Kylie Marais is a feminist anthropologist and a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, based in South Africa. Her doctoral research critically explores the sexual subjectivities of (self-identified) coloured women from Cape Town.
Kylie Marais is a feminist anthropologist and a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, based in South Africa. Her doctoral research critically explores the sexual subjectivities of (self-identified) coloured women from Cape Town. As part of her intersectional study, Kylie interviewed women about their sexual beliefs and experiences, which she compiled into individual “pleasure narratives”. Through these narratives, she gained intimate insights into how women came to “learn" about sex, sexuality, and sexual pleasure over time. The narratives not only revealed how sexual shame, silence, and violence constrained women’s sexual agency, but also how (unreliable) resources and sexual partners influenced the construction of their sexualities. As a Pleasure Fellow, Kylie wants to help others heal from sexual shame by educating and empowering them through pleasure-based knowledge. She believes that sexual pleasure can act as a powerful tool for (re)claiming sexual agency.
South Africa suffers from a “culture of sexual shame” which is evident through the silence and silencing of conversations about sex and sexuality.
Not only are South African women’s experiences of sexual violence silenced and rendered secretive, but (female) sexual pleasure remains unseen and unheard of in dominant discourses. In addition, like many other countries, South Africa provides limited access to comprehensive sexual education, where sexual pleasure is rarely included. Instead, discussions related to sex and sexual pleasure carry stigma and taboos that stem from our complex racialised history of colonisation and apartheid. By providing context-specific and culturally relevant content about sexual pleasure has the potential to transform not only individuals and relationships, but can also assist in challenging problematic cultural / religious / patriarchal norms. Kylie intends to improve the state of sexual pleasure discourses and comprehensive sexuality education in South Africa; to create an online platform (and eventually offer physical products) that promotes pleasure education for all — regardless of gender. race, class, sexuality, disability, or any other intersection. Her project will be called "Pleasur-ed: an A-Z guide to Sexual Pleasure”, which involves creating a website that educates people about sexual pleasure. The website will provide an A-Z catalogue of sexual pleasure, teaching individuals about the key concepts relating to sexual pleasure while also including links to additional relevant resources.