In the ongoing fight for gender equality and women's rights, a powerful and transformative wave is sweeping through feminist movements worldwide. The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) and Kohl, a Journal for Body and Gender Research, came together to create a collection of articles that challenges traditional ideas about pleasure, sexuality, and the human body, “Transnational Embodiment.” This collection amplifies the voices of feminist storytellers who dare to break free from societal constraints. In this review, we will explore three remarkable pieces written by AWID members, delving into their powerful narratives that celebrate joy, resilience, and defiance. Get ready to embark on a journey that will challenge your perspective and inspire you to embrace pleasure on your own terms.
Reflections by Lina B on “MANGO” by Jurema Araújo
Lina B takes us on a poetic journey in her review of “MANGO” by Jurema Araújo. Lina highlights the significance of reclaiming language around pleasure and sexuality, shedding light on the power of celebrating love within her community.
Forbidden fruit, melons, papaya, grapefruit, and more have long been used in literature to allude to and symbolize sex and sexual organs. In this piece, Araújo uses a fruit native to and common in her homeland, Brazil. The mango in this poem does not just represent sensuality and sex, it symbolizes familiarity too. For a South American, mangos are comfort, safety, and homeland. Araújo’s erotic poetry stops to celebrate pleasure and transcends that to decolonize the language around pleasure and sexuality by painting a powerful and colorful image of what love is like in her community, “honeydewed, -and- sweetened”!
Reflection by Charlotte Hopmans on “Sexting Like a Feminist” by Chinelo Onwualu
“Sexting Like a Feminist: Humor in the Digital Feminist Revolution” explores the empowering nature of feminist sexting, challenging societal norms and creating a safe space for personal exploration.
In her review, Charlotte Hopmans explores the empowering nature of feminist sexting, drawing from her own experiences to resonate with Chinelo Onwualu's piece. Hopmans shares the initial fears and vulnerabilities associated with sexting, but as trust deepened, it became a powerful tool for connection and self-exploration. The author highlights the transformative potential of sexting through a feminist framework, emphasizing the importance of consent, trust, and creativity. By way of intimate virtual exchanges, individuals can break free from societal expectations and embrace the playful exploration of their sexual identities.
As I read this text, it resonated with my own sexting experiences and highlighted the transformative potential of sexting within a feminist framework.
Initially, sexting felt simultaneously scary, vulnerable, and distant. Stories of non-consensual sharing made me feel fearful, while sharing intimate desires through text added a weird sense of vulnerable distance. However, as trust grew in my long-distance relationship, sexting became a powerful tool to strengthen our connection.
Through sexting we expressed desires and fantasies explicitly, allowing us to explore and understand our own and each other's sexuality despite physical separation. The distance compelled us to be more open and gave voice to our deepest desires that we might not had learned to share otherwise.
As our sexting journey evolved, we crafted detailed stories based on our fantasies. This creative exploration was such a fun(ny) experience, often leading to laughter at the absurdity and playfulness of our stories. Sexting became a sanctuary for mutual sexual expression. Those cute sexts turned into full-on detailed collaborative stories where we took turns to write the next “scene.”
This sexting experience empowered me to find my voice in the virtual bedroom and confidently express my desires. This process led to a greater sense of empowerment and curiosity about my own desires and sexuality. Sexting encouraged me to break free from societal expectations and embrace the creative and playful exploration of my sexual identity. It helped me reclaim my voice and deepen my connection with my partner and myself.
“Sexting Like a Feminist” was a reminder that when approached with consent, trust, some creativity, and a feminist perspective, sexting can be a transformative experience that goes beyond physical boundaries.
Reflection by Elisabeth on “Communicating Desire and Other Embodied Political Praxes” with Manal Tamimi, Lindiwe Rasekoala, and Louise Malherbe
Elisabeth's review offers a compelling perspective on the embodied political praxes of Manal Tamimi, Lindiwe Rasekoala, and Louise Malherbe. As a young female sex worker from Mombasa, Kenya, Elisabeth exposes the systemic power dynamics and patriarchal control that permeate the sex work industry. She emphasizes how pleasure becomes an act of resistance for marginalized women, defying cultural and societal norms that seek to silence and objectify their bodies. Elisabeth's own journey as a sex worker underscores the transformative potential of embracing pleasure as a means of liberation from poverty and oppressive beliefs.
I am a young female sex worker from Mombasa, Kenya, a region where conversations around women's sexuality are taboo and when a woman openly expresses her sexuality, she is seen as a promiscuous person. As a Female sex worker, I have seen how power and patriarchy play out even in the sex work industry/movement. Clients make it clear to us (sex workers) that because they are paying us for sex, then the right for us to enjoy sex is automatically taken away from us. Female sex workers are objectified by the law, the clients, and the community. Everything about our bodies, down to how and with whom we want to experience pleasure, is also dictated.
As female-identifying individuals, pleasure is an act of resistance, resistance from culture, religion, social and economic norms. Choosing to experience pleasure is radically choosing to fight systems that oppress women. I believed for a long time that sex is supposed to be done to women and more like a task for us women towards our male partners. As I grow in my career as a sex worker, I have fully embraced sex as an art, one that I can fully enjoy as I earn, pleasure is my liberation from poverty and harmful social/cultural beliefs.
WOMEN ARE PLEASURE
As we explore the rich mosaic of these three diverse reviews, a powerful and unifying theme emerges — a resounding call to reclaim our bodies, desires, and narratives. In their unique ways, each author fearlessly challenges societal norms, pushing the boundaries of pleasure and embodiment. From Jurema Araújo's evocative fruit-filled poetry to Chinelo Onwualu's exploration of feminist sexting and the inspiring embodied political praxes shared by Manal Tamimi, Lindiwe Rasekoala, and Louise Malherbe, these feminist authors lead a courageous way through the landscape of societal taboos. They invite us all to embrace our inherent right to pleasure – unapologetically and on our own terms.
“Transnational Embodiment” transcends the constraints of traditional norms, offering a tapestry of perspectives that celebrate pleasure, resilience, and resistance. Through the lens of these three reviews, we witness the transformative power of language, the liberating potential of sexting, and the fierce defiance against oppressive systems. They call upon us to dismantle patriarchal structures, to joyfully embrace our desires, and to relentlessly fight for pleasure as a radical act of empowerment. This collection stands as a testament, fueling our imagination to create a world where all bodies are celebrated and pleasure becomes a radical act of empowerment and a profound force of liberation.