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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they rub on my clit during sex

they are not just for women, but for guys with guys  too

they allow my dick to slip and move around feeling free

I can go in and out of them taking a pause between rounds but leaving it in

they stop me worrying about getting pregnant, so I sleep well

the inner ring scratches an itch deep inside me

I can walk around with it it in (reaching up  for stuff on that high shelf) to get myself really ready for sex

Or just do that all on its own whilst I’m cleaning the house for a special thrill

More Sexy tips for using the female condom

Happy Global Female Condom Day !






Okay Okay read all about it. Read Phil Harvey’s brilliant article in The Huffington Post this week on the importance of sex in family planning. (And our work here at The Pleasure Project…)

It might seem obvious to you and me that one of the benefits of contraception is that it means you can enjoy sex without worrying about unintended pregnancy…but that is not a topic often discussed by the family planning industry who prefer to highlight the problems of sex. As Phil Says

“To this day you seldom read anything about sex in the family planning literature. The reason, I think, is that sex bothers people, especially good sex. We hear a lot about problems with sex (and there are many), but very little about good sex, very little about the quantum of pleasure in the world enjoyed by the two billion women and men (and same-sex couples) who regularly enjoy consensual sex. Is not such sex a good thing? Should not we family planners celebrate the fact that the contraceptives we provide make it possible for people to have more sex? Isn’t more sex good?”

Phil Harvey himself is an amazing pioneer  who set up DKT International one of the largest not for profit private providers of contraception and who provided 650 million condoms in 2011 in low income countries. He also set up Adam and Eve sex toys online store whose profits subsidizes the provision of family planning to DKT. He has taken on a few challenges in his life time including the US Government’s censorship laws and so we are of course over the moon that he lays out the argument for the sad fact that,

‘Sex has a long, negative reputation in human history.’

And how it’s important not just to talk about health but the other advantages of safer sex. Um like love and affection..

‘we’d do a better job I think if we addressed the subject of sexual pleasure head-on. After all, sex without pregnancy is a powerful expression of love for many couples.’

And of course the icing on the cake for us is his mention of us as ‘ a brave band’

‘There are some positive signs on the horizon. A brave band of concerned family planning and HIV/AIDs professionals has formed The Pleasure Project, which works tirelessly to remind conference goers and others that sexual pleasure is an important part of the equation. At one international conference, the Pleasure Project put up posters in the corridors, asking “Did you have sex with yourself last night?”

Oh yeah… Oh yeah…. dats us  (Dance around front room wiggle hips)

To finish off with some words of wisdom – but please read the article here

‘So let us celebrate. Sex is unquestionably necessary; why shouldn’t we be pleased that it is also good?’

So we are a little bit plesed (well actually quite a lot) because Professor Haddad from the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University has written all about our evidence review ‘Everything you have ever wanted to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask’…..we have replicated it in full below. Cos he deserves a gold medal in our ongoing pleasure Olympics..

Prioritising Pleasure: A Path to Safer Sex? by Lawrence Haddad

No, this blog is not a blatant attempt to increase my page views. It is about a new report produced for last week’s HIV/AIDS Conference in Washington DC: ‘Everything you have ever wanted to know about pleasurable safer sex but were afraid to ask Were Afraid to Ask.

It is produced by Wendy Knerr and Anne Philpott of the Pleasure Project for the IDS Sexuality and Development research programme.

The report is a literature review which asks a number of questions about the motivations for safer sex and the role that pleasure seeking plays in those motivations. It takes as its starting point the fact that much of the research on what influences whether safer sex is or is not practised comes down to safer sex being perceived as less pleasurable.

The report is a difficult one to read on a plane (which is where I wrote this blog) because it contains provocative (for a research review anyway!) pictures (yes, there is an erect penis in a condom). It is structured around 20 big questions (think Foreign Policy’s “Sex Issue”, but without the sexual repression) all of which are researched through online searches of the standard peer reviewed and grey literature databases.

The report is provocative for all the right reasons. It asks the question: if a lack of pleasure is one reason given for the non-practise of safer sex, can we make safer sex more pleasurable? Can it be eroticised either through framing, depiction or practise? If it can, will this lead to more positive attitudes towards safer sex, and therefore to the increased practise of safer sex?

Given the vast numbers of disability adjusted life years (DALYS) that sexual and reproductive health diseases still account for, finding ways of turning pleasure from a barrier to safer sex into an enabler seems sensible. The interventions need not be expensive and could lead to very quickly scaled up behaviour change, generating very large benefit-cost ratios (sorry, couldn’t help but bring that in).

The report concludes that we need more research at the intervention level, especially in countries with high burdens of HIV where evidence is scarcest.

Given the ease with which the topic can be (unfairly) dismissed, I would have liked the search and select protocols to have been ratified and even more transparent (was there a quality grading?) but for a non-systematic review the authors have given an admirably clear guide as to how they went about their review.

Pleasure is a driver of much human behaviour. Economists tend to use the unlovely term “utility” to describe some combination of satiation, satisfaction and pleasure, but as the newly discovered world of behavioural economics begins to be more and more influential, perhaps the role of pleasure will be explored in the world of financial transactions.

(It could give a whole new meaning to Freakonomics.)

How does the condom ration shape up ?  36 condoms per person at AIDS 2012; 15 condoms per Athlete at the Olympics




Okay it was the break-dancing with a female condom that gets a special mention. I mean we know lots about pleasure and female condoms over here, but we had never ever seen that. We caught the Washington female condom promotion team at the AIDS conference ‘global village’, and that is just what they were doing. Break-dancing with a female condom.  He was so fast I could not film him. You will just have to imagine it  (like those pre you tube days, remember ?)

So that’s what we want at the next worlds AIDS conference. Gold medals  for the plenary speakers to say sex and even better good safe sex. It’s not much to ask. Medals for biomedical researchers ( you know who you are) to admit they may have had sex once at least. A sexy condom demo that’s gets televised in the opening ceremony ( umm sorry we got carried away…)

In fact 850,000  Condoms were distributed at AIDS 2012 and 150,000 the Olympics. That means 36 per each participant at AIDS 2012 and a mere 15 per Olympian. So we will stop our quibbling over here at Pleasure Towers about condoms and celebrate. The brilliant woman in the Condomise zone must have done at least 20,000 demonstrations over the week did well to distribute so many.

Anyhow back on it and who deserves a pleasure award for talking dirty at aids 2012. Those female condom ladies (and gents) are

Willing Victims at our female condom and pleasure session

putting a ring on it, rolling their hips just so and vagina , well lit up our day. We love the Chicago female condom ‘ put a ring on it‘ campaign and we did a sexual pleasure and female condom workshop with them and others in the women’s networking zone.  Lets just say our sexy female condom demonstration, got um refined..

'sweeter on the penis'

The Universal Access to Female Condoms programme was attempting to break the world record for the longest  paper dolls chain with pledges for female condoms . There was lots of pleasure there on those dolls. See left and below.

Also Dante deserves a special mention for saying in the female condom press conference  ” female condoms are pleasurable and fun for bottoms” because they can be used for anal sex too..

Couple of other gold medals and loud cheers go to Kevin Mayer  in the brilliant Lancet medical journal session on men who have sex with men and HIV with his  ‘Sex is For pleasure’  statement. Sadly it still needs to be said. But great that an esteemed journal made the space to do that.

We think that’s about it for now, we still have to update you on our fabulous workshop and all the sudden sexy condom demo experts we have in the HIV prevention world.

Any other nominations out there for people and pleasure placements we missed ?  We had our pleasure net up but can’t catch it all.

Let us know who you think deserves a pleasure medal for service at AIDS  2012.


female condoms give me orgasms

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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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