illustrations by Motlatsi Khosi

The erotic illustrations designed to get us talking about good sex

The erotic is a phenomenon that has purposefully been made hidden. With the imposition of Christianity and Roman-Dutch law during colonialization came the strict distinction between the public and private lives, where the latter would be strictly define and restrict understandings of sexuality at the time.  With the introduction of a constitution, rights would now be given to previously disadvantaged groups such as woman, homosexual and transsexual identities that would no longer be marginalized in the public sphere but also acknowledged as being legitimate sexual beings. Yet such achievements would be heavily dampened and the expression of sexuality becoming a risk would find itself further at risk with the rise of HIV/AIDs and other sexually transmitted infections. These infections would further push conservatism in the fight against HIV as abstinence would be taught and the virus incorrectly associated with being black or gay.

A different tactic would be used in the struggle against HIV/AIDs with the focus on prevention. Youth and other vulnerable groups would be pushed to protect themselves and the phrase “condomise” would be the go to word when it comes to talking about sex. The major tactic in this struggle would be the need to talk about the virus but most importantly the need to talk about sex. Parents would be encouraged to talk to their children about sex, wives talk about sex with their husbands and the same sex relations would no longer be something to kept private and had to be talked about openly.

Though much has been gained in the fight we are still dealing with high rates of infection and a stigma to victims and discrimination against LGBTQI persons still persists. A new phase in the struggle is emerging, one which no longer just talks about safe sex practice but one in the discourse of sex positivity. Sexuality would need to be talked about, not just as something to be protected but also enjoyed!

Such movements are taking place within South African shores with the creation of the YouTube Series “Woman on Sex” that features interviews of woman and their experiences with sex. With discussions ranging from faking an orgasm to looking at understandings of virginity, this series tackles female sexuality head on. Even with the release of the successful local film  “Happiness is a four letter word” which tackles 3 women each within a distinct relationship, from being engaged, having an affair and moving from stranger to stranger. Here the women are seen in charge of their sexuality, actively seeking their pleasures in an attempt at happiness.

Face-lips-drips-blue

It is this charge that finds itself at play in the illustrations of Motlatsi Khosi, a Philosophy lecturer from the University of South Africa. Though her art education ceased at Matric, she continued her love of the arts through her playful Erotic illustrations. Through her work she wanted to tackle issues of gender and sexuality outside of the written and academic sphere. Through her work she wanted to challenge the seriousness and fear surrounding sex and youth through teasing and eye catching visual representations.

If we are to take sex seriously then we need to closely examine the things that tackle head on the things that tickle our fancy. Her work presents us with bright, high contrasting colours that immediately catch the eye. By tricking the eye at first glance the colours seem to suggest that these are meant for the consumption of children. Then the mind is forced to take hold as suggestive imagery takes the minds to more carnal places. The artist aims to return the innocence back to the domain of the sexual.

A common theme in her works is that of the drip. Female sexuality is encapsulated for the artist in the liquid form. When a woman is aroused her body lactates with desire. Her mouth waters, her skin perspires, her vagina trickles in delight.  It is through this image water that male and female pleasure are no longer seen as direct opposite of giver and receiver. It is through this elemental form where a man’s enjoyment is represented through the culmination of ejaculate, that male and female are equal in the representation of their delight. There is no dominant or submissive only equals in the consumption of pleasure.

The works use the subtle suggestive metaphors such as big thick lips floating within a sea of playful sperm or the subtle silhouettes of inner lips with a single happy tear making its great escape, it is up to the viewer to decide how deep their willing to let their mind go.

This work seeks to get a blush from its viewer but also pull from the deep recesses of the conservative mind what it is they find desirable about the act of sex. It also seeks to start the conversations on how we seek to represent sexuality particularity as a means of empowerment. Sexuality can no longer be seen as perverse or something to be hidden, as violence against the most vulnerable such as woman children and LGBTI is further amplified through acts of silence. Such is exemplified by the 1 in 9 protest entitled   “Sexual violence = silence” that sought to create a safe space for woman to speak up and share their trauma, their bodies no longer a site of shame but defiance.

We need to also break the silence surrounding sexuality so that the discussion can be had over what it means to be agents in control of our sexuality.  It is through the realm of the erotic that we can begin such discussion because knowing what it is we desire is very much apart of the South African condition, defining who we are and how we want it.

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