In the latest issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, a quarterly journal pubished by the Guttmacher Institute, there are two articles that focus on the role of pleasure and arousal in safer sex behaviors.
One, “Women’s Experiences with Anal Sex: Motivations and Implications for STD Prevention,” found that women in the study often engaged in anal sex out of a desire to pleasure their partners or increase intimacy in their relationships. When women perceived condoms as decreasing pleasure, they were much less likely to use them for anal sex. The authors conclude that more work should be done to find ways of promoting safe and pleasurable sex.
The other, “Arousal Loss Related to Safer Sex and Risk of Pregnancy: Implications for Women’s and Men’s Sexual Health” reports again the finding that people who perceive safer sex as a buzz-kill are less likely to practice it. However, this article shows an interesting comparison: while 34% of respondents reported a lack of arousal related to the use of safer-sex products, an even bigger proportion (46%) said the risk of unintended pregnancy lessened or eliminated their arousal. This suggests that for nearly half of the study participants, eliminating the risk of unintended pregnancy was essential for them to feel turned on.
Of course, this just reinforces what we already knew – feeling safe and feeling sexy go hand in hand. But as long as there are people out there who don’t want to use a safer sex technique because they think it’s a turn off, there’s still sexy work to be done. Because after all, if my lips moisten at the smell of baking cookies, why shouldn’t they do the same at the sound of a condom wrapper ripping open?