Sexual Pleasure Empowers Women!: Response to Susie Jolly (6)

Susie’s argument is dangerous! I don’t believe that we can talk about women and sexual pleasure in isolation. Many of women’s sexual interactions involve men. You cannot divorce sexual pleasure from both (or more) partners in the sexual process.

Nor can we talk about sexual pleasure without a broader discussion on the construction of desire. Pleasure and desire are not genetic constructs, but are learned. We may have an inherent desire for the physicality of sex and orgasm, but what we do to achieve pleasure is learnt, and that shapes our desires for different sexual acts. Have many men have yet learnt that sex is not only about women pleasuring men? How do men perform their masculinity in sex and define that as pleasurable?

Men (and many women I believe) have learnt to place sexual centrality on penile-vaginal intercourse, and all other forms of sexual pleasure are given no significance or meaning. This invisibilizes non-penetrative sexualities as a framework for desire and pleasure, it invisibilizes same sex behaviours as equally valid means of sexual and pleasurable expression, and it invisibilizes forms of sexual pleasures such as group sex and adolescent sexualities. It continues the hegemonic framework of a monolithic pleasure structure in a socio-cultural environment that is atomic and reflects middle-class morality.

We need to break this down and reconstruct a more significant and meaningful body-body communication which enables and empowers expressing pleasure as a physical and emotional experience, but also an experience of physicality in its own right which should not be denigrated. When you are hungry you eat food, but when you are rich you will enjoy gourmet food. Most of us are not rich!

Shivananda Khan
Executive Director
Naz Foundation, India

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