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This post is by Arushi Singh

We were at a conference in January where they talked about MAGs who are uptakers, delayers, or switchers. Any guesses what this refers to? It’s just teenagers who have sex! Yup! We were at the International Conference on Family Planning in Bali and we thought it was time to wake the family planning community up and help them smell the sex in the air.

Our funky poster at the ICFP2106

Our funky poster at the ICFP2016

Because when we talk of married adolescent girls (yes, the very same MAGs), we need to remember that they are engaging in sex that may not be consensual, pleasurable, or safe. So rather than focusing only on their ‘uptake’ of family planning, or when they ‘switch’ their contraceptive methods, or whether the reason for using contraception is ‘spacing’ between births, if we also focused on their sexual wellbeing, provided them and their spouses with sex-positive education that helps them develop mutually respectful, loving relationships, we may be contributing significantly to these young girls’ lives and addressing their realities. After all, we know that a majority of married adolescent girls’ experience of sex within marriage is violent, scary, and unwanted.

A study in northern Ethiopia revealed that 81% of child brides interviewed described their sexual initiation as forced. In India, they were 3 times as likely to report being forced to have sex than girls who married later. Studies have also found that child brides typically continue to experience non-consensual sex throughout their marriage.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom even though we were among the handful who were bringing up the idea that sex can and should be pleasurable. This, especially so in the face of what Dr. Chandra-Mouli of WHO said at the plenary on the second day, that is, that porn is more accessible to young people than contraception.

Michelle Chackalackal wow-ed the crowd

Michelle Chackalackal wow-ed the crowd

Our friends at Love Matters were running their #pleasurematters campaign and there were some sexy condoms available with free coffee!

Flavoured condoms, coffee, and pleasure - the perfect combination!

Flavoured condoms, coffee, and pleasure – the perfect combination!



















Our guerrilla campaign was appreciated by a number of people at the conference.

Arushi adds some points of interest to the women's loo

Arushi adds some points of interest to the women’s loo

Proud of pleasure

Proud of pleasure

We came across words like ‘coitally’ dependent and cringed. 20160128_133931

At a panel on rights and contraception, the panelists made the point that just focusing on supply chains, or providing a good method mix, or provider training, or even all three combined is not enough. There are all the gender and sexual norms that also need to be overcome. This includes those that perpetuate child marriage, violence against girls and young women, and silence and negative attitudes around sex and sexuality.

Bill Ryerson of the Population Media Centre spoke about conformism – where people are driven more than anything to fit in, to be the norm. So how do we make the norm positive, i.e. that sex is fun, enjoyable, something in your control and under your agency to make it safe? DKT is obviously doing a good job of that with brands like No YawaLydia and Kiss in Ghana and the accompanying advertising (yes, the very same who gave us a prize!).

We are constantly talking about uptake of contraception as success, which is fine, but there is too much emphasis on the numbers – what about the voices and desires of the “MAGs”? Considering they are known to lose their social networks and be disadvantaged in so many other ways! Are we seeing “MAGs” as spacers, delayers, switchers, uptakers, and / or victims? They are human beings with human rights! We need to provide information not only on the method mix but also talk about sex. These girls were most likely expected to be asexual till they were married at which point they would be transformed overnight into sexually active women.

We were overjoyed that Carol Larson, President of the Packard Foundation said that young people are not thinking about family planning necessarily but about sexual enjoyment and pleasure. And we are doubly overjoyed to be on our way next month to Women Deliver to sexy it all up again in the women’s rights and public health world. Watch this space for more info! ICFP 2

no pleasure ?

wot no pleasure ?

pleasure quote twoHi Pleasure Seekers,

The Pleasure Project is at the International Conference of Family Planning#ICFP16 in Indonesia, searching out the pleasure in Family Planning….In fact we tried to have a session there and got turned down. [Teeth grind]

So really we are frankly a bit disapointed. There is not much. But we have had a really good look, there are some of fellow pleasure seekers out there.

But out of all of the 1000’s of presentations, maybe 10,000 in all there are only 10 that mention pleasure at all…. thats like 0.00001 % right ?

There are a couple that the NGO Simavi @SimaviNL who have been working Jharkand, India will present on. It sounds exciting, Loan Liem and colleagues created sex education that included pleasure and found that young men liked it…Also the Family Planning Association of India, in Uttar Pradesh [number 1152] have been delivering sex positive sex education. Its awesome and impressive.

Aa couple of presentations highlight the myths that surround how contraception will affect pleasure, or doesn’t address how they might affect the pleasure in sex. For example a study in Zambia [#1652] addresses myths about diaphragm use and pleasure, whereas in Uganda [#336]one study found that many people believed injectable contraception would remove the pleasure in sex.

Ayo Adebowele also found in Ibadan in their study [401] that men beleive vasectomy also cuts the pleasure in good safe sex……

lastly most presentations that actualy mention pleasure, which for us is a huge step forward. However most of the research studies focus on how contraception does not affect pleasure…..but we say maybe planning INCREASES pleasure, or could increase pleasure more…So rather than worrying about family planning being a dent on pleasure we should celebrate good safe sex..because #pleasure matters

Done your planning ? Now time for pleasure, but there is a way to go yet..

our poster at ICFP 2016












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Arushi does a sexy female condom demo

Arushi does a sexy female condom demo

The rapt Goa audience

The rapt Goa audience

The reaction did not surprise me; but the incredulity on our friends’ faces did when we invited them to the first fantasy open mic in Goa, the undisputed party capital of India where ‘anything is possible’ is listed on restaurant menus. A promising open event at a hangout popular for socially conscious events almost did not happen. And then it happened.


 Those who confessed to feeling uncomfortable around sex talk did not come. But many who did not know that we intended them to share their sexual fantasies came too. We shared words of food and pleasure. We read erotica

Reading erotica

Reading erotica

by Indian authors – about people watching, time travel, getting caught, and supernatural sex!, personal fantasies, 384 lovers, poems. We wrote and drew fantasies, shared jokes (even one involving Scarlett Johansson as a literary muse), discussed sexy female condoms as toys, and lamented the lack of language for orgasm and pleasure.


 We also made some music and some danced. The combination of an

The rabab player playing to everyone's fantasies...

The rabab player playing to everyone’s fantasies…

interpretive dance on fantasy with a world-class rabab player kept the full house rapt.

The interpretive fantasy dance

The interpretive fantasy dance

 Pleasure and Desire were there too. They sat on chairs of questions and quips, mingled with beers, chatted with strangers; some without words, heard new stories of open minds and promised to meet more often. Everyone later agreed on the supernatural sex – that pleasure is super and talking about desire is natural. Then they got home safe and happy for the moment.

post by Sameer Thakur

aids allianceThe year kicked off with a bang and a provocative ad to promote safer sex by the AIDS Alliance – that racy bunch and they inspired many to come together safely…the ad placed on channel 4 hope inspire viewers to put safer sex at the forefront of their minds when thinking pleasure..

They said “We hope the advert educates in a way that it is joyful and expresses what we feel about safe sex: that it is something to be enjoyed and something that helps save lives.”  People after our own heart…

Another organisation that we are huge fans of is DKT, and in February Chris Purdy asked ….Does the U.S. Really Need a National Condom Day? in the Huffington Post. Highlighting that National Condom Day and Valentine’s Day both fall on February 14.He said…

‘Nobody expects Congress to observe Condom Day or for President Obama to announce that he has given the First Lady a year’s brazilsupply of condoms. But it’s no accident that National Condom Day and Valentine’s Day are the same day. Valentine’s Day is a time to say “I love you.” And there is no better way to express that than to use condoms so the romance has a healthy future.’

He highlights creative safer sex campaigns from Caipirinha flavoured condoms in Brazil to Turkey and EVEN  gives The Pleasure Project a plug (blush…) alongside the Gates Foundation innovation challenges to create a ‘more sexy condom’  ‘The name of(our) session during the 2012 International AIDS Conference spoke clearly about their mission: “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Pleasurable Safer Sex but Were Afraid to Ask.”

allianceIn March we headed to a rainy Brighton to give a talk at the AIDS Alliance called ….‘Pleasure and prevention: strange bedfellows or long lasting lovers?’ and were pitched as the guerrilla girls of HIV prevention… we got the staff to create sexy adverts and had some vey imaginative role plays. These people are serious about pleasure….

In March we also we kind of like this cliteracy stuff and   this debate between an ethical porn worker and a radical feminist activist and writer in the New Internationalist

Still in March we explored The Pleasure Corner with Tarshii tarshin Delhi  and wrote a love letter to our body…

ken and barbieApril was all about the after sex selfies craze (remember that ! ) but with only a few  few mentions of safer sex….but lots of solo masturbation…..




And April saw an amazing blog by our very own Arushi…on the HIV stops with me website  asking hippiekissus to ask ourselves  ‘ What is sex?’ and ‘What gives me pleasure?’ and how to re-explore our sex life in light of an HIV positive diagnosis.

By May – Spring had definitely sprung because we said  ‘sex liberation is not just about more sex for some people’ as we held forth on the open democracy website as part of the liberation series. We wanted to expand the boundaries of our thinking to happiness and sexual liberation more broadly  and boldy stated that ‘Getting in touch with what we want from our sex lives might unearth much broader visions of liberation, the kind that moves beyond the individual to recognise collective visions of change.’

10155654_10152061970141883_3894187595748905953_nIn May we continued being liberated and loving ourselves in Masturabation month aswell as blogging for the Institute of Development Studies Sexuality series.. 

The Melbounre AIDS conference saw a little bit of pleasure with this great article about the need to ramp up the pleasure with the science and we pushed the pleasure message hard on this Guardian live chat and the radical notion that sex education should promote pleasure not just talk about danger….We might have had some impact because this article about the importance of realistic sex education came soon after…

We then went one further to write about ‘busitng the bum taboo’ and how heterosexual anal sex needs to be talked about more in sex education otherwise people think its safer than it is ..

As we say ..rose
‘Anal sex is one of the last taboos of the HIV world. It is not mentioned in campaigns targeting straight couples and leads to informal messaging that it is actually safe or there is no need to wear a condom,” said Anne Philpott, founder of The Pleasure Project, an organization that works with NGOs, sex counsellors and erotic film producers on incorporating “sex-positive” approaches to sex education.

zimbabwe circucisionIn June we saw this male circumcision campaign in Zimbabwe focusing on pleasure..

In September we lost it with this joker who said wanking reduces productivity...I mean seriously ?

And then it got worse these guys tried to say they were highlighting the importance of ending female genitla mutiliation by asking women to get on a bucking bronco on Venice Beach..

safe_image.phpBut the Wonderful Benedict Cumberbach brought us back round  in September by talking about the importance of experimentation…. said, “sometimes its just about playing with yourself”

In November we liked to take time to put on our condoms and sabvour the roll on…for more safety…andharry we loved sharing our dirty little secret on World AIDS day with Prince Harry..

We love sex with condoms. It makes us feel sexy and safe (the next day) and quite frankly ( it’s less messy) 


squirtAnd in December the UK Censorship Board banned random acts in porn including female ejaculation, come toospanking and face sitting where the woman recieves pleasure. It was all female pleasure discrimination. And no mention of good safe sex.

But we had a lovely protest.. What a way to end the year.

Have fun pleasure propogandists and see you all more in 2015..








And now a quick post from Arushi our travelling expert….arushi

Here I am, feverishly tapping out this blog in between trips. The past five months have seen me at home only for a few days at a time, while I have been going from one place to another, either for work or pleasure. As a result, this much delayed and long promised blog is combining a number of different threads that The Pleasure Project has been involved in. But mostly, it’s about condoms.

It all started in May when an an article in the guardian laid out the reasons behind people in their twenties and thirties using withdrawal instead of condoms or other, more reliable, contraceptive methods. It seemed like all the respondents for this article were dissing condoms for several reasons while using withdrawal or nothing as contraception! Some of the negatives against condoms were that they were funny, disgusting, awkward, or made sex seem premeditated. Strangely enough, these are all terms that I associate with awesome sex! I’m not a big fan of pulling out – it interrupts the sex act like nothing else does! Spontaneity goes for a toss if you’re using the rhythm method because you can’t have sex on certain days if you don’t want to get pregnant, no matter how horny you might be feeling.

Some people said they just weren’t confident about bringing up the subject of condoms, especially on a one night stand type situation. Now that is exactly the kind of situation where a condom would be most useful. The author of the article seemed to think that sex educators (in the UK) should focus on providing people with the language to talk about condoms, rather than only focusing on convincing them that they are sexy and erotic. I don’t see why we can’t continue to show people how sexy and erotic condoms can be, as well as helping them with language to initiate them.

Short Term Perceptions ?

Short Term Perceptions ?

Real Me Use Condoms?

 This lack of language or ability to bring up condoms holds true for younger people as well. The Pleasure Project was invited in June to a consultation on the emotional and social factors that affect the use of condoms among young people. The Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs had done a literature review on this and invited us to share our experiences on it. They wanted to discuss how we could re-position condoms for adolescents. Expert Consultation on condom use

Among the main issues that came out through the literature review on social and emotional factors affecting condom use among young people, trust and pleasure were high on the list. And both of these are related to conversation – having the right language, as well as discussing these issues at length with one’s partner(s) are critical to ensuring safer sexual experiences that are also intensely pleasurable.

Condoms are just another object we use in our love-making – people use sex toys, fetish objects like food, scat, whips and chains, among other things. But the public health world seems to have succeeded in associating them with risk and disease so much that they no longer fit with people’s idea of sexual pleasure. And of course, if I trust my partner, then why would I need to use condoms with them? (For your information, I’ve been with my trustworthy partner for 11 years and we have always used condoms – happily and with pleasure! We just don’t need to think about it at all – it comes naturally and both of us always have them handy, for when we get hot. Condoms are a part of the household grocery list, can’t run out of milk, coffee and condoms!)

One of my criticisms of the approach towards measuring the success of a public health programme is the obsession with counting the numbers of condoms rolled down penises. This, in my opinion, perpetuates the penis-in-vagina norm – as though that’s the only kind of sex, or what counts as ‘real’ sex, when there are myriad other ways of getting pleasure and which are also safer. Until public health professionals (and donors) don’t lose their inhibitions and talk about sex in the context of sexual pleasure instead of disease, they will not be able to achieve health outcomes effectively and instead have the danger of perpetuating harmful stereotypes around sex.

So this is only the first instalment of my travels around the world, talking sex, pleasure and condoms! Watch this space for some sensuality and food, and many more things!

Real Me Use Condoms? The note taker at the US Condoms meetings

Real Me Use Condoms? The note taker at the US Condoms meetings


button_thumbIt all sounds like quite a tall order but we at pleasure towers have a theory and we have put it out there on the open democracy forum . Open Democracy ‘is a digital commons – a pluralist, high quality online space free and open to all – covering world affairs, ideas and culture’





So our view is that not only is discussion of pleasure important for expanding our ideas and sex lives into bigger broader explorations of good safe sex but also for a much more inclusive more exciting and more liberating type of sexual liberation

‘Sexual liberation is not only about more sex for some people, or more orgasms, but should prioritize pleasure, consent, and respect for a range of sexualities, (dis)abilities and body types’.

So we think that ‘Getting in touch with what we want from our sex lives might unearth much broader visions of liberation, the kind that moves beyond the individual to recognise collective visions of change’.

hippiekissIts not enough to ensure that some groups get liberation in the form of more orgasms but to open up aspirations for safe pleasure in a wider range of relationships, or for people not traditionally expected to experience pleasure.

We also stride forth on our usual pleasure propoganda that sexual pleasure does not cause sexually transmitted diseases but fear based sex education does, so we think that ..

Safer sex is promoted best through positive incentives and building communities of practise, learning from people who constantly negotiate safer sex, like sex workers, with people who are seen as the experts, like sex educators.

Anyhow read it for yourself just here in full and let us know what you think of our theory for a new kind of sexual revolution, that just might be televised this time if we let the cameras into our bedrooms.






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