young people

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The Pleasure Project was lucky enough to run into two amazing women from YP Foundation in Goa recently. Ishita Choudery and Gopika Bashi. They rock. They made us laugh and inspired us.

Ishita Choudery started the the YP Foundation to fill the a political gap in India –  ensuring that young people get heard when it comes to policy decision about their sexuality, political rights  and right to information (amongst other things).

They have done heaps to get young people recognised as valid political partners in decisions about their futures and have worked with 300,000 young people since 2002.

And the reason we love them is because they lobby for comprehensive sex education in India with their “know your body know your rights” campaign.

And then we love them more but they don’t shy away from discussions of pleasure and use our Pleasure Project materials to stimulate discussions. We were fishing a bit (just a little) so we asked them why.

Istita says they used our promising practises in safer sex posters to “start conversations about pleasure and whether it is a right” .  She says that the images do not make young people feel uncomfortable, as might be expected, and it also helps start a discussion about consent and what is your own personal “line of consent“.

So this got us talking about how sexy consent is. How the best thing you can hear from a romantic or sexual partner is “I want to” or “please do”.

Because (as all the pleasurists know)  having safer sex is not just about condoms but about making sure you are doing what your partner wants, what makes them feel good and vice versa. And rather than thinking our partners should automatically know what we want;  it would turn them on to tell them.

As we concluded girls are not meant to ask for what they want; but boy, do men like it when they do.  As Ishita said “it is sometimes easier to have sex rather than talk” and I added that this plays into our romantic myths of “you must know me and therefore I should not tell you what I want”.

So how do we start to learn to ask and see consent as sexy as it is ? The YP Foundation start with body mapping exercises and let people know the facts. For example the clitoris is not between the toes (as they found some people thought in one workshop ). They then have conversations of what people like and don’t like and what might be their “line of consent”

And they found some surprising twists: it is often assumed that the middle class urban young people of India are better informed about sex with their i -phones and internet connectivity. Not so, not so;  rural young people have more time for sex and  talking about sex and so surprised them with their lack of conservatism. They have more imaginative ideas about sexuality.

So that’s why YP Foundation rocks. Actually speaking as and for young people and telling us things we did not expect.


Perfect Poster girls for the "know your rights" campaign




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The Pleasure Project gave a presentation this week at the offices of Plan International and Interact Worldwide in London, in achingly hip east London’s Shoreditch. We we very excited because these are charities that do amazing work to improve the health and quality of people’s lives globally. Also Interact Worldwide is very clear about it’s commitment through its programmes to The right to a safe and pleasurable sex life. Woo Hoo.

kissing Many other cool things happen in this neighbourhood. Madonna holds birthday parties. Kate Moss has casual drinks. Keira Knightly kisses a man in the high street. The Pleasure Project does a sexy female condom demo just off the high street.

We have to admit that we have been to Shoreditch in a pleasure propaganda capacity before – to talk to the African HIV Network about

But we had never  talked quite so dirty about female condoms there. It’s gonna to catch on and be all the rage in about 5 minutes. Watch this space.

The people gathered by Interact Worldwide were great;  interested to know more about what is a pleasure approach to sex education and wanting to know how to make it happen. They had some really interesting questions;

  • how to we sex up safer sex without tapping into stereotypes of women
  • how to work with faith based groups to get good safe  sex into African  church hospitals
  • how to incorporate pleasure into  campaigns about the danger of multiple sexual relationships
  • how to increase sexual skills for good sex as well as safe sex

They were all very sweet about the presentation and discussion and had this to say.

In our work on sexual and reproductive health in Africa and Asia we tend to focus so much on the prevention of disease and negative  ideas of sex and sexuality.We tend to talk about people’s right to pursue pleasurable sex but often struggle with taking this approach when we implement our programmes. Now we feel more confident being able to say not only is it people’s right, it also supports people being able to more successfully negotiate safer sex for themselves. Rutti Goldberger, Programme Advisor

A woman who can negotiate pleasurable sex can negotiate safer sex, and indeed can negotiate almost anything! So very true, and yet so very challenging to achieve in many of the contexts in which we work, but let’s keep trying! My mind is now positively whirring with ideas for collaborating and incorporating the pleasure project’s no-nonsense principles into our work on reproductive health and sex education for adolescents with our partner organisations in Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda.                     Ceri Angood, Africa Programme Manager

I was struck by the fact that the HIV world has done a far better job of including pleasure in their approach to safer sex, but this still doesn’t seem to be the case with contraception and family planning. This is definitely something that Interact wants to take forward with our partners in future. Alan Smith, COO of Interact

Others said that they liked to hear about actual examples of work where people are sexing up safer sex and want to do more to make their work with young people relevant, engaging and more mainstream.

By chance there was a big news story that day on the BBC about the views of teenagers of their sex education, which provided a good context that young people’s sex education in the UK is failing to be relevant.

A survey conducted by Brook UK, a leading UK sexual health organisation found that only a third of young people surveyed in the UK felt that their school sex education was good and 72% of those surveyed wanted more say in what is included in their sex education. British young people were also asked “where they learnt about sex ?”  and not surprisingly over a third said they learn about sex from a friend and 5% from online pornography.

It provided an apt and timely reminder that sex education tends to fail young people not only in the UK but also globally. It’s a good time to remember that pleasure is one if not the key motivation for sex for us all.

“Rail against it, repress it, and moralize it ad infinitum; nevertheless, sex will find a way.” Abramson and Pinkerton .



UK Government Safer Sex poster 2006

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Arushi Singh, ace Pleasure Propagandist based in Delhi and Goa, spent June in the sunny climes of Glasgow learning all there could be about good safe sex. Here is her first report home.

Ever heard of a soggy sao?

This Pleasure Propagandist got to go to a sexology conference for the first time and boy was it an incredible experience! The 20th World Congress for Sexual Health  in Glasgow, was jam-packed with sexologists, sex and relationship therapists and sex educators.

I found a sex education specialist who could well feature in the third edition of The Pleasure Project’s “The Global Mapping of Pleasure”. Dr. Lorel Mayberry runs a 14-week Sexology elective at the Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia. I was lucky enough to participate in a two-hour workshop by her where she took us through some of the teaching methods she uses with young people. One of these being the ‘Saucy Sexy Scale’.

A scale that helps people understand which sexual acts are high risk, low risk or no risk for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. It does this in the sauciest way possible – with pictures!

Now before I describe the scale to you, the story of how it was developed must be told. A group of ‘at-risk’ young people from a Brisbane Youth Centre got a $1000 grant. They spent $990 on food and alcohol and $10 on Play-Doh. Do you know how many sexual positions you can create with Play-Doh?! That’s what they did – they used the Play-Doh to make little, colourful people in all kinds of sexy positions, including golden showers and a soggy sao ! A friend of theirs took photographs of each position and voila! They had postcards, each with a saucy sexy act on it with the Play-Doh figures getting it on and the description written behind. So you get to discuss each of the positions and sex acts, learn about new ones you never knew of and place them on a scale from no, low, medium to high risk – so you know how to be safe too.

Play Doh will never look the same to me . Maybe they inspired this play doh porn – looks pretty safe to us..

Arushi Singh, Pleasure Propagandist based in Delhi and Goa, India has been working with The Pleasure Project for the past few years in a number of ways, training young people to sexy up their sex education in the UK, doing pleasure body mapping at the Bali Global AIDS conference and encouraging all to draw on our Great Wall of Vagina in Delhi. She attended the World Association of Sexual Health in Glasgow and we asked her to write about it for us…..more coming later this week

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iattfolder_coverThe UNAIDS Inter-Agency Task Team (IATT) on HIV and Young People recently published a series of seven guidance briefs on HIV interventions for young people. The idea of the briefs is to provide decision makers with information about how to ameliorate the HIV epidemic, based on the existing body of knowledge relating to young people. Of course, the UN is a large, bureaucratic organization that sometimes seems to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from the youth it claims to be targeting. However, there has also been a clear movement within the international organizations toward a more youth-friendly and, dare I say it, pleasurable approach to health.

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GACCIn the world of promoting safer sex, it’s true that university students get a lot of attention. But usually this attention is focused on their risky behavior, crazy parties, and multiple partners. This year, the Great American Condom Campaign decided to take safer sex to the grassroots level.

Instead of simply recruiting peer educators, this campaign actually sends supplies – 500 condoms – to students who volunteer to be “SafeSites”; places where other students can go for condoms and information. They also have a website that is also encouraging students to take action, for instance against retailers who will only sell condoms from behind the counter.

What caught my eye this time though was the story of a Texas State University senior who distributed the condoms she received through a “Safer Sex is Sexy” campaign. Though there aren’t many details on the website yet, she promises to post more photos and information. There is a video of her describing the success of her campaign:

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