Friday, October 14, 2016

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

Women, Sexuality and the Political Power of Pleasure’ by Susie Jolly, Andrea Cornwall and Kate Hawkins, begins with an interesting observation:  In discussions of sexuality, women are almost always portrayed as victims, and never as enjoying themselves, or as people with own wants and desires. This, the authors mention, is part of a wider network involved in commodification of women. It thereafter examines the role of pleasure seeking and its gratification relation to the reigning political perspective. The book notes the need for going beyond the established negativity of approaches to sexuality, which can act in an empowering way to tackle a host of issues relating to the body, from gender-based violence to sexual rights.  The book also mentions that the traditional studies on African sexuality (which primarily focus on reproduction, violence and disease) need to explore the area of desire and pleasure, to gain deeper insights into this complex subject, and for fresh perspective on strategic interventions for critical areas such as sexual rights, HIV/AIDS and development. This is the ‘fresh perspective’ that the contributors to this book bring, demonstrating that pleasure can be empowering not just for women but for young people, people with disabilities, marginalized groups more broadly, and for society as a whole.