Resource From Sexuality Policy Watch: SexPolitics - Reports From The Front Lines
SexPolitics - Reports from the Front Lines is the outcome of a project launched by Sexuality Policy Watch (SPW) in 2004—a transnational, cross-cultural research initiative that we hoped would capture some dynamics of sexual politics in our time.
The perceived need for such an effort grew out of the political contradictions we are experiencing. On the one hand, the revival of religious extremisms of all kinds, the “war on terror” with its rationalization of unrelenting militarism and torture, the shadow of US military hegemony, and an atmosphere of unbridled power create unusually dangerous times for those committed to social justice, peace and human rights—particularly the rights to health, bodily integrity, and pleasure. They are dangerous in very particular ways for sexual and gender outlaws, whether they be gays and lesbians, transgender and intersex people, unmarried youth, sex workers, or heterosexual women trying to live a “non-traditional” social and erotic existence.
At the same time, global transformations of recent decades have opened up important new spaces in almost all societies and institutions for advocacy and activism in defense of gender equity and sexual freedom. Increasingly extensive global flows—not merely of capital, but of people, technologies, images, and ideas—have made possible not only the spaces of local struggle in which the politics of contested bodies have increasingly taken place, but also the emergence of important and growing transnational movements and activist networks. These networks have begun to change the contemporary landscape of sexual and reproductive health and rights, opening up new dialogues and debates in arenas as local as clinics and brothels and as global as the United Nations. And they produced SPW itself and its collective work, including this book.
The project that ultimately became SexPolitics started with a broad meta-question: How and why are gender and sexuality being used in political power struggles within and across countries and institutions? Researchers for 10 case studies - 8 country settings (Brazil, Egypt, India, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Turkey, and Vietnam) and 2 institutional ones (the United Nations and the World Bank) - were asked to investigate this question through three analytical streams: hegemonic discourses (about the meanings of “manhood” and “womanhood,” sexuality, youth, etc.); political processes (local, national and international); and key actors (politicians, religious and medical authorities, NGOs). Then case study authors identified what they considered the most critical sexuality-related issue or issues in their particular country or institutional setting and examined these issues from the perspectives they determined would provide the greatest insights.
As a result of this open-ended process, the case studies reflect great differences in theme and emphasis, some focusing more on HIV/AIDS, some on reproductive health, some on issues of gender and sexual identity. Yet common threads bind them together as well. First is the shared sense that the local and the global are always and necessarily intertwined and that our studies needed to show this two-way reverberation. Second is an understanding that sexual politics are always on some level about power and that attempts to destabilize traditional gender and sexual relations will threaten established political, religious and familial hierarchies. Last but not least is the commitment of all the case study authors, and SPW as a transnational program, not just to doing research for its own sake but also to furthering an agenda of change that brings together social justice and erotic justice. We seek to build a world where pleasure and well-being are no longer exceptional or the prerogative of a few.
Download SexPolitics - Reports from the Frontline here.