Skip to main content

Good safe sex: Redefining SRHR with pleasure at the center

SafeHands is committed to centering pleasure in sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programming by endorsing The Pleasure Project’s Pleasure Principles.

Good sex not only feels good – but it is good for you. Good sex is proven to improve happiness and intimacy in relationships, alongside a multitude of personal health benefits. Yet too often, talk about sex and relationships is clouded in judgement, fear, and taboo.

But when it comes to promoting “safe sex,” evidence shows that sexual enjoyment – rather than fear and disease – is a more effective motivator. Recent research by The Pleasure Project and the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that safer sex programmes that acknowledge pleasure leads to healthy sexual decision-making like increased condom use.

Ahead of World Population Day on 11 July 2023, SafeHands is committing to pleasure-inclusive sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) programming by endorsing The Pleasure Project’s Pleasure Principles. We believe pleasure is a key dimension to SRHR and essential in promoting safer sex. Here’s how we are working to put pleasure at the heart of our work.

Photo Credit: Pexels, cotton studio

The goods for safer sex

The evidence is clear: SRHR programmes that address the reasons people have sex – including for pleasure – lead to better health outcomes. Yet for too long, SRHR programming has largely ignored pleasure as a key motivator to have sex.

Good sex education starts with acknowledging that safer sex can promote intimacy, consent, wellbeing and pleasure. For many young people, their school-based health and relationships lessons are not fit for purpose. In search of information that addresses their questions on sex, sexuality, and sexual health, young people turn to Google, porn, or fake news. Many of these sources do not provide an accurate portrayal of gender equality, consent communication, and healthy relationships.

We want to move beyond the cringe-worthy banana on the condom moment and providing accurate, non-judgmental information on pleasure, contraception, consent, and more. We will do this by:

  1. Co-Designing pleasure-based information and resources with young people on the topics they need including sex, consent, navigating contraception, and more. Through our digital storytelling and hackathon workshops with peer educators, we will identify the questions young people have and a pleasure-based response.
  2. Ensuring pleasure-based digital health information is accessible for young people. Using our Outreach Tablets, portable android tablets carried by health workers in rural communities in Ethiopia and Uganda, and Ask RHU, our AI-powered chatbot, we seek to expand the catalogue of pleasure-based sexual health information accessible to young people online and off.
    We are collaborating with the Treasure Your Pleasure campaign, developed by IPPF’s Africa regional office to bring more pleasure-based information to the Outreach Tablets. The digital campaign developed with and for young people addresses sexual pleasure, rights, and health and increases the availability of pleasure-based SRHR information.
  3. Bringing a pleasure-lens to condoms as part of the Million Condom Project. From our research, its clear, many young people see condoms as a hinderance to good sex and who can blame them when most condom messaging focuses on avoiding STIs, HIV, and pregnancy. We want to change that. Drawing on The Pleasure Project’s recent research with the World Health Organisation, we know that condom use can be directly improved by incorporating a pleasure frame. In partnership with UK-based condom company, Sex Brand, we are promoting condoms as a valuable tool not just for safer sex – but great sex. The Million Condom Project aims to address the gap in global condom supply in low and middle-income countries and increase condom use by promoting pleasure-based condoms. The Pleasure Principles are at the very core of this project

Young people discussing what they like and don’t like about different condom brands. Photo Credit: Aidah Babirye Nakanjako | Uganda | June 2023

Currently, the Million Condom Project is developing and piloting a new social sector condom in Uganda, in partnership with Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) and the RHU Youth Action Movement. In June, we consulted with 65 young people to understand what a pleasure-based condom ad campaign looks like to them. Young people reported wanting messaging that embodied curiosity, intimacy, and pleasure. Youth voices are critical in shaping the development of the new condom brand that speaks to young people.

Through all our work, SafeHands remains committed to bringing pleasure into SRHR programming to ensure that everyone, everywhere can fulfil their human right to sexual health and wellbeing