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Today I got to revisit our symposia session on-demand. No surprise that it was all about PLEASURE. In our session “Sexual health, Sexual rights, Sexual pleasure: the perfect triangle” I was accompanied by Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Anton Castellanos Usigli, and Sofia Gruskin. To say the least, I was star-struck by these powerhouse leaders of the sexual health world and pleasure community.

The Pleasure Panel: Sofia, Gavin (myself), Dr. Tlaleng, Anton

Sofia opened the session with an introduction to the relations between pleasure integration and the wider sexual health world. This was followed by my presentation on the the WAS Declaration on Sexual Pleasure and how to operationalize/enact it from the ground up. Dr. Tlaleng and Anton shared their expertise on their work with pleasure and sexual health (and honestly I could listen to them speak for hours!).

The Presenters

Dr. Tlaleng (Dr.T) does broadcasting, facilitation of advocacy training and clinical practices at DISA clinic. She offers comprehensive clinical services with a focus on women’s health, Dr. T has authored a book “Dr T: A guide to sexual health and pleasure that seeks to provide readers pleasure centered and stigma-free medical information”. She discussed the intersections of sexual health-rights-pleasure with patient health and consultations.

Dr. T live

Anton is a public health consultant, AHF’s Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami and has been a member of the Global Advisory Board for Sexual Health and Wellbeing (GAB) since 2016. Anton discussed what GAB has done to train future health professionals in delivering counseling and education with the triangle approach, linking sexual health, sexual rights and sexual pleasure.

Anton’s discussion on the Sexual Triangle

Sofia directs the USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health (IIGH), and currently sits on numerous international boards and committees including the Lancet Commission on Gender and Global Health.

Sofia’s pleasurable introduction

Some of you may know me, I am the current Communications and Media Officer here at The Pleasure Project and a Master’s student at the University of Bath. I was able to offer a young persons perspective on the issues at AIDS2020 as well as the everyday work that we do.

Pleasure Project reppin’

I was able to catch up with Anton and Dr. T in the margins of the conference to ask them about the pleasure inclusion in global health conversations.

The importance of sexual rights, health AND pleasure in these global discussions

“The primary way of HIV transmission is unprotected sex and people have sex because it feels good. If we want effective programs and strategies for HIV/STI prevention, we have to address sexual pleasure. If we don’t address sexual pleasure and its links to sexual health and sexual rights, we are neglecting the primary driver of sexual relationships.” – Anton

“There is a deliberate misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what pleasure and sex positivity means. There are those who want to uphold the façade to present society as ‘conservative’ yet in reality the concepts of consent, healthy relationships, STI screening, queer health, treatment of causes of painful sex in women are important for the protection of sexual rights.” -Dr. T

“We need to remind the global community of the importance of considering the triangle of sexual rights, sexual health and sexual pleasure, to encourage holistic approaches and provide resources that can be adopted and translated to improve health outcomes…As clinicians we must not be indifferent about the interrelated sexual health, sexual Pleasure & sexual rights. We must offer safer inclusive spaces and be deliberate to “(re)center the margins” by being holistic in clinical approach. Sexual Pleasure is a Human Right.” – Dr. T

“It is time for the public health world to realize that if we are building programs and policies that are related to health and sexuality, sexual pleasure has to be equally considered in the equation alongside with sexual health and sexual rights. If we miss one of the elements of the triangle, we cannot have effective public health policies, programs and services.” – Anton

“These global discussions can now include the insight from WAS Pleasure Declaration and it will (hopefully) give pleasure more grounding in policy and practical discussions. As a young person, my peers and I still discuss how we did not receive CSE (comprehensive sexuality education) when we were younger. The lack of information on self-pleasure, contraception and consent needs to be introduced into curriculum and young people’s lives with greater emphasis. If these discussions happened when we were younger, then maybe we would have had more confidence in ourselves and our own sexualities. Our sexuality should be supported by the people we look up to and the policymakers that are setting terms that will shape our future. Hopefully progressive organisations such as WAS, GAB and The Pleasure Project will aim health and education policy towards inclusion of our diverse experiences, sexual orientations and health needs.” -Gavin

The addition of this session is a positive step for inclusion at these international conferences. This session deserves to give a special shoutout to Tim Sladden of UNFPA for his support and leadership for organising this panel.

Tomorrow, hopefully I will bump into some more pleasure inclusivity or sex positivity!