When pleasure gets stuck

Stuck Word Question Mark Background Caught ProblemContinuing my ongoing conversation about Teaching Safer Sex, I want to dive into the first section of volume 2. This section, called “Getting Into a (New) Groove,” and is described this way: “These are not your everyday safer sex lessons! Lessons in this section examine STI prevention through the lens of sensuality, decision-making and inclusivity of populations that are often overlooked.”

The lessons include:

  • Sensually Sexy Safer Sex
  • Inclusive Safer Sex
  • Safe and Savvy Condom User: Teaching Condom Use to an Audience with Special needs
  • ABC…Easy as 123?
  • Some Day: Transitioning from Sexual Abstinence to Safer Sex

This week we’ll be going through these lessons one-by-one, starting off today with:

By Melissa Keyes DiGioia

By the end of this lesson, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe how the senses can be stimulated through specialized condom features.
  2. Explain how the specialized features available in some condoms can increase sexual pleasure.
  3. List one important message people should know about pleasure and condom use.

Public health information about safer sex products often promotes the condom’s risk-reduction benefits regarding unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Missing from the dialogue are the positive pleasurable benefits of condom usage. Pleasure is an important factor to discuss with condom usage, especially since a main reason people cite for avoiding condom use is reduced pleasure.

While public health campaigns promote prevention messages, condom companies have embraced both condom development and marketing of pleasure-enhancing condoms. Now, more than ever, consumers can choose among specialty features designed to increase sexual pleasure. As a result, teachable moments exist to collectively discuss and promote pleasure and safer sex. In this lesson, participants will examine the pleasurable aspects of condoms by exploring how these new condom designs can stimulate the senses, and contribute to sexual pleasure and condom usage.

After starting with a group discussion around the nature of pleasure in all its many and varied forms, the participants are asked to complete two sentence stems anonymously:

  1. A person might find sexual behaviors can be EMOTIONALLY pleasurable when…
  2. A person might find sexual behaviors can be PHYSICALLY pleasurable when…

I love this starting point for a lesson about contraception. How many people do we really get to talk with about pleasure? With our partners? I hope so.

But what about with our friends, our colleagues, our peers? This word…pleasure…has so much power and meaning that it can get stuck in our collective throats. I mean this quite literally, in that many people have as hard a time saying the word pleasure as they do saying other words around sexuality that hold taboo when they really shouldn’t (vulva, vagina, penis), but I also mean it metaphorically.

We need to start asking ourselves what is good about this life, this experience of being human. There is no way around our shared human-ness, at least not in the present moment. Because we are stuck with our bodies, our hormones, our physical selves, we need a deeper conversation about what is the good and the bad which make up that experience. We talk, sometimes at great length, about the bad. This is particularly true about the potential bad with sexuality. We talk about STIs, unplanned pregnancies, broken hearts, sexual assault, and so much more. And we should, we need to talk about these things.

But we need to talk about the pleasure in being human in equal measure with the bad. What is connecting, humanizing, beautiful, even exalting about being human? I want to know. I’m so excited that pleasurable experiences exist! I want to foster them!

This desire to promote pleasure is, I hope, true for couples both as it relates to their sexual connection and other aspects of life generally. But before one person can tell their sexual partner what brings them sexual pleasure, they have to figure it out for themselves. And so the questions:

  1. A person might find sexual behaviors can be EMOTIONALLY pleasurable when…
  2. A person might find sexual behaviors can be PHYSICALLY pleasurable when…

And wouldn’t it be so beautiful if what brought someone emotional and physical pleasure also brought them sexual health? Condom companies work hard toward these ends, and that is something we are very lucky for and our students can benefit from so much! But only if we’re ready to unstick our throats and say the word pleasure.

Read more about this lesson and more by becoming a member of the Sex Ed Network or buying Teaching Safer Sex:

TSS both