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Placing Pleasure into the tired narratives of Danger, Death, Disease in Sexual Health Promotion

Placing Pleasure into the tired narratives of Danger, Death, Disease in Sexual Health Promotion

Introduction: Pleasure is one of the key motivators for
sex globally. However, the framing of sex education and
sexual health programmes continues to be one of avoiding
danger, avoiding death, and avoiding disease rather than
seeking pleasure, enjoying and affirming our bodies, and
articulating desires. In fact, pornography, which rarely
shows safer sex but has immense erotic appeal, is now
one, if not the key channels for sex education globally.
Action: The omission of pleasure in sex education
curricula has a damaging effect on sexual health and
wellbeing by failing to recognise diverse sexualities, and
perpetuating the myth that women are not sexual
beings. On the other hand, people with a more positive
view of their own sexuality are more likely to practice
safer sex, use contraception consistently, have higher
sexual self-esteem and therefore be more sexually assertive
and confident. Despite evidence that attitudes about
sexuality influence safer-sex practices and agency, few
evaluations of sex education and sexual health interventions
consider these aspects of people’s sexual
experiences. The recent massive increase in access to
erotic media globally, with a very limited view of pleasure,
gender, race and sexuality, makes the need for
more holistic discussions of sexuality and sexual health
more urgent. We need to advocate and undertake more
‘pleasure audits’ of organisations who aspire to improve
sexual health and well being, and share these for
responsibility for global well-being and health.
Conclusion: We need to champion pleasure education
as part of safer sex education and making erotica
safe. The two worlds of pleasure and prevention are
strange bedfellows, with vastly different epistemologies,
but with much to learn from each other. The next
steps include pleasure-inclusive sex education, more
safer sex porn, research into effective pleasure inclusive
sex education and a global declaration bringing
together the pleasure and health communities.
Keywords: pleasure, sex education, wellbeing
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None

Speakers: Anne Philpott