January 2011

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Wrapping up our stint at Jaipur Literature Festival The Pleasure Project wanted to commend three people who have won our hearts this week..

We heart Candice Bushall, author of the “Sex in the City”  novel and many others since. She is not scared to tackle sexual taboos head on in her work and I told her so.  The Pleasure Project caught up with her at the Jaipur Lit Fest.

Candace said that she felt she did not do enough and wants to do much more to discuss  good safe sex in her books. So lets watch this space. Here is a little from Sex in the City with an unusual take that does not exactly big up the pleasure but shows a novel incentive to promote condoms…

“The condom killed romance but it has made it a lot easier to get laid” said a friend. “There is something about a condom that for women makes it like sex that does not count. There’s no skin-to-skin contact so they go to bed with you more easily”

(Sex in the City, Abacus, Candice Bushall, 1999)

Just before catching Candace, The Pleasure Project’s intrepid reporter pushed her way to the front of the ecstatic crowd at the “Pulp Fiction” event to ask catch Pritham Chakravarthy. Pritham has translated hundreds of Tamil ” pulp fiction” including lots of hot sex. As she said and sex was never brought to India by any other “decadent” nation, as many are fond of stating, but is here for large audiences every day in pulp fiction.  Pritham said it is sad but true pulp fiction authors like their sexy scenes but rarely include safer sex, in fact she could not remember one from the books she translated. But as she said “we should try it!”.

But our lifetime pleasure propagandist award goes to Jerry Pinto who when talking about his new  book told an entertaining “condom moment” tale. He was talking about how his wonderful mother would torment his teenage self  by finding saucy magazines behind the toilet and teasing him. However she would also tell him to have lots of sex in college “that’s what you do there” but to use a condom every time to avoid getting a girl pregnant.

Three Cheers for Auntie Pinto !

Round of applause for Jerry, Pritham and Candace for being creative and daring – with the aim of  good.safe.sex. clearly in mind. The Pleasure Project left Jaipur Literature Festival satisfied that lots of writers know how to do it right but there is still lots more potential for action.

And leaving Jaipur on the train – we saw lots of Pulp for sale…….

We really wanted to get some opinions from the renowned writer Abha Dawesar at Jaipur Lit Festival on the subject of writing good.safe.sex. She is an author who is brave enough to keep the sex in her books, it’s all in there; naughty sex, taboo sex, cross generational and cross caste sex, and last and not least queer sex. She also writes  safe sex (hurrah). In “Babyji” there is a hilarious and tension filled school sex education session and in “Miniplanner” a man is complimented for his ability to unroll a condom well.

“Nathan was a masterful lover. He even managed to eroticise the opening of tubes of lube and the rolling on of condoms. He used my body any which way to please himself (………..)

“I want to give you more pleasure than you have ever received”

I wanted to weep. I wasn’t used to such attention and such intimacy. It felt too precious.”

(Miniplanner, 2000)

We caught up behind one of the large festival performance tents and tried to ignore the excitement inside being generated by a session called the “Ups and downs of Himalayan relationships”. Setting aside this noisy and strangely appropriate backdrop, we started by exploring why it can be easier to write explicit sex scenes set out of India, or away from home. She felt that “Indian writers are still understated about sex” and could do more to bridge the gap between private lives and public selves.

Abha admitted however that it was easier for her to set the sex and condom scenes at a distance, and wrote her “condom moment scene” in New York, because “that’s the reality”, but was worried about how the mechanics of the act would get in the way of her writing. She wondered whether

“Writers avoid writing about condoms because it is distracting and mechanical”

We agreed that  it’s time to challenge more writers to write that condom moment, to eloquently deal with the real life mechanics  of the packet, the unrolling..the pulling out.  Wouldn’t we all love to read some Sci Fi, Pulp fiction or even murder mystery condom moments. We need those skills of imagination and empathy to sexy up safer sex.

But how do writers jump off that particular cliff? Leap over this self censorship to write that perfect performance of safer sex, leading by example with wit, romance and beauty?

“Paris protects love” is showing us the way, Abha felt, a safer sex campaign that uses Paris’s love  of its status as the city of love to encourage it citizens to look after each other. She felt that is “united in its message, without cleaving between good health and romance” and it works because it hints at the story and appeals to Parisians who need to have love as part of the sexual script.

So now we had the perfect script but how to do “it” as a writer and construct that perfect condom moment. Abha said she takes all her concerns about reactions to her writing and compartmentalises them – keeping them away from her writing brain. Leaving that internal censor fiddling awkwardly with the condom packet safely occupied elsewhere.

And when you do write sex you can get surprising reactions from quarters you did not expect. Usually positive thought Abha, after all she mused we don’t often know the private life of the people we know. Recently a teacher at a school re-union commended her “guts, for writing the way you do” and young people often write to her on her website saying how helpful it is to see their experiences articulated for them.

“Writing is writing that reality” she felt.

We think it is wonderful that Abha is articulating desires that many feel in isolation. And we give her a lifetime award from The Pleasure Project as a pleasure propagandist for writing yet another great condom scene….delayed gratification……here it is for your pleasure…..

I pulled a condom from the side table and pulled it on.

“Guide me. Will you?” I said to her.

She held my penis in her hand and slid it in. I could feel it rub past the barbell end. It did not feel half bad. It took an endless amount of grinding, swaying and hammering to reach satisfaction, but she seemed to have a good time because of it. I was exhausted when I finally shot. I pulled myself out.”

(Miniplanner, 2000)

The Pleasure Project’s new T – shirts were a hit at the Jaipur Literature Festival, where “The Great Wall of Vagina” made the best dressed list.

Telhelka, a national news, culture and politics magazine said……

“For all their trying, NGO’s never have good tees. This we know. But we are here to learn and when we spotted this ribald t-shirt, we were jealous. Meet Anne who works for a sexy safe-sex campaign called The Pleasure Project..”

Telhelka in Jaipur – the coverage is here

More tomorrow on writing safer sex..

I’m at The Jaipur Literature Festival in India – I want to explore if the writing community has skills that are lacking in Public Health to promote Good. Safe. Sex. After all creating new narratives is what we want more of in sex education.  Could writers better than sex educators re-claim the sexy in safer sex ?

An ideal person to first talk to is A Revathi who I spoke to today. She has just published her life story “The Truth  about me”.

A Revathi spoke in a session about her life journey as a Hijra and being born a boy but feeling and behaving as a girl, and the transformation to now being a woman. I asked her about her unique perspective living  as a man, then as a woman and also her work as a sex worker and then sex educator at Sangama Trust .I felt that she might have some wisdom on how the rest of us could negotiate safer sex.

Revathi’s feeling was that sex education needs to be about the whole person, that children in schools needed to learn about difference and be aware of other ways of living. She wished that she had known more about choosing alternative ways to live at school and that there were others like her. She talked about the violence and abuse that she had suffered and how that came from her lack of knowledge. Safer sex both mentally and physically, and protecting yourself  is more easily achieved when we have self esteem and confidence.

Revathi is inspiring in her book for her ability to deal with a hostile world and transcend our expectations of gender. Her determination to fulfill her desire and personal growth against all challenges is stunning. But the first lesson for me this weekend is that this writer through her negotiation of huge challenges in life highlighted how having legal status as a person and  confidence in your chosen identity are the foundations for protecting your self – against rape, physical violence but also with condoms.

Last January we reported from India with the comment “Sex is time bomb waiting to go off in India”.


Well it seems it just did.

The national Indian magazine Outlook just reported it’s annual sex survey this week – and it has some interesting findings…..

–   34% of respondents has had a one night stand in the past 3 years

–   Mumbai is the place most suited to one night stands (55%)

–   52% think a relationship purely for physical needs is okay between consenting adults

–  43% say social networksing websites improve their chances of casual sex

–   17% have had sex with a facebook friend

–   67% cannot imagine enjoying casual sex with a foreigner (sob……)

–   And hurrah 58% carry contraceptives and condoms in anticipation of a casual encounter..

Now we are not sure about the selection bias and sample size of this survey…..but it does show a desire to have casual sex and play it safe when you do.  See the rest of the survey here.


A Pleasurable 2011 from all of us at The Pleasure Project

you to all our fans, friends and fellow pleasure propagandists for your support over the year – here is our round up of the year of Pleasure and Safer Sex ..

January – Sari Rippers in Jaipur

The Pleasure Project has had an exciting year spreading the joy of good safe sex all over the world. We started the year in the UK and India. In Brighton, UK we attended a meeting about pleasure and women’s empowerment – we debated the links for example “Can sexual pleasure be a mark of women’s empowerment?”. We vote yes.

Whereas over in India in Jaipur, India we interviewed Shooba De, one of India’s best known authors. She writes racy novels and is a vocal advocate on the right of Indian women to have pleasure. She told us that “sex is a bomb waiting to go off in India” and that Indian women need to start asking for pleasure and feeling they deserve it.

We voted yes Then we urged her to include sexy descriptions of safer sex in her “sari rippers” that get huge audiences in India.

February – Excitement in Ethiopia

By February we were preaching our pleasure message at the “4th African Conference on Sexual Rights” in Addis with Support, the female condom people, where we advocated how female condoms can be as exciting as sex toys. A theme we have been building on through the year and here is a film made with our help. We were also excited to see a whole session at the conference devoted for desire and pleasure.

April – Our Full Page Spread in PLAYBOY

W e hit the high spot with mainstream attention from playboy magazine in April, with a feature on porn, safer sex and women directors.

May –Vaginas in Delhi

Delhi did us proud in the heat of May with lots of keen vagina artists. They filled not one for two 20 metre canvases in the centre of Delhi by following the instructions to “Draw a Vagina, your vagina, one you know well or your vision of one” to add to our ever expanding community art piece. The interpretations included the more literal, women on our backs portrayed as the Himalayas, to the more abstract vagina as …ummm…..octopus.

July – Playing with ourselves in Vienna

The high point of our year however was the amount of attention our Good. Safe. Sex campaign got at the AIDS 2010 conference in Vienna, Austria.  All we did was highlight that masturbation is safe and more people should do it….but maybe what got people talking was highlighting that people do and can have sex at AIDS conferences in many ways by spanking, sending naughty sms or indeed writing fantasies. We loved the fantasies we were sent about sofa sex, anonymous encounters and presenting in front of a crowd. We got a special mention in the plenary and heaps of press coverage. Although we were surprised that some epidemiologists seriously questioned the rigour of our research – how dare they we personally counte d each and every one of those wanks and spanks ;-)

October – Condoms in Porn

After those heady heights we slowed down a little towards the end of 2010 and just got outraged yet again that condoms are not yet compulsory in porn after the latest HIV infections in California and that not enough people in the porn industry agree. We remember the 2005 infections were just after The Pleasure Project was founded when we were working on the set of a porn film, and the actors and actresses were very keen to use condoms.

November – Pleasure in Condom Programming

The International Planned Parenthood Federation has been getting more and more excited about pleasure and we have been pleased to work with them and exchange tips. They highlighted pleasure and our work in their resource young people and disability resource in 2007 and then produced “Happy, Healthly and Hot” which highlights the right to pleasure for people with HIV .  In November we featured in their HIV newsletter and blog with a great article by Arushi Singh.

December – Lube in your stocking?

We signed off in 2010 singing the praises of lube and hoping that you got some in your stocking. It’s the great unsung hero of sexual health and we may soon have a lube that not only makes using condoms more fun but may protect against HIV itself. Hip Hip Hurrah for Lube…..