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Welcome back to our monthly round-up blogs 🌈💖

October is a month of many celebrations but one of its most important celebrations/focus is Black History Month in the United Kingdom. So, through this post, we want to pay homage to the amazing black women and non-binary people who continuously inspire our work, pleasure positivity and join us on the mission of pleasure activism in Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR). Celebrating their contribution to pleasure and SRHR through their expertise, intellectual contribution, and success acknowledging the inherent challenges racial discrimination adds to their lives.

Please find some links below that explain racism in more detail, giving insight into the long history of why racism is a critical issue and has created extreme damage for people of colour:

Racism is also an issue relevant to the SRHR community, see the links below for some more insight:

Achieving racial justice is critical to our work as pleasure positive sex educators and pleasure activists. Steps are being taken towards placing more importance on reclaiming pleasure for those who have been marginalised for so long. For too long, black people, especially black women, have been pioneering sex-positive SRHR and pleasure activism sometimes sadly behind the scenes.

“The sexual health movement is still largely white-dominated which raises questions like: ‘Who gets to see themselves reflected in this work.’ (See the full article here )

So, now we will celebrate some of the many brilliant black thought leaders on pleasure, SRHR and activism. We spoke to The Pleasure Project team and our wonderful Pleasure Fellows and have compiled a list of some of our favourite black pleasure activists below with summaries and links to their amazing work so you can expand your pleasure knowledge through their insightful expertise! Happy reading… ❤

Dorothy Aken’Ova 💕

Dorothy one of the first pleasure activists who inspired us – we love her. She is executive director of the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights in Nigeria. She also works with INCRESE an NGO that provides sexual and rights services for vulnerable populations. Her work includes addressing the sexual needs of young people, girls and women and LGBTQ issues.

She is a strong pleasure advocate and when she was elected to the Ashoka fellowship, she called for sexual pleasure to be included in the discourse on reproductive health at community and national levels!

Jocelyn Elders 💕

Jocelyn Elders is an amazing woman. She has recently been named as one of 50 distinguished sexual and gender health revolutionaries who have been chosen to recognise their commitment to advancing sexual and gender health around the world.

A snippet of her bio for the award reads: “Dr. Elders was nominated as Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service by President Clinton on July 1st, 1993, confirmed by the Senate September 7th, and sworn in on September 8th. Dr. Elders served in this post until January 1995 following which, she returned to the University of Arkansas Children’s Hospital until her retirement on June 30th, 1998.”

Jocelyn Elders has always been an amazing advocate for advancing SRHR and incorporating a sex-positive, pleasure-based approach. She was asked to resign from her post as surgeon general in 1994 due to her stance on the importance of being open and teaching young people honestly and positively about masturbation. Her drive for pleasure positive progression did not end here; in 2014, established the Jocelyn Elders Chair in Sexual Health Education to help advance comprehensive health education. Her pleasure activism has also recently reached headlines due to her pleasure positive claims that sexual stimulation can have plenty of health benefits and vibrators should be covered by health insurance! We couldn’t agree more Jocelyn.

Audre Lorde 💕

Audre Lorde was a powerful woman and pleasure activist. She is a proclaimed writer, feminist, womanist and civil rights activist who self-described as “Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, warrior”. She dedicated much of her life to tackling sexist and racial injustice.

Audre was the recipient of many awards and was dedicated the New York State Poet Laureate. One of her amazing power pieces was ‘Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.’ Below is one of our fellows Ana Santos’s favourite quotes from the work:

‘…in touch with the erotic, I become less willing to accept powerlessness, or those other supplied states of being which are not native to me, such as resignation, despair, self-effacement, depression, self-denial.’

Celebration of pleasure and the erotic is powerful. Thank you for showing us this so early on in the fight for sexual pleasure.

Adrienne Maree Brown 💕

Adrienne Maree Brown is a writer, activist and black feminist. The quote under her name on her website reads: ‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’ This quote is inspiring and we find the messages Adrienne presents in her work extremely motivating for our pleasure activism work. Adrienne includes pleasure in much of her work, showing how it should be incorporated in all aspects of life. We have drawn upon it to help inform our pleasure principle ‘Love Yourself’ making sure you are enjoying the activism work you do, are looking after yourself and are kind to each other. One of Adrienne’s quotes which informed this was from her work ‘Holding Change’:

“Create a culture of celebration – Pivot Towards Pleasure. It seems simple- but people stay more engaged in a space where they are enjoying each other, and feel celebrated and appreciated. Small, personal celebrations help fuel groups through the hard work, reminding them that they are humans together, regardless of the external pressures they face.”

Making sure your work/activism is enjoyable and filled with happiness will make all our pursuits for social justice pleasurable experiences was also the focus of Brown’s book: ‘Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good.’ One of our favourite quotes: “Pleasure is the point. Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom.”

Reminding us to always find joy in our work and to make our pleasure activism fun, engaging and thought provoking.

Tlaleng Mofokeng 💕

Alongside The Pleasure Project Tlaleng Mofokeng is one of the loudest advocates for the inclusion of sexual pleasure in SRHR in the SRHR community. She is a South African doctor, women’s rights and sexual and reproductive health activist and the author of the book ‘Dr.T: A guide to Sexual Health and Pleasure.’ In 2020 she was appointed the United National Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Mofokeng works in many areas of SRHR and is an amazing pleasure champion, flying the pleasure flag high. Pleasure positivity is incorporated in much of her work and much of her publications, talks and research focuses on promoting the cruciality of incorporating sexual pleasure as a way to achieve sexual wellbeing and full sexual rights. We recently attended her talk at the WAS Congress where she spoke of this important trinity, especially sexual pleasure as it brings into the limelight the intrinsic human experience and rights to sex which she believes will help achieve her vision of a world ‘where all people are a the centre of reproductive health agenda.’ We can’t achieve sexual rights or wellbeing without the achievement of sexual pleasure! We couldn’t agree more – we fully support Tlaleng’s crucial work.

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah 💕

Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah is a Ghanaian feminist writer, Guardian newspaper journalist, director of communications and tactics at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development,  and the co founder of our favourite sex positive, pleasure inclusive blog ‘Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women.’

In her work for the Guardian newspaper Nana has written amazing pieces of work focusing on women’s rights and gender equality. Covering many important topics her articles are thought provoking and powerful feminist pieces of work. One of my personal favourites is the piece ‘Why my nude selfie is a feminist statement’ which explores the way in which our bodies, and posting nude pictures can become political statements in itself: ‘We have to love our bodies, pleasure bodies, and protect our bodies from those who seek to make them less than they are – or tell us how we must clothe our bodies, or inhabit public spaces.’

In the article Nana also discusses the sex positive blog ‘Adventures from the bedrooms of African women’: “I started Adventures from the Bedrooms of African Women in January 2009 with my college bestie, Malaka Gyekye. Our blog can be described as “sex positive” – we presume sexual pleasure, bodily autonomy and multiple orgasms to be the right of every African woman. We share our own deeply personal stories of sex, and encourage our contributors who come from across the African continent and its diaspora to also bare all.”

The blog is a plethora of amazing, inspiring, fun, thought-provoking sex positive, pleasure focused content. Using numerous media stories, the blog offers a multitude of relatable content which, when reading, bring pleasure in sex to the forefront, discuss a range of topics, provide sex education and make sex seem like something which is not medicalised, fear based or stigmatised.

Sex Education topics range from ‘Should I let him come on my face?’ to ‘Orgasms or female ejaculation.’ So, if you’re looking for a fun, pleasure positive place to learn which is inclusive and real, this is the place to go.

And of course, we couldn’t write this post without featuring our amazing black pleasure fellows who have inspired us with their work, passion and commitment to pleasure inclusive SRHR.

Dumiso Gatsha 💕

Dumi is proudly Pan African and unequivocally non-binary queer feminist working on eliminating the barriers between grassroots experiences and global policymaking. Dumi is the Founder of Success Capital Organisation; a queer, youth, feminist-led, managed and serving grassroots organisation working on strengthening and safeguarding youth agency and autonomy in human rights and sustainable development. A survivor of abuse in adolescence, diagnosed bi-polar amidst the height of a year-and-a-half long state of emergency; Dumi leads bodily autonomy & integrity work through community health & emergency referral services, local & traditional governance multi-stakeholder trainings, community participatory research and producing citizen documentaries on HIV, SRHR, GBV, Youth, Sex Work, & Migrant experiences.

Jovian Linda 💕

Jovian is a Social worker, Human rights defender and SRHR advocate. Jovian started Kisumu world of pleasure in 2018 where the major role was to advocate for women empowerment through sexual reproductive health education focusing on sex as a key point. Kisumu created a safe space where women could get together, vent, talk about sex, talk about family and most importantly body politics. Kisumu world of pleasure was able to be hosted by other organisation for wellness and well-being of women through which a partnership was created and now Jovian works with the LBQ in western Kenya as the programs Director.

Shira Natenda 💕

Shira Natenda, a feminist, writer, sex worker rights activist, a women human rights defender and SRHR Champion with a bachelor’s in Guidance and Counselling. Shira has vast experience in Gender Justice, Sexual Reproductive Health and Feminist Transformational leadership. She is Currently the Executive Director of Golden Centre for Women’s Rights Uganda a group for and by women migrant/refugee and native sex workers.
Shira believes in sexual freedom for everyone. She joined the Pleasure Project to deepen her understanding and enhance her Pleasure Advocacy skills in order to serve the community better. She hopes to train and mentor more pleasure advocates once the training is completed.

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We hope you have found this post inspiring and can incorporate some of the amazing work show cased above into your SRHR work, pleasure activism or everyday life! Check out our Global Mapping for Pleasure for more amazing pleasure work led by black people such as: Love Matters Africa.

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