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Sexin’ up Shoreditch

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