Sex education needs to include pleasure

Launch of ‘The Pleasure Principles’ A Guide to pleasure-based sexual health

Thursday, March 17th 2022 – Today, The Pleasure Project launches ‘The Pleasure Principles,’ the world’s first guide to practicing pleasure-based sexual health. Last month The Pleasure Project released new evidence with the World Health Organization (WHO) that demonstrated positive and significant increased impact condom use with pleasure based sexual health. Today they are making available the full content of ‘The Pleasure Principles’: practical tips for implementing pleasure-based sexual health.

The Pleasure Principles have thus far garnered endorsements and a range of clear concrete actions from 10 pivotal organizations including IPPF, Amplify Change and Avert. The release will take place in a virtually with pleasure champions and experts from South and South East Asia, Europe, The Middle East, and Southern Africa will discuss their experience and provide tangible guidance on making the Pleasure Principles a reality in their work.

“Health consumers need us to go bold, and we believe pleasure has the potential to lead to transformational work across sexual and reproductive health and rights. We’re pleased to endorse the Pleasure Principles and commit, together, to advancing universal access to sexual reproductive health and rights for everyone, everywhere.”

Karl Hofmann, President and CEO, Population Services International (PSI)

What are The Pleasure Principles?

The Pleasure Principles are seven fun, aspirational, and concrete steps to put pleasure-based sexual health into practice. These aim for sex-positive sex education that focuses on the joyful, pleasurable elements of sex choosing what you want to do as well as what you don’t want to. The Pleasure Principles are an inspiring, clear guide to ensure more safe pleasurable sexual experiences using robust scientific data and international best practices in this new field of pleasure-based sexual health.

The Seven Principles ‘Be Positive, Rights First, Think Universal, Be Flexible, Talk Sexy, Embrace Learning and Love Yourself’ invite sex educators to adopt a sex-positive approach in their work. Underlying all the principles is the need to ‘Be Positive’ and flip the sexual and reproductive health narrative from death and disease to desire and pleasure. Pleasure is arguably the main reason people have sex, and yet has been absent from sex education or sexual health interventions, despite evidence showing that it is more effective. It prevents more unsafe sex to talk about pleasure and have honest conversations about what you want from your sex life. Sexual health specialists need to up their game or risk becoming increasingly irrelevant with the deluge of digital sexual information.

Incorporating sexual pleasure in SRHR programmes improve sexual health outcome

WHO and the Pleasure Project jointly published in February 2022 a systematic review and meta-analysis that demonstrated how interventions that incorporate sexual pleasure could have better sexual health outcomes than those that do not. The WHO’s Dr. Lianne Gonsalves, co author of the research, published in PlOS One journal, said:

“This review provides a simple message: programmes which better reflect the reasons people have sex — including for pleasure —see better health outcomes. The hope is that these results galvanise the sexual and reproductive health and rights community to promote services that educate and equip users to engage in sex that is safe, consensual, and pleasurable.”

The next steps

Equipped with the evidence, the burning question is ‘how do we incorporate sexual pleasure in SRHR programmes?’. The Pleasure Project’s next step is to provide technical guidance on addressing these needs. The organization will speak to this effect at today’s webinar ‘Putting Pleasure into action: how to do pleasure-based sexual health’. Currently, there are a billion easily preventable sexually transmitted diseases in the world and yet evidence shows us that including pleasure in sex education could prevent unsafe sex.

Professor Eli Coleman, who holds the only Academic Chair in Sexual Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School and who leads the Pleasure Task Force at the World Association of Sexual Health said at the launch for the Pleasure Principles for Sexual Health:

‘‘Pleasure is the most powerful motivating factor to sexual behaviour, and to ignore pleasure as contributing to human well-being and happiness doesn’t make any sense. There is an irrational fear of promoting sexual pleasure which is not supported by scientific evidence. Through talking about pleasure and focusing on the pleasurable aspects of sex leads to better sexual health and well-being.’

The Pleasure Project launches the Pleasure Principles as the world takes stock of the COVID pandemic, increasing access to explicit media online, explosion of the sex toy industry. People are asking more searching questions on what they want from their sex lives fed up with intimidating of out-date sex education.

“For too long sex education has focused on all the terrible things that might happen to you after sex, like death, danger, and disease but we must be more honest. People don’t trust you if you don’t tell the truth, that sex can feel good”

—Annie Philpott, Founder, The Pleasure Project.

Call to action: Endorse The Pleasure Principles

Considering the need for effective sexual health programmes, and the million new sexually transmitted infections caught every day, The Pleasure Project invites all sexual reproductive health and rights organizations, the pleasure industry, and sexually explicit media to endorse the Pleasure Principles and be a part of the pleasure wave – as evidence shows Pleasure matters.

The endorsing organizations include: Avert, the World Association for Sexual Health (WAS), International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Services International (PSI), DKT International, The Case For Her, Amplify Change, Tabu Tabu, Fundación Chile Positivo, YUWA Nepal, My Sexual Health Golden Centre for Women’s Rights Uganda.


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