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This Saturday, Anne from The Pleasure Project and Laura Ramos Tomás, founder of TabuTabu and one of our amazing Pleasure Fellows, had the pleasure of speaking online to the opening class of the Especialização em Sexologia Clínica (Clinical Sexology Postgraduate Course) at  CEFI – Centro de Estudos da Família e do Indivíduo (Center for the Study of Family and Individual) in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Anne and Laura presented on the benefits of pleasure-based sexual health and explained the Pleasure Principles as well as showing how they can be put into action through the example of Pleasure Fellow Laura’s project Ana Autoestima (Ana Self-Esteem), which brought the pleasure principles to life in a sexuality education initiative in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

We’re here to bring you a summary of this thought-provoking talk and show you, too, how the Pleasure Principles can be put into action.

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The talk began with a fabulous introduction to pleasure-based sexual health by Anne: “In sexuality education, we are mostly taught about what to say ‘no’ to, but not what to say ‘yes’ to.” Consequently, pleasure is often a stigmatised and ignored part of the conversation, even at global conferences like the recent AIDS conference, that had happened the week before:

The Pleasure Project is on a mission to end this by showing that, when people are taught to have good, safe, sex, it has a wealth of benefits like improved attitudes and understanding of sexual health, relationship communication, safer sex behaviour, consent, and condom use. This can be seen in our recent study published in PLOS ONE in partnership with WHO and Case For Her, which showed that when initiatives included pleasure-based sexual health it actually improved sexual health outcomes. The Pleasure Project created the Pleasure Principles, building on this evidence and other examples of best practise, as a guide for incorporating pleasure into sexual health – they take the World Association for Sexual Health’s declaration on sexual pleasure and show how to carve a new path between the sex-negative hypermedical approach, and the hypersexual portrayal in the media.

Above; The Pleasure Principles in Portuguese. You can find out more information about The Pleasure Principles and a full list in English here: The Pleasure Principles – The Pleasure Project

Laura Ramos Tomás’ Pleasure Fellowship project Ana Autoestima is an initiative by TabuTabu, an organisation that works with communities living in poverty in Brazil and Honduras to co-create and deliver sexuality education content that are contextually relevant and addresses their most pressing Sexual and Rreproductive Health and Rights learning needs. Ana Autoestima is a sexuality education service that has been developed centring the vision, ideas and feedback of a local focus group of women from the favela (shanty town) community Favelinha, in the northern periphery of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This bottom-up approach is the foundation that avoids the usual sexual health narratives of risk prevention and prioritizes the humanity of sexual lived experiences. 

As an organisation, TabuTabu fully endorses the Pleasure Principles, applying them in its framework of constructive co-creation, which uses pleasure conversations as a way of centering people of any and all contexts. Working our way to the core of the Pleasure Principles Wave, the Ana Autoestima initiative aligns with each principle as follows:

    • Love yourself: from the self-love that she embodies as a Black and proud woman, to her pleasure-focused dialogue and reminders, Ana Autoestima is all about connecting with her friends (messaging service users) in kindness, positivity, and permission.
    • Embrace learning: The content Ana shares is adapted from evidence-based Comprehensive Sexuality Education  resources to be culturally and contextually relevant to her friends. Beyond that, the entire initiative is co-created, integrating multiple perspectives and learnings from past experiences of related initiatives.
    • Talk sexy: Ana’s communication style is friendly and approachable, and refreshingly sex- and pleasure-positive. She shares her knowledge and suggestions through WhatsApp, which is the most popular and cost-effective app on her friends’ phones, and also allows her to communicate with less literate service users through audio-visual content and audio messaging.
    • Be flexible: Ana’s development team includes women from the community she offers her expertise to, as well as contributors with a range of intersecting identities – the intention behind this is to offer truly contextually relevant information to Ana’s friends.
    • Think Universal: Ana caters her pleasure-based information to a range of friends, varying in age, parental status, literacy levels, sexual orientations, relationship statuses, etc. (Note that to date, Ana’s information is mostly catered to cisgendered women, but TabuTabu is working on expanding this to all femme-identifying friends!)
    • Rights First: Ana’s friends’ rights as women, Black people, and people living in poverty, are often disregarded. Talking human/sexual/reproductive rights is a fundamental practice that turns TabuTabu’s sexuality education initiative into a practice of racial and social justice and a means of combating gender-based and sexual violence.
    • Be Positive: The heart of the Ana Autoestima initiative is positivity: taking a sex- and pleasure-postive approach allows Ana to nudge conversations that break unhealthy taboos around sexuality. By breaking through the stigma, shame and guilt, Ana helps her friends feel better about themselves.

Vulva cupcakes at the Launch of the Ana Autoestima Trial in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: all vulvas are unique, beautiful, and loveable.

Ana Autoestima’s approach to communicating sex-positive information about sexuality and sexual health in a pleasure-positive way allows her friends to foster self-esteem. What originally was ideated to increase pleasure practices amongst Ana’s friends transcended this expectation, becoming a tool for self-actualization:

After the presentation, Laura facilitated a workshop with the CEFI group made up of counsellors, therapists, gynecologists, clinical workerd and other sexual health professionals, to explore the language and attitudes around pleasure, as well as to practice how to take a pleasure-based approach in their professional settings. What a better group to talk about all things Pleasure and the amazing benefits pleasure inclusion can have for sexual health?


If you want to find out more about our new training tool kit will be being launched, follow our social media pages: @thepleasureproject to keep up to date on all the exciting, pleasurable things we have going on! And if you would like to run a similar training with your study group or colleagues, please do get in touch!

If you would like to stay up to date with TabuTabu’s Ana Autoestima initiative, sign up to TabuTabu’s Impact newsletter here and follow @tabutabutalk on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter!


Article by Jess McCrone and Laura Ramos Tomás