Last week in Delhi there was an international conference that urged the world to measure progress not as a reduction in bad things (poverty, illness, death) but an increase in good things (happiness, satisfaction, well being). The rather unexciting conference title 4th OECD World Forum on Statistics, Knowledge and Policy had lots of more exciting speakers and topics; how to measure women’s empowerment or well nurtured children and what should the future global development be.
Bhutan is leading the world in their own use of a Gross National Happiness Index which has been used as the goal in national planning; so rather than make decisions based on gross domestic product or income levels they have been making plans with the goal of enhanced national happiness, satisfaction and well-being. It’s wonderful to hear about a government making decisions based on well-being instead of economic growth. The World Happiness Report highlights that whilstU.S. GNP per capita has risen by a factor of three since 1960, while measures of average happiness have remained essentially unchanged over the half-century.
Of course the challenge is measuring it. Death is a fairly uniform event to measure across countries. Happiness ..a little more subjective. However that has not stopped the people at the ‘Better Life Initiative’ from giving it a go. Using a survey across countries came up with the the usual suspects in the top three; Denmark, Norway and Switzerland on ‘life satisfaction’. Switzerland also came number one on ‘health’ however this is only measured by life expectancy.
But it got our little brains at The Pleasure Project thinking big thoughts. If all these large thinkers are talking seriously about measuring life satisfaction – should they not be able thinking about pleasure. Couldn’t a new measure of sexual health be safe sexual satisfaction. After all the point is not just to have sex and not get a disease whilst doing it – but ALSO ENJOY yourself.
We have made this point once before…when we said ‘“I would love to see women’s enjoyment of pleasure, ability to articulate and ask for what they want sexually be a standard indicator for empowerment. I would also love the correlation or causal relationship between other empowerment indicators (ability to speak up, vote, leave the house etc.) and enjoyment of sex to be tested. I will die a happy woman when The World Bank starts using it as a standard indicator.‘ in this report on the ‘intimate connection’ between sexuality and empowerment.
Andrea Cornwall makes it better when she highlights what transformational change means for women beyond standard indicators of economic development.
So maybe its not such a far off goal after all. The problem will of course be how to measure pleasure..’ Was it good for you?’ just won’t do.