Changing Narratives of Sexuality
Our Changing Narratives of Sexuality theme came from the entry point of 'Body'. From rights over our own bodies, to choose when and with whom we have children and sexualities of our own choosing to the ways our bodies are represented in media and religion.
Our projects under this theme aim to go beyond a problem and victim focused approach to issues of sexuality to celebrate the positive dimensions of women's sexuality, and explore what it takes to bring about change that can enable women to enjoy rights to their own bodies, sexualities and pleasures.
Pleasure and Women's Empowerment
People who work on gender and development talk a great deal about women as victims of sexual violence. Action is urgently needed to prevent sexual violence against women. However, if we only talk about violence we reinforce stereotypes of women as passive and powerless. Bibi Bakare Yusuf, an academic from Lagos, described the effect as paralysing - especially for younger women just coming into sexual consciousness - at the Pleasure and Women's Empowerment workshop held at IDS on 14-16 December 2009. Workshop participants concluded that we must also make space to explore pleasure, well-being and the positive sides of sexuality.
But talking about pleasure will not in itself challenge the status quo, cautioned Jaya Sharma of Nirantar, India. Those working in development may not say much about pleasure, but women's magazines, advertising and pornography often focus on pleasure in ways that reinforce stereotypes and inequalities. We need a political perspective that challenges the structures and ideologies that generate guilt and shame and make pleasure more accessible to some groups than others.
It is possible to promote pleasure in ways which challenge inequality and exclusion, and workshop participants shared their experiences of doing so. INCRESE runs better sex and communication training for couples in Nigeria which has led to greater equality in relationships as well as happier sex lives. Pink Space organised an exchange between HIV positive women and lesbians in Beijing, which was welcomed by both as an opportunity to talk about the pleasures of sex and not just the miseries of disease and discrimination. More examples can be found at Why Talk About Pleasure - IDS News.