Sure, knowing your clap from your herp is helpful. But when it comes to sex, what we’re all really after is how to please – both ourselves and others. Without pleasure, sex ed just isn’t very educational.
FPA Pleasure: yes, Yes, YES!!!
FPA Pleasure takes sexual health and wellbeing to the next level by targeting people’s main motive when it comes to sex. The site sells a range of toys, offers sex tips on their blog, and has a (so far somewhat limited) assortment of “pleasure guides”. It’s akin to Planned Parenthood opening up a sex shop. And it’s great!
On the one hand, this is a clever way to generate more revenue in a political climate that promises dwindling funding for the public sector.
In the bigger picture, ventures like this help round out sex education. The long-established FPA parent site is chock full of advice, support, and educational products for sexual beings and sexual health professionals alike. You can find similar content on the sites of many leading sexual health organizations like Planned Parenthood, Brook or various health care services (like the Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto or Sheffield Sexual Health in the UK).
What you find far less often is the discussion of pleasure – which, in my eyes, is a glaring omission.
Starting the Pleasure Talk Young
In my work in clinical settings with young people, I try to inject the topic of sexual pleasure wherever I can. When I give out condoms and lube, I tell service users that “lube is be your best friend” and “the wetter the better”. This always gets a giggle. I go on to explain that not only will lube help prevent condoms from breaking, but it will make sex feel even better for everyone involved.
A young woman once, very sheepishly, mentioned to me that she feels the urge to pee during sex. She seemed quite embarrassed and even concerned that something was wrong with her. I jumped at the opportunity to talk female ejaculation. That’s not something she would have learned at school – but why not??? Heaven forbid we should talk about a natural and pleasurable part of the vagina’s sexual functioning.
Similarly, a perplexed young man asked why his girlfriend didn’t climax from the good ol’ in-and-out like he sees in so much porn. Explaining to him the perils of using porn educationally and teaching him about clitoral stimulation (an entirely new concept to him) was a beautiful thing.
For many, there is still deep-seated shame in discussing sexual pleasure openly. When we react to topics of sexual pleasure with laughter, it shows how uncomfortable we are and how much shame we are taught about ENJOYING SEX.
There is a perception that pleasure is not a part of sexual health. But IT IS.
Young people are bombarded with “safer sex” messages that preach abstinence and invoke the fear of hell in them. But they also have an inkling that there’s something good about this whole sex thing, since it’s everywhere. If I address the good parts when I talk to clients then not only do they get an accurate and complete education, but they’re that much more likely to take my advice to heart. I’m not pulling the wool over their eyes. I’m not omitting the reason so many people have sex: because it can feel really, really good.
Without Pleasure, Sex Ed isn’t very Educational
Back to sexual health organizations talking pleasure. There are definitely professional, comprehensive sex-positive resources out there. Scotland Sexual Health has an entire page devoted to having better sex in addition to the usual “STIs” and “Contraception” headings. The young people-geared site Scarleteen never shies away from discussing how to enjoy the pleasure of intimacy. Still, for a charity like the FPA to create an entire website devoted to the pursuit of pleasure strikes me as diverging from mainstream sexual health organizations.
Some may say it’s bordering on titillation and that isn’t the point of sex education. Some may say it encourages promiscuity, which undermines sexual health. But with a motto that states “talking sense about sex,” it would be amiss for the FPA to not weigh in on pleasure. I certainly hope this is a growing trend and that we see more promotion of pleasure in sex education. Thank you FPA Pleasure!