A Chinese lesbian activist shows photos from her three way fake ‘wedding’, held in a Beijing restaurant to open up discussion on restrictive social and sexual norms; a Nicaraguan consultant tells the tale of how he was told the sexual and reproductive strategy he’d been commissioned to write contained ‘too much sex’; two Indian sex worker rights activists trade stories of hapless NGO efforts to ‘rehabilitate’ sex workers; and a Nigerian activist explains how she used discussions of multiple orgasms as a means to spark discussions on sex, pleasure, relationships, intimacy, polygamy and female genital mutilation with married couples in the northern Nigerian state of Minna, where Sharia law has been in place since 2000. These and other conversations brought together over 70 activists, academics, donors and development practitioners from more than 25 countries at a workshop at the Institute of Development Studies, in April 2008. The workshop was hosted by the IDS Sexuality and Development programme and co-sponsored by the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Research Programme Consortium, both of which are funded by the UK’s Department for International Development. It sought to explore the linkages between sexuality and the development industry. Workshop discussions sought to uncover the impacts of development on sexuality and to move towards a more constructive engagement. This special issue originates from this workshop, and includes contributions from a number of other activists and practitioners working on sexuality and sexual rights.