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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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 !

 

 

 

 

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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.)

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