07 Talking about Sex and Pleasure

By November 19, 2013 Resources, Toolkit

You can download this exercise as a pdf here


Talking about Sex and Pleasure


This exercise is meant to break the inhibitions and explore the cultural associations people have with words and terms around sex, sexuality and pleasure. A group activity allows participants to learn from each other the various words and terms associated with sexual acts, sexual organs and pleasure. They then get to examine their own discomfort around particular words and what they believe is acceptable or unacceptable and why.


To enable participants to talk explicitly about sex, sexuality and pleasure

Approximate Time

45 Minutes

Materials Needed

Flipchart sheets

Marker pens


Before introducing the exercise, prepare four sheets of flipchart paper, each headed with one of the following:

  • Different sexual activities

  • Male sexual organs

  • Female sexual organs

  • Sexual pleasure

Explain the purpose of the exercise to participants before dividing them into small groups and giving each group a flipchart sheet and pen.

Ask participants to brainstorm all the words they have heard of for their topic.

After a few minutes rotate the sheets between the groups and continue until all the sheets have been seen and written on by all the groups.

Stick the sheets on the walls.

Ask participants to get up and look at all the sheets on the wall for a few minutes. Give permission for people to seek clarification of any terms with which they are unfamiliar.

Possible Development

Ask people to choose one word with which they are uncomfortable or which they do not like.

When they have all done this, ask them to mill around and stop one person after another and ask them

“what does ——- mean to you?”


“how does —— feel to you?”

It should be made clear to participants that the purpose of this part of the activity is to get as many responses as possible to these questions. They are to ask the two questions and listen to the replies. They are not to get involved in conversations.

When they have completed this part of the exercise ask participants to return to their small groups and consider the following questions:

  • Did anyone’s responses surprise you and if so why?

  • Has your reaction to the word you chose changed at all and if so why?

  • Which of these words do you personally find acceptable/unacceptable?

  • What do these words reveal about cultural attitudes towards sex, gender and pleasure?

  • Is there anything you would like to be different about your reaction to these words?

  • Which words would you use in your work and why?

Tips for trainers

This exercise encourages participants to learn about the diversity of opinions that exists, thus encouraging them to question their own beliefs. Circulate among the small group discussions while they are answering the questions raised and track whether this is happening. Question participants about why they would not use certain words in their work and what effect this would have on the effectiveness of their work. Stress the importance of using unambiguous, easy to understand and sometimes colloquial language in a professional manner to ensure that the people being reached are absorbing messages in the way intended.

Download this exercise here

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