A prestigious international literary prize has been awarded to AUT Associate Professor Sharyn Graham Davies for her work editing a book which explores sex and sexuality in Indonesia.
Davies and co-editor Dr Linda Rae Bennett, from the University of Melbourne, have been awarded the 2015 Ruth Benedict Book Prize for “Outstanding Edited Volume” for Sex and Sexualities in Contemporary Indonesia: Sexual Politics, Health, Diversity, and Representations.
The book project evolved out of conference hosted by AUT in 2011 where 17 of the world’s leading scholars on sexuality in Indonesia were invited to write a chapter.
“We wanted this book to broaden people’s thinking about sex and sexuality. People tend to think about sexuality as just sex, and we felt it was really important to show that it’s also about fertility and infertility, HIV, domestic violence, discrimination, pleasure and identity. It was especially important for Indonesia where sex is often not talked about publicly and so, for instance, one of the consequences is that so many women are suffering with STIs. We wanted to get a conversation going,” says Davies.
“We learned a lot through the process of editing this book. One of the things that stands out for me is that sex is as vibrant in Indonesia as anywhere and given the right space people will talk about it.”
“I also learned about how sexual shame can be so traumatic. For instance, many women in Indonesia are infertile because they have STIs but when they go to the Dr, the Dr is too embarrassed to even say the word vagina, let alone examine one, that these women go on suffering in silence.”
Davies says receiving the award is “an absolute career highlight”.
“We knew we were nominated but with hundreds of books in competition we had no idea we even had a shot. And it is great especially for all the Indonesian contributors whose work often doesn’t get recognised.”
The Ruth Benedict Prize is presented each year at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting to acknowledge excellence in a scholarly book written from an anthropological perspective about a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered topic.