In The Wawa Complex, we understand pleasure, intimacy, and desire both in relation to and beyond the sexual. We ask contributors to explore the textural, social, and structural elements of our experiences and desires, and to challenge simplistic and scientific understandings of sexual or intimate pleasure as serving a reproductive or transactional end. These conversations take on additional relevance for queer people and people in non-normative relationships, whose lives exist beyond traditional family structure or narrow reproductive modes, and whose ability to experience intimacy and pleasure is limited by their visibility, mobility, and access to private and public space.
The issue’s title, The Wawa Complex, is inspired by Haifa Wehbe’s 2006 song, Bous El Wawa (Kiss the Owie), which stirred so much controversy since then, opening the floodgates for numerous discussions about pleasure and intimacy in Arabic-speaking societies. It has also revealed the complex that our societies suffer from when speaking whenever the issues of pleasure and sex are raised. This is why we decided to adopt this name within a feminist, queer context, for this complex has a deeper impact on our lives as feminists and queers more than others. We wanted to tackle the feeling of guilt that follows pleasure, that injury, or ‘owie,’ that we […] and fuses into our existence and experiences until we free ourselves from it.
Featured on the cover is Moroccan writer and filmmaker, Abdellah Taïaa.
Interview by Khalid Abdel-Hadi
Photos by Teresa Suárez
Styling by Marwa Asserraji
Makeup by Hicham Ababsa
Shoot assistant: MaxX
Cover design by Morcos Key
Cover designs assembled by Alaa Sadi
Editor-in-chief: Khalid Abdel-Hadi
This issue asks: How do sensual experiences alter memories of the past, experiences of the present, and imagined possibilities of the future? What do we learn from the broad spectrum of sexual and asexual, romantic and aromantic, conventional and kinky relations? What power structures – institutional and societal – constrain experiences of intimacy and pleasure, and how do these inspire creative methods of subversion? Who/what defines the limits of our range of experiences?
This issue features conversations with artists and public figures who call into question the meaning of intimacy and how it is represented. They discuss how personal backgrounds shape their understandings of intimacy and what tensions emerge when intimacy is framed for the public. Additionally, they speak to the range of pragmatic and political choices and strategies that inform how they navigate intimacy in their work.
Authors and artists capture moments of intimacy and movement that invite readers to reflect on the specificities and pluralities of the personal. In addition to describing feelings of pleasure and twinges of desire, they also convey the ways that hurt and trauma linger in the body and arrest the mind. They invite readers to move beyond narrow definitions of love to consider forms of platonic, familial, community, and self-intimacy.
Contributors further understand the dynamics of pleasure and intimacy unfolding within and across particular social and political contexts. They reveal the ways in which representations and languages of pleasure have lasting effects as they circulate through different contexts, shifting meaning and opening new forms of oppression and subversion. Additionally, contributors show the ways that structures of power manifest in the most personal domains of our in-person and online social lives and interactions.
If you would like to add to the conversation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Featured artwork by Senegalese-born Kuwaiti musician and conceptual artist Fatima Al Qadiri, titled ‘Cell Phone’, 2011.