Book Review: ‘Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure’

I reviewed ‘Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure’ edited by Andrea Cornwall, Susie Jolly, and Kate Hawkins for the current edition of Feminist Africa which you should all check out. For me it’s an honour to write for Feminist Africa, a peer reviewed journal led by many African feminists that I have a lot of respect for. That my words even sits in the same publication that has been edited by Amina Mama and Hakima Abbas blows my mind. Okay enough of the gushing. Let me tell you in simple terms what I liked about the book that I edited. I loved that the book had contributors from all over the world writing about the politics of pleasure for all sorts of bodies. I had never really thought seriously about how people with severe disabilities could obtain sexual pleasure or indeed considered how this is a right. And that made me think about how many contributions Adventures has had from women with disabilities and there is only one that I know about – and I am thinking here of the kind of disabilities that may make it difficult for you to find a sexual partner.

I also really enjoyed Prof. Sylvia Tamale’s contribution to the book, and this is what I said in my review:

A particularly strong chapter in these final accounts is the republication of Sylvia Tamale’s 2005 article ‘Eroticism,

Sensuality and ‘Women’s Secrets’ among the Baganda’, initially published in FA 5. Part of the reason this chapter struck me is because, recently, two women in their early 30s asked me if I knew of an older woman who would be willing to share traditional sex tips with a select group of women. The woman who would play such a role among the Baganda of Uganda is called a Ssenga, “a parental aunt (or surrogate versions thereof) whose role is to tutor young women in a range of sexual matters, including pre-menarche (first menstruation) practices, pre-marriage preparation, erotics and reproduction” (2013: 265). As someone who blogs about sex and sexualities, it is clear to me that even in this day and age, women and girls would appreciate advice on all aspects of their sexualities from more experienced women. Particularly interesting in Tamale’s chapter is how she shows the evolution of the Ssenga..”

Do you have Ssengas or their equivalents  where you come from? Let me know.

The only place where I felt the book fell short was that it completely ignored all the revolutionary work happening online where women’s sexualities are concerned so of course I had to name check Adventures, Ms Afropolitan, Black Looks and HOLAA in my review. Which reminds me of the importance of the Adventures anthology – which will come one day soon.

In the meantime do check out my review in Feminist Africa and let me know your thoughts.


Photography by Chika Oduah
Photography by Chika Oduah

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