Meetings & Publications

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Tell us a juicy story… you know, that one that you were thinking of during the plenary, when your mind wandered from multiple concurrent relationships in a faraway land to multiple concurrent relationships in the room next door.

Just send a plain text email to fantasy@thepleasureproject.org. Don’t worry, it won’t even show your email address to us. Or, if you prefer, post a comment here. Remember, we’ll share our favorite fantasies, but we’ll never tell who we’ve kissed.

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Sexuality ConferenceWell, I must say, things have really picked up over here the past few days. I’ll try to give a quick recap now, and a more thorough account later, after today’s closing sessions.

Wednesday

By Wednesday, everything was running much more smoothly and the discussions were really getting going. We had a very nice Pleasure Project workshop together with SUPPORT. The room was full, and people laughed and had a good time while learning about a pleasure approach and condoms. But probably even more interesting to me is the continued buzz our workshop created – people have been talking about it over breakfast, in the corridors, and coming up to me to ask for more information. And that, the fact that it has stayed in people’s minds, is the biggest sign of success for me.

There were some reasonable plenaries on Wednesday as well… nothing I felt overwhelmingly excited about, and in fact, I would’ve preferred to see some of the plenary sessions turned into concurrent sessions, so we’d have more choice about what to attend. With 5-6 sessions happening at each concurrent session, there were always 2 or 3 you wished you could’ve attended.

Thursday

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Sexuality Conference

Today was a bit of a rocky second day of the conference. It is understandable to open your conference with political statements about the importance of integration, health systems strengthening, and [insert other buzzword here]. But when you carry on this trend for the entire morning of the second day of the conference, it makes me want to take a vow of conference abstinence. (That is, abstaining from conferences, as opposed to abstaining while at conferences, though both are probably good ideas.) There was one very interesting session, on choice and vulnerabilities, but, woefully, it was supposed to last for 2 hours and was compressed to 45 minutes because we were way behind schedule.  (Admittedly, I missed the parallel sessions because I was waiting in line for lunch… so maybe they were fantastic, but I was not able to attend!)

Okay, there were some highlights. Bience Gawanas, the Commissioner for Social Affairs of the African Union Commission, said some provoking things, including emphasizing that we should not always talk about the “harmful cultural practices” of “Africa”, but also about the positive practices. She admitted that sharing the good things wasn’t very lucrative when you’re going to donors begging for money, but “we also need to build a positive image of Africa.” Of course, she’s also one of those rebels who don’t think that the problem is all about a lack of money.

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Sexuality Conference

Hey Pleasure-verse! I’m writing to you live from the 4th African Conference on Sexual Health & Rights: Sexuality, HIV & AIDS in Africa. The conference has just opened in Addis, and you can tell people are ready to get down to the real work in the coming days. Here’s a bit of a report from the opening evening…

The conference started off today with the opening ceremony and reception. As you might expect, these were a bit on the high-level and dry side.  It was notable that both the President and Minister of Health from Ethiopia were there, and they, along with the other speakers were far more open than I expected.

It was clear that pleasure and sex-positivity were the hot topics, and gay people were out. Everyone, including, impressively, the MoH, mentioned that we should stop viewing sexuality negatively and take a realistic approach. They even managed to mention unsafe abortion, and comprehensive sexuality education for youth. The President said we should stop “discriminating against young people by believing that they should only practice abstinence until marriage which is an unrealistic expectation.”

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imgorgeous_145Last month, I kicked off the December holidays with a trip to IDS for a workshop on Pleasure and Women’s Empowerment. From the get-go, I knew it was going to be a fun meeting. We started off with dinner and a conversation (as so many sexually pleasurable things do), where we got a chance to meet all of the different participants who’d come from around the world. We got into some serious conversations pretty quickly… “Do you want sexual pleasure all of the time?”, “Is BDSM an internalization of social norms?”… let’s just say I knew it wasn’t going to be a boring workshop.

Over the course of the three days, we heard many perspectives on sexuality, pleasure, empowerment, women, gender, and more. And yet, even with diverse participants coming from different areas of work, backgrounds, countries, and professions, we still found an impressive amount of common ground.

Here are some of the biggest points for me:

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SSSSThis week, I’m attending the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality’s annual meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Aside from being a beautiful place where the balmy ocean breezes are caressing my skin even as I type (and the sounds of Mexican karaoke are assailing my ears), it is home this week to a gathering of 250 sex researchers. Let me just say this… I have never felt so much at home.

These are people who would never talk about the “insertive probe and the receptive cavity.” These people know about sex and are not afraid to talk about it. Awesome!!

Today, the first day of the conference, saw two brilliant plenary speakers. I’ll only mention one here in passing – Richard Parker. Of course, Richard Parker is someone who I’ve been reading for years, and always thought was brilliant. You know, the kind of brilliant that means you don’t just walk up to him at a conference and say “hey, I love your work!”. But still, he was there, talking about sexual rights and sexual citizenship. The most useful thing I derived from his talk was the distinction between negative and positive rights – something I had thought of before, but that he articulated very clearly in the context of sexuality.

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