love to reflect some of the comments from readers in tomorrow’s session so please share…


6 comments On The Politics of Sexual Pleasure. A Plenary at the Open Forum 2012 on the theme #MoneyPowerSex

  • I usually feel society for so long always tries to dictate what should and should not be done, with total disregard for our individual prefernces and personalities. Family planning, sexual orientation, sexual liberty to mention a few, all are bound with ties of politics. The so-called government policies made to “protect” us from harm are in a way actually harming us. Not just because they have no room to cater for individual differences but also because most of our polititians and decision makers are men. And you know as well as i do how much men really know about women?

  • I feel the society(our society) tries really hard to control the woman’s body and sexuality and they usually start with a dress code. I have heard of girls who reported rape cases to the police, and had the police laugh in their faces, saying it was their fault cos they were “indecently” dress. A man told me once, that he finds girls in trousers very sexually provocative. He said anything that separates a woman’s legs is indecent. All i could think, was “this is a very very sick man!” and as much as i tried to convince myself that those kinds of opinions were/are in the minority, i think they aren’t. I think that Religion and Culture have both been Re-interpreted to suit the way certain Male individuals think a woman should look, think, act and be.

    I hope i have managed to write my opinion out clearly. i tend to be a bit of a scatter brain 🙂

  • First off, sex in Africa is seen as a duty/favor that is bestowed upon the woman to her husband!

    I’ll be back with more thoughts, ponder on that one for now!!!!

  • Hi Nana!
    How did your presentation go?
    This is very interesting. It would seem that whenever a country breaks away from an oppressive regime, the first measures are to restrict women. It is as though they have to choose between the “occidental way” and their “traditional way”. I believe that the new policies on gender in post colonial countries should not force women to choose between identity and “gender justice”. I hope that you told them 🙂

  • @Adjeley – I so agree with you on the politics around family planning, sexual orientation etc. But you know what also saddens me? When we make a case for women politicians, and they get into power and are more conservative than the pope. I am in particular thinking here about the Nigerian (woman) senator who attempted to pass an ‘Indecency Dressing Bill’ in Nigeria. Mtchewww

    @Ozohu – You made your opinion very clear. I can’t stand dress codes too. Especially national dress codes. I find it offensive that as an adult someone will try and legislate what I wear. As for that old rubbish about women asking to be raped because of how they are dressed one only needs to look at cases where babies, young children and the elderly are raped. We just need to keep reminding people that rape is about power, and that people who rape others are violent people who wish to take power away.

    @African Mami – Agreed. Which is why when our countries try and pass laws against marital rape the male parlimentarians get all up in a tizzy…

    @Nathalie – It went very well, thank you. Or so I am told. I did actually enjoy the panel, and they started it off by playing ‘Let’s talk about sex’ so all the panelists got up to dance, so that was a great ice breaker. Thanks for asking. Hmmm, you raise a very important point. I didn’t make that point in this particular panel discussion but its one I so agree with. Its the same issue I have with a lot of black nationalist movements. Its like the fight for gender justice should rank lower than that of national independence. But we all know what happens post independence/when the nationalist battle has been ‘won’

  • Exactly! What do you say when an infant is raped? That she was parading town in skimpy outfits?. No excuse for such craziness.
    In a town in Edo state in nigeria,girls are actually beaten and stripped naked for dressing indecently. Tell me what the sense is in exposing what she already covered? At least she didn’t leave the house naked. The same men who are involved in beating these ladies are the same ones who watch porn.
    Even boyfriends dictate what their girlfriends should wear and you see them frolicking with skimpily dressed girls. Hmmmm God is watching you o!

    I stumbled on ur blog today and I have to say I’ve ignored all pings on my phone because I’m reading all your posts so I won’t be left in the dark 😀 .
    Keep up the good work.

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