For years now I’ve wanted to shine a light on the collective work being done by South African women in the field of sexual health, sexual empowerment and pleasure.
I repeat: pleasure.
Empowered, sex-positive messaging around pleasure is not a topic that sits comfortably in this country.
There are two reasons for this I think.
On the one hand, we have the deeply Calvinistic and traditional views of the majority of the SA’s people to contend with, where sex in general and women’s pleasure in particular is considered abhorrent, evil and/or unimportant. Where female bodies are subject to male needs.
On the other hand, we have masses of trauma to wade through, both politically and socially, individually and collectively.
And when there is so much pain to get through the topic of pleasure can seem frivolous
In this space, it would seem paramount that we raise awareness about gender- and sexual orientation-based violence, STIs, abortion, women’s rights and teen pregnancy – and how sexism and racism play into this.
Without constant activation around these issues, nothing changes.
In this space, it is then understandable that the conversations that are given wide coverage in South Africa around sex and sexuality are weighted towards trauma and politics.
And when there is so much pain to get through – to talk about, to process – the topic of pleasure can seem frivolous.
But in my experience, working through trauma, sexual or otherwise, only makes sense if it is to bring me to some joy and to prevent further harm being passed down onto the next generation.
When the world has taken you far away from yourself, the only way you can find your way back is with the help of others
For me, gaining access to joy, pleasure, healthy relationships, sexual empowerment (meaning ownership of my body and choice in my experience in the world), was a powerful motivator in my healing process.
But these are not realities that pop into your world, fully formed and actionable, by themselves.
We don’t automatically ‘just know’ how to step into our power or pleasure if we’ve never been shown how. When the world has taken you far away from yourself, the only way you can find your way back is with the help of others, whether it’s in the form of their therapy, groups, dance, art, sex-ed podcasts, books…
And South Africa has many powerful voices leading these conversations here. You just don’t hear about them because our mainstream media generally reports and supports on the side of trauma.
With Women’s Month coming up in August, this reportage escalates, adding column inches of horror to the daily barrage of violence against women in this country.
The Shine Project will honour the women who drive our conversations about sex, love and self
This year I would like some balance in this arena. I want to talk about women and sexual empowerment, pleasure and access, options and knowledge bases – and the women who are making this happen for other women and by doing so, affecting change in their circles and their communities.
In light of this, I decided to contribute to Women’s Month by kicking off The Shine Project to honour the women who drive our conversations about sex, love and self.
The name is based on ‘shine theory’ which, according to the BBC, is a term coined by US podcast hosts Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow in their show Call Your Girlfriend.
The basic idea? ‘I don’t shine if you don’t shine.’
It’s on the same continuum as the amplification strategy that women in Obama’s administration used.
One of the biggest obstacles to getting help is not knowing that there is help available
In this situation, we make the circle bigger so that we know who we are, not only for each other – so that we can appreciate the network that exists outside of purely medical parameters – but also so that people know what their options and resources base looks like.
In my experience, one of the biggest obstacles to getting the help or input you need is not knowing that there are people and organisations available who can address your issues specifically.
So, at the beginning of June, I put out a call on Facebook and Twitter for nominations. The response was overwhelming and positive.
But there are still a few slots left.
So if you know any educators, healers, facilitators, academics, authors, musicians, doctors, tantra practitioners, BDSM dommes, therapists, artists, teachers, sex toy shop owners – any local woman working with the language of sex, body, pleasure and empowerment – drop me a mail in the ‘Contact’ box at the top of this page and nominate them.
Let’s shine our collective light on sex positive messaging and sexual empowerment.
Love from Dorothy