The Power of Pleasure

Morning plenary Experiences of Resistance and Collective Organizing to Transform Economic Power showed how different grassroots movements across the globe have been challenging the current overarching system.

Plenary take aways:

  1. Include men. Given from the rural organizing perspective: when women are meeting to organize themselves – men tend to step aside – we have to educate and include them to get results.
  2. Local production is necessary for healthy food – it also provides autonomy.
  3. SOLIDARITY is needed from all movements. The 2000+ literally all stood up together in support of sex work as work.
  4. The highlight for me was: When a woman chooses to sell sex, she has already chosen to empower herself economically. Sex work, by definition is NOT trafficking. Sex work is work and should be recognized as such.

Reflection: a) The speaker from Burma, (name) who spoke about being a sex worker, created a moment where I felt a shift in my world view. After all the work that organizations have done around human trafficking, I held the assumption that if a woman was selling sex, it was because she was being forced to do it. In some ways (or on a larger scale), I still believe that the system we live in holds women hostage. However, I also hear loud and clear that sex work should not continue to be criminalized since it is another way for another human being (the state, the system etc) to take control over a woman’s body.

Breakouts: Women Led Asset Development (WLAD). Connecting Contours: Sexuality, economic power, and development (CC). The POWER of PLEASURE (PoP).

Take aways:

  1. (WALD) Cooperatives have united women. Cooperatives build a community and allow women to organize around community needs and open a door for realization of potential within the community.
  2. (WALD) Money is not enough. Leaky bucket – money won’t always stay in the villages so dropping in a small (or large) amount of money won’t necessarily be the answer. Capacity building in the form of training and organizing can help keep assets within the communities.
  3. (CC & PoP) Sexuality is central to the way that people are marginalized. Sexual hierarchies exist in tandem with social hierarchies. “When bodies are disabled, non-reproductive or counterproductive, they are not able to partake in the market as it is understood.”
  4. (PoP) Pleasure is at the heart of sexual hierarchy. Pleasure becomes an elite issue.
  5. (PoP) Feminists are afraid to talk about sexuality and pleasure. It’s difficult in the women’s movement to talk about pleasure because we have internalized an idea of the good woman. We want to be respected as feminists – not perceived as women that are thinking about our own desires. (Reflection: true for women not in the feminist movement as well)
  6. (PoP) We can have the right to say no only when we have the right to say yes! Meaning, if women don’t feel empowered to say yes (because they will be judged/called a slut etc) they won’t necessarily feel they have the right to say NO in other scenarios.
  7. (PoP) Sexual empowerment is linked to all other types of empowerment and vice versa. There is no such thing as separate empowerment – “If you can’t get yourself to have positive experience in your body, how can you have empowerment somewhere else?”

Reflections: A few things a) CC was run by CREA (I love this org!) – and they used a world cafe! Each participant sat down at a table and talked about a question by taking on the role of either: a sex worker, lesbian, trans person, or disabled person. I love the use of world cafe model HOWEVER I also realized how much stronger it is when the people at the tables speak from personal experience.  b) A few things have been running through my mind while roaming the streets of Istanbul: How can the world use the cooperative model on a larger system? Would it work (what would success look like)? Could we develop collaboration on a larger scale? How can we use common systems rather than privatized systems? As the world’s population increases, we are going to have to learn how – and while we may need ‘alone time’ and ‘privacy’ we also need to create common spaces to enjoy the world we live in…. c) PoP: Being comfortable within our bodies and with our own sexuality can be a key to becoming empowered economically, emotionally etc. What does empowerment truly mean? Cheryl (Managing Director of the Eileen Fisher Community Foundation)  talked about it as accessing the energy that lives within us. Sexuality can be another way to access that energy. d) PoP was PACKED – it was one of the only sessions at the forum that focused on the pleasure of sexuality and how that was connected to women’s empowerment – not just ‘reproductive rights’ or ‘sexual health’ or ‘sexual rights’ or ‘sex work’ etc…

IT WAS A PACKED DAY. I left exhausted and inspired….

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