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The Pleasure Project spent another day at the Women of the World festival in London today.

Today we hoped for some discussion of safe pleasure; but it never got there.

We kicked off by talking to Emma George who is chasing the female orgasm around the world; making a film ‘Around the world in 80 orgasms‘ about the much downplayed joys of masturbation. Always possible. Good. Safe. Sex. I also asked her how she might explain to women how they would know they have had one. Because we here at Pleasure Towers have, to be honest, struggled with that one.

Then we skipping happily into the Porn Session; hoping for an informed debate between radical feminists and a tabloid editor,  and chaired by a well respected human rights barrister and member of the House of Lords. The debate focused on the impact of pornography, whether feminist porn is possible and the evidence that porn increases violence against women.

However, to be honest, the debate was overwhelmed with ideology, polarized positions and personal emotional attacks. And to top it all no one mentioned sexual health or well-being. Porn was being blamed with causing sexual violence in the Congo to erectile dysfunction in ten year olds in the UK. We agree there needs to be better research especially on access to internet porn, which allows unheard of ease to see hard core porn. Watch this space for our upcoming piece on the potential of harm reduction in porn.

Pleasure Propagandists to the end, we asked if the panel, especially those who wanted porn banned had any vision of a world where sexually explicit films could be fun, sexy, safe and not degrading to women. Sadly there was no positive answer, but rather a constant need to criticize what we have rather than aim for something higher. And we thought feminism was about imagining a better world.

But our highlight of the session was the mum who quickly confessed that she discovered cherry lube in her gay son’s cupboard, realised he is having anal sex, wondered why gay people like it and then just as quickly confessed to the world that she has done it not once, but twice.  We love it and salute her bravery, because we know the personal is political ….and she noticed it was cherry lube. Never a dull moment when the topic of porn comes up.

The Pleasure Project likes to think of International Women’s Day as a chance to celebrate, have fun..whilst of course keeping safe. Last year we got a little despondent as we struggled  to find any calls to women to enjoy themselves, have fun or (heaven forbid) fulfill their desires.

We know there are many many depressing facts to highlight; 30 million women are infected with HIV globally and in parts of Africa and the Caribbean, young women  are up to six times more likely to be HIV-positive than young men of the same age. Sexual violence is widespread and a brutal violation of women’s rights.

But we at Pleasure Towers want more positive visions of where we are headed  – not just descriptions of the bad stuff that needs to stop. How women are also thriving, enjoying themselves and of course getting some great sexy safe sex.

We don’t meant this kind of fun where women look like they have just realized that eating a cake before swimming won’t mean instant death…

but more this kind of fun where women  just seem to be having a good sexy safe time (and don’t write to tell us Ms Piggie is actually a pig, she is all woman )

But we must admit that we are pretty impressed with the Women of the World festival in London this weekend and it’s  ‘the stamina of celebration‘ quoting Jude Kelly the founder.

There has been some discussion of pleasure, including by Noami Wolf, less of sexual health and very little of good safe sex.

However we were blown away by the rather marvelous pussy blanket; not unlike our very own The Great Wall of Vagina. The pussy blanket has been created by the Shoreditch Sisters from the Women’s Institute to highlight a need to end female genital mutilation. (Didn’t see that coming did ya!)

The brilliant Daughters of Eve have promised to write a blog for us about the myths surrounding sexual pleasures and FGM….

And your faithful pleasure propagandist doesn’t give up so she is going back tomorrow to hear views on pornography, and whether feminist porn is possible. Watch this space.

The Great Wall of Vagina                                                     The Pussy Blanket





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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 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.

Tank girl would probably score high on pleasure measures



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Sex has been eradicated from the conference, it’s almost as if it’s an airborne disease”

Okay so when we said that to WAMU radio we were feeling kinda blue and bio-medicalised out. They interviewed us after our satellite session to launch “Everything you ever wanted to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask” . Also Facebook closed us out for three days for putting up one of our postcards : so we got a slap on the wrist for that ( free postcard for whoever guesses which one it was ) . Next time we will shut down. I’ll be careful but sign up for our mailing list he and for blog alerts here…

But after initial dismay at the lack of any discussions of condoms, safer sex or just good old fashioned sex in the first couple of days we started to cheer up because of the growing band of pleasure promoters  at aids conferences. We ain’t the single issue solo loonies anymore.


It kicked off with The Pleasure Project Hosted satellite at 7am Tuesday morning ….and people came ! Unbelievable and amazing. We didn’t go easy

on our audience with a sexy safe condom demo (7:05 am ) and then launched the evidence review “everything you ever wanted….”  by posing questions particularly suited to that time of the morning such as ” is sex rational?” ” what is sexual pleasure?” and ” do positive attitudes to sex correspond to positive attitudes to safer sex ? “. Read it for the quick and dirty and more considered answers.

Next up Dr Scott Shelton blew our minds talking about the evidence she has analyzed and how it shows that making your sex education programmes and materials a turn on means people have more safer sex. So not only is it appealing but it works. We knew that but it we needed to see those randomised control trials prove it. See question 15 in the review for more on her research.

Next up was DKT International who last year sold 650 million condoms in 18 countries and  kinda know a thing or two about good safe sex. Chris Purdy and Daniel Marun spoke about how they do this globally  We especially….. Like the moped ad…. You’ll see…..  What we mean about dotted….. Hello Fiesta Ribbed. All those presentations are here with the session description.

Ttitsi Masvaware  from the University of Columbia in New York has been focusing her research on  young southern African women and asking them why they have sex. And hello. They are not just saying that they are forced or raped or trafficked. Despite what most of the development literature tells you. They schedule it in. They want pleasure. As she said ” she told me that she had him....” read her talk Masvawure TB Pleasure Project Satellite IAS 2012 copy and see question 2 for more on her brilliant research that shows young women can be  ‘active lust seekers”.

And lastly but not least and the best titled talk at the conference by Professor Gary Dowsett and socked  it to us with the ‘choreography of sex’, the improvisation in sex, the messiness of sex, the skills of sex , the joy of it and all of it they we don’t usually hear at AIDS conferences…read it here Dowsett presentation

The questions afterwards were great with some  criticism of the images used to sexy up safer sex (more on that later because it deserves it own blog)

But what has been phenomenal is the number of other sessions at this conference on pleasure. We are normally the pleasure cultists, not any more.
The American health care foundation had a “making safer sex sexy” satilite where we heard on their campaign to get condoms into porn . We loved the presentation by from NYC condoms and their health department.  “ NYC will be awash with condoms and it’s river will run with lube” on how to saturate your city with condoms (and an app to find them whenever you need em!) and the chair thrilled us with her description of how she put her knowledge of cherry stem rolling in mouth to special use these days with a condom.

Other pleasure awards go to the IPPF youth group for their pleasure session on Thursday and keeping the pleasure flag flying with happy healthy ‘n’ hot. Some great questions and conversations “ how can you learn to flirt ? ” let’s remind ourselves that 48 % of new infections are in young people under 25 currently and we need to talk about safer sex and sexual skills for young people ALOT MORE . And another gripe there are just not enough of them at conferences presenting, sharing experiences and keeping the rest of us a bit more real. IPPF thrilled us with another condom controversy session on Sunday (with us and DKT) interjecting on erotic condoms which was standing room only. Go IPPF . You rock.

And another session I attended in the global village had interesting ways to start the pleasure conversation in the transgender community in Thailand. What I loved was that they did a pretend telephone call, as if a client was calling in and showed how they bring pleasurable safer sex into the conversation and talk anatomy and other sexy bits. How many chairs of sessions are brave enough to do that and lovely to see practical and tactical sex education at play.

So that’s a pleasure round up for now and it tales us up to Thursday at AIDS 2012 (there is more my active pleasure seekers)  and I have not even got to female condoms, the unsung hero of sexual health and some more pleasure awards he at aids 2012 .

You’ll just have to enjoy the delayed gratification…

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Ohh we are getting very excited about our session tomorrow morning at the AIDS conference here in Washington.

Mainly because we are just a little frustrated that safer sex seems to have slipped off the agenda even more than usual.

Although Hilary Clinton was still stating the path to an AIDS free generation is combination prevention – condoms, counseling and testing. There is also a large demonstration outside the conference against male circumcision – reminding us of another prevention method recently also found to be effective against HIV (the demonstrators think its mutilation) .

However most of the excitement at the conference is on the recent NIH research that showed if HIV infected people took HIV treatment early their sexual partners  were almost completely protected from infection. It’s great news and a real boost to get people onto treatment. But we do hope that this does not reduce the already limited attention in the sexual health world on being creative when it comes to condom use. The HIV industry is a world with attention deficient disorder rapidly racing onto the next magic bullet – or ‘cure’

In fact whilst sitting in the opening ceremony yesterday I was trying to count how many times  the word condom was used. I maybe wrong (and please correct me if I missed one) but I counted four times. That was in a two hour opening Session at the worlds largest AIDS conference. Franky I felt a little depressed. And answers on a postcard for how many time sexuality or pleasure were mentioned .

However despite condoms slipping off the agenda we are getting psyched about all the brilliant speakers we have at our pleasure and  breakfast session tomorrow.

We will  hear from brilliant researchers who have identified the link between more sexy sex education and having more safer sex, such as Dr Lori Sheldon from the US or  how promoting pleasure sold more condoms in Brazil  . Daniel Marun from DKT International will tell us more about the  empirical evidence show receptiveness to safer sex messages have improved when pleasure and desire are incorporated into marketing efforts.

Dr T. Masvawure from Zimbabwe will talk about her research that looks beyond the stereotypes of African women and the reasons they have sex, pleasure of course being one.

And lastly Professor Dowsett will deliver the rather fabulously titled talk “Pleasure, Passion, Pulchritude, Sex, and Technology: HIV prevention is about to get even messier”

And I think he right.

So lets look at these wonderful condom ballgowns in the meantime.




to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask..

Is the topic that The Pleasure Project is tackling at AIDS 2012 in Washington conference next week. We have trawled the literature (just for you) to answer 20 question about pleasure, sex and health and it’s here all here..  Everything you ever wanted to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask .

We are launching it at the  global AIDS conference in the USA next week (and in India later). It collects together global eviodence to answer tricky questions such as ‘ How long does it take to learn safer sex skills?’

If you are at AIDS 2012 come and hear some of the experts in sexuality and eroticising safer sex speak about the evidence at our Pleasureat 2012 Satilite or learn how to improve your sexy safer skills at our workshop. We are organizing event with DKT International, one of the world’s largest condom social marketing organisations and pleasure promoters .We are grateful to the Institure of Development Studies at University of Sussex who funded the evidence review.


We will also launch it in Delhi on the 28th July with the YP Foundation.

Here are more details of what we are up to next week in our poster TPP AIDS_Poster_v2.with support. pdf..and the link to our  facebook event page.

See you there … keep thinking of the tricky questions..





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