putting the sexy into safer sexLast week we posted news on our facebook fan page and twitter about the amazing news that The Gates Foundation have issued a GRAND challenge to build a better condom. 

WE LOVE IT ! At last after all these years of pleasure propaganda it seems to be paying off. Good Safe Sex is now a subject to be taken seriously by event the Grand Bill Gates and his Foundation.

When we launched The Pleasure Project at at the 2004 AIDS conference in Bangkok, we seemed to be viewed as a mixture of sublime and ridiculous. Some people though it a good idea if a little wacky, others downright dangerous to be stating the obvious.That..

People have sex for PLEASURE.

And that HIV prevention and family planning promoters need to also think about PLEASURE and safer sex.

omg

Over the following 8 years we were the AIDS Conference infidels  urging people to attend sessions called “Pleasure and Safer Sex: Coming together at last” or asking them to send in their fantasies of life at a conference or even ……play with themselves at night time. Urging people who promote HIV prevention to also recognise that sex can be good.

talk yourself

And it finally seems to be paying off last year many listened to our pleasure propaganda including national  US radio and the Huffington Post.

So we do say “Hurrah!” to the Gates Grand Challenge – but with some trepidation – as the call asks for only ‘product changing’ proposals. This is not just a techno fix…We know that the biggest sexual organ is the brain. …

latexThat is a vibrating cock ring feels sexy, why can’t the ring of a female condom ?

Or if a tight fitting latex dress is hot ? Why can’t the slow roll of a condom down a dick feel the same way ?

Latex dresses and condom dresses….

latex 2lady-gaga-condom-snippets

condom dress

Isn’t good safe sex is just a state of mind…..

 

 

 

 

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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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We like this, condoms available at the moment of passion…..

The long lonely trip to the 24 garage may be a thing of the past…

but of course using a condom does not need to be so

discrete.…or hidden (inside a map or pizza box)….

but could be brandished as an invitation for

even more fun….

It’s World AIDS day, time to reflect on the impact of this epidemic, but also how we are tackling it together as sexual health advocates. One of the great phrases in recent discussion of HIV prevention is the one coined by Richard Horton of The Lancet in the foreword to their special journal on men having sex with men and HIV. It was a phrase that continues to ring in my ears way after I heard it at the Washington AIDS conference, way back in July.

The conference was exciting for the enthusiasm about how new technologies can further reduce HIV incidence; male circumcision and ARVs have shown in research settings to reduce HIV incidence by up to 66% and 96% respectively. The Conference corridors were awash with discussion of these breakthroughs and how this will bring to us to an ‘AIDS free generation’. However we remain skeptical over here at The Pleasure Project towers, as we counted condoms mentioned only four times in the opening ceremony. Why are we encouraged to focus our energies on the new technologies without consideration of how to improve our efforts to promote the perfectly good ones that already exist?

In the increasingly bio-medicalised world of HIV prevention there seems to be less and less discussions of the messy business of sex, pleasure and human beings as sexual beings. Some studies show that circumcised men go on to believe themselves immune to infection. So why then is there little discussion on the stages of HIV prevention on how to better communicate risk reduction and incidence reduction rather than risk elimination?

And talking of risk elimination where are the condoms, the safest penetrative sex, these days in dialogues of HIV prevention? Where are the sophisticated research projects that help us promote encourage mutual masturbation, phone sex, thigh sex: to have satisfying sex that is safe and feels good. We are not denying that penetration feels darn good (if done right) but at AIDS 2012 or in current discussions of HIV prevention you would think its the only way. There are  ‘many ways to skin a cat’ and sadly the HIV prevention world colludes to restrict our ideas of sex that can be satisfying.

A recent article in the The Huffington Post also points the figure at the family planning world, and says that it’s even worse. In the family planning world pleasure is not even a whisper round the corner in the next town. In fact the recent Family Planning Summit in London made no reference or mention of how people may also have sex for pleasure , and contraception suppliers might want to factor that into discussions of how people want to plan their families. After all wasn’t the invention of the pill a huge collective sigh of relief for women to be able to start having worry free sex. Until AIDS came along.

Looking through the coverage of World AIDS days another  sad omission that strikes us is the lack of any mention of  love or romance, a fairly universal driver of risky behaviour but also a critical dimension of satisfying sexual lives. at the AIDS conference I saw only one abstract highlighted how people take more health risks for love – and our evidence review “Everything you have ever wanted to know about Pleasure and Safer Sex, but were afraid to ask” turned up little in the way of studies of romance or falling in love.

 

The biggest sexual organ is the brain

Condoms and interesting and diverse ways to promote safer sex are getting lost in the usual scientific charge to find the next techno-fix or magic bullet. Funding incentives are on finding new drugs or products that will stem new infections; but really as we know it’s not that simple.  Human beings will use technologies in a myriad of ways. The sooner we start to see the pleasurable potential in prevention – as we are with microbicides as lube or female condoms as they rub us in that oh so special way – will we start to build on the reasons why we have sex not try and avoid the natural advantage we have for health promotion in sexual and reproductive health.

Its not all doom and gloom and we are pretty cheery activists, as they go. There have been some great articles recently about safer sex and pleasure and the link to empowerment.

So looking forward to the next World AIDS day in 2013 – we hope to see more realistic discussion about real sex, what feels good and how to use good safe sex techniques.

 

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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 indicator.in 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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