"Don't take drugs, stay in school and always get the best sex of your life."
The first two we hear often, but the last piece of advice is rarely shared with women and girls around the world. Usually, they are told to celebrate and consider a whole host of things about themselves (economic and social possibilities) – but sex is not usually one of them.
Women are being told to get their money, but is anyone telling them to "get their orgasms"? Approximately 50 percent of heterosexual women fake orgasms (with one study putting it as high as 80 percent), so this might be much-needed advice.
Sex positivity as a frame of mind
To seemingly "sell sex" as a means of empowerment might seem somewhat reckless, as we live in a world which not only burdens women economically, politically and socially, but also often threatens their bodily security and autonomy and represents a constant threat for women.
In a world where it is as sexually dangerous for a woman to live in a war zone as it is to walk down the street, should one not be teaching young girls that their body (and subsequently their sexuality) is something they should own?
Within South Africa (and the world in general), the question: "Who owns your vagina?" is one that plays out time and time again, a continuously contentious conversation.There are a lot of ways that women are constantly told they do not own their bodies.
Notions of pleasure and agency are a key part of empowerment and bodily autonomy, and this needs to be highlighted as much as any notions of social and economic empowerment.
These conversations are needed, in a context where a study shows that a third of men have admitted to rape. We exist in a world where a global gag rule has been put in place, putting women at risk – especially within South Africa.
In a 2011 paper, a group of Stanford researchers examined the so-called Mexico City Policy's impact on sub-Saharan Africa, and found that it was associated with an increase in abortions – in the developing world, approximately 7-million women are treated each year for complications that result from trying to end a pregnancy unsafely.
This is a continent where governments are still trying to fight female genital mutilation and child marriages, and in some cases not succeeding. Within South Africa, there is a massive problem within the school system – as showcased in a Human Rights Watch report entitled "Scared At School" that identified rape, sexual harassment and abuse as "an inevitable part of the school environment". All these speak to the idea of a lack of ownership by women of their own bodies.
Notions of pleasure and agency are a key part of empowerment and bodily autonomy, and this needs to be highlighted as much as any notions of social and economic empowerment. Having orgasms is the sexual equivalent of becoming a CEO or succeeding in the political realm – it's the pinnacle of bodily ownership.
Sex positivity is a particular brand of empowerment that needs to be engaged with, even though sex-positive feminism is sometimes seen as the tequila-fuelled party girl of the feminist soirée, all jello shots and dental dams – the ones who burst into conference spaces/workshops/marches on women's rights screaming, "Yassssssssss, queen!"
Having great sex goes hand-in-hand with the right to not be raped, not to have to trade sex for education, to have access to proper healthcare, and to ensure one's physical wellbeing.
There is much more to the notion of sex for sex's sake outside of just being "wild and free".
The idea is the delicious chewy centre of a grander paradigm of owning one's body – not only to make money or art but also to make love (or just have raw dirty sex, or even no sex at all – whatever floats your boat).
Having great sex goes hand-in-hand with the right to not be raped, not to have to trade sex for education, to have access to proper healthcare and to ensure one's physical wellbeing.
It is foolhardy to divorce one notion from the other, because they are all part of one super-goal – it is the cherry on top of the extremely delicious "my body is my own" cake.
And to the women who are being "celebrated" this month, take your poledancing classes and also carry your alert whistle. Say no to bad sex as much as you would a badly paying job, or being passed over for a promotion because it is a "boys' club" in corporate.
If your lover is trash, drag them for their inability to make you come, as much as you would drag someone for their contentious choices at the municipal elections. Do all this because who owns your body is as important as who holds your purse strings, exerts social pressure on you, or has their political will.
Ride those genitals all the way to your rights.