Hi pleasure explorers!

Mara here…


The new intern over at the Pleasure Project.

My experience… When we call ‘sex’ everything else other than sex, we are missing the point, particularly with the young. Sex is fun and safe sex can be erotic. This is exactly why I am working with the Pleasure Project – to learn how to refer to safe sex in a sexy, pleasurable and fun way. And to advocate for the capacity of this approach to influence behavior change, lowering teenage pregnancy rates and STI transmissions among youths.

With over 5 years of sexual reproductive health advocacy and programme development around youth engagement, engaging youths in a discussion around safe sex has been my focal point. Prior to my shift to London’s UCL as a candidate for an MSc in Global Health and Development, I worked in Zambia. First, in a small Bemba village in Northern Province where I worked at the grassroots level with adolescents. Together, we had frank and open conversations about what sex is and how to prevent pregnancy, HIV and other STIs. I learned that a lot of the misconceptions and myths about sex that exist among Zambian adolescents are the same for youths in the America and other developed countries, regardless of wealth and ethnicity.

From there, I worked for the Zambian branch of Marie Stopes International (MSI) and then a local NGO called CHAMP in youth program development and management. During my years with both, I quickly learned that Zambia and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa are eager to lower their teenage pregnancy rates and address their high burden of HIV among youths. But, at the same time, we continue to run in circles as a global health community by focusing our sex-talk on all the risks of having sex; rather than demystifying it to promote a delay in early sexual debut and making safe sex sexy to encourage behaviour change.

I am EXCITED to work with the Pleasure Project to advocate for a pleasurable approach to safe sex education. Let’s turn it up and turn them on to give our safe sex education a Luther Vandross and Barry White voice, and stop making sex a basic biology and epidemiology lesson that youths want to painfully escape from.

Here we are at Women Deliver in Copenhagen, ready to give pleasure a push!

We are also launching our sexy new mapping of pleasure around the globe. Remember our lovely Global Mapping of Pleasure? Its going interactive and online! We will launch our lovely new map on our website on Thursday, 19 May at our side event at Women Deliver.


The launch side event for the online Global Mapping!

And that’s not all! We are doing something almost every day! So if you’re at Women Deliver this week – check us out!

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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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Blog by Arushi

So we’ve been a little quiet on the blog front but that’s because the blog site was not functioning for a few months and we’ve finally been able to sort it all out! The blog is back up and running and then we realised that the last blog was about our event in Goa.

Well guess what – this blog is about another event in Goa! Anne was holidaying in Goa and when Arushi and Anne got together we decided to rock the Goa scene a little and found a third partner in pleasure to do so – Q, the filmmaker. Opening the eveningWe had a fantastic evening discussing cinema erotica, access to sexual information, the politics around sexuality and taboos, porn, and how it all relates to good, safe sex.

Q talked about his journey from being a teenage porn film watcher to a grown up cinema erotica maker. Q Growing up in India meant a distinct lack of access to any kind of information on sex, pleasure, desire, or spaces for exploration. That’s one reason that Q began to make his own sexy films that push boundaries and hold up a mirror to society on sexuality. Gandu, is in an indie ilm, that has tantalised 4 million people to download it…

The Pleasure Project’s work, of course, aims to counter this paucity of information and of positive reinforcements around sexuality. Anne spoke about our work and how we try and counter all the negativity around sex, sexual acts, hierarchies of sexual acts and identities, and the

Anne quoting from 'Sex and the Citadel'political power-play around pleasure. One of our motivations for bringing together the public health world and the pleasure world stems from Reich’s comment on the sexual misery of the masses.

Our audience was riveted and they stayed to watch snippets of the porn films that The Pleasure Project has done condom consultancies for. Our quiz prize winner was able to come up with the maximum number of ‘signs of sexual arousal among women and men’!  Nupur wins the prize!A super sexy evening with the super sexy Goa crowd!Full house!

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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

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