The Pleasure Project Workshop
Wendy Knerr proudly shows us a pink little bag. “this is what is sold in one of our partner countries, it is so cool, and so sexy!” We all wait curiously when she opens the bag. “ Look!” , she says while removing a transparent object with a white ring. Enthusiastically she explains that this object enhances sexual pleasure: the white ring should be inserted in the vagina of the woman; she can do it herself, or even better: ask her partner to do it. The man enjoys the top, the woman the outer ring. “This is such a sexy tool to prevent the woman from pregnancy and STIs! It is called… a female condom.”
16 April 2009, Wendy was invited by Share-Net, the Dutch platform on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and Aids to give a workshop on the pleasure approach in the field of SRH. She works for The Pleasure Project, a UK and India based volunteer network, that promotes the pleasure aspects of sexuality. “Pleasure involves all” is one of their slogans, but it is not easy to talk about pleasure when trying to fight problems like HIV/Aids and SRH relating problems. People do not easily talk about pleasure, especially not in a policy environment. But: pleasure is the major motivating factor to get involved in sex, so we should make safe sex sexy. In other words: we should make (female) condoms sexy.
The Pleasure Project uses different methods and tools to promote safe sex through the pleasure approach. One of them is to get safer sex into erotic media. Wendy shows us pornography in which is not only visible that the female condom is being used, but also that using it can be exciting, stimulating and sexy.
They also give training in different countries all over the world. It is not easy to get participants to talk about sexual pleasure, as Wendy explains. She asks us to find a partner and to talk about the most delicious food we have ever had. Immediately people excitingly start talking about food that was ‘so nice and delicious’ and how romantic the setting was when they were taking it. ‘Now tell your partner about the best sex you have ever had.’, Wendy smiles. We all laugh, a bit nervously. Wendy explains that she would not do this to us now, but that this is a method they use to get participants to talk about sexual pleasure. They are writing a dictionary with words that apply to describing pleasure, in a way the same kind of descriptions often used to eating good food.
We should market safe sex. Wendy shows us different packages of female condoms that appeal to women who are more willing to buy a nicely wrapped condom in a little bag, or a painted tin, than a condom in a dull white sachet. Inside the bag there is a small flyer with tips how to use the female condom in a sexy manner. ‘ Of course, we face opposition to our pleasure approach’, as Wendy explains, ‘but we get more positive responses. In a contest a group of nuns won with making the largest penis out of different materials!’