Interview: Srushti Mahamuni on Pleasure and Loving Yourself

Writer Anshumi Jhaveri interviews Srushti Mahamuni : Founder of a pleasure positive blog focusing on Sex Positivity and Sex Education, about the importance of understanding your body normalizing pleasure for womxn.

By: Anshumi Jhaveri

A: Tell me a bit about yourself!

S: I was born and raised in India till I was 21, and from there I have lived around everywhere from Europe to Africa. I did my masters in Gender Studies, which was the best decision of my life. I dream of a world where women have a right to their own bodies, and then their lives. I have worked in the field of international development and women's rights. I recently started a pleasure positive blog that focuses on sex positivity, and sex education.

A: When did you first become passionate about gender equality, and social injustice?

S: I’ve always been a fighter. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house where my brother and I were treated the same. However, the minute I left the bubble of my house, I was treated like a “girl”. The seeds for wanting to fight for gender justice were planted right there in my heart. I attended a course on feminism in college, and I realized I wasn’t the only one. I found a way to name everything that I had been experiencing. From there, I realized how much work had to be done and that’s how my journey began.

A: How does your Indian heritage impact your work on a daily basis?

S: In many different ways, and it depends on what I am doing. Part of my heritage was my upbringing, and I had very liberal parents. This gave me the confidence to own my truth. Intersectionality is the biggest part of my life and my work; I work for an organization known as Daya, which works to empower South Asian survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Houston My Indian heritage allows me to instinctively understand the cultural dynamics that South Asian survivors grapple with.

A: For sure. In the workplace, there is often less hype for women and women of color specifically. What inspires you to keep going and doing what you do?

S: What inspires me the most to keep going is the badass women of color around me. Being able to work with these women, day in and day out. The women in my life are so important- I have a strong support system. The energy that I get from my sister-friends around the world and the women around me, is more than enough fuel to keep me going. As women of color, it is not a choice to fight. It isn’t a switch that I can turn off at any point, it’s my everyday reality. I look at the world through a feminist lens, and I can’t let sexism and racism slide even when I am tired- in order to survive, we have to call things out. It’s the only way we can make change happen.

A: Based off of that, what advice would you give to young activists and women of color?

S: Get your squad. You need people that have your back. Female solidarity and female friendships are so important. Don’t compete with other women- there are already so many forces against us, that if we turn against each other- we only move backwards. Also, make yourself bigger. We are taught to make ourselves smaller, and to go with the norm. Take up space- it may be uncomfortable, but this is me. Be loud, be big, have that accent, eat with your hands - be proud of who you are. Yeah, those are my top pieces of advice.

A: You are very vocal about issues such as sex-positive sex education and the importance of pleasure. Why is that?

S: Having grown up in India, I saw that sex education does not happen. No one talks about pleasure- we need to reduce the stigma and the shame around this, because women are feeling guilty for feeling good. As I got older, I saw men being praised for having sex, whereas the only message from my culture to me was to get educated and get married. Women are not exploring their own identity, and that is why I started.

A: What does the blog highlight?

S: The purpose of the blog is to highlight pleasure. But even before we talk about pleasure we need to talk about boundaries. If you haven’t spent time with yourself, and don't know what your own boundaries are, how do you set boundaries with other people? How do we know when those boundaries have been crossed? We can’t begin to understand consent if we don’t understand ourselves. Pleasure starts with looking at your body and understanding it. If I own my body, I won’t be ashamed of it. You do not have to look a certain way to accept your bodies.

A: Understanding your boundaries is so important. You work with women who have dealt with violence every day. How could the blog make a change in their lives?

S: The blog is not just discussing pleasure, but body positivity, and comprehensive sex education. The target group of the blog is honestly everyone, but specifically teenage girls. When we understand these things young, we understand our bodies. Bodies don’t exist in a vacuum, but often in a context of violence- and this is never talked about, especially in South Asian communities.

We carry this baggage, and the fact that it is not talked about is what creates our flawed relationships with our bodies. It isn’t an accident that we don’t talk about this. Shame and stigma is normalized. . To normalize pleasure is the goal of the blog- a world in which self acceptance, sex positivity and body positivity are the norm. And that's why I do what I do.