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Sex ed classes that include pleasure and desire are more effective

"Including sexual pleasure considerations in sexual and reproductive health services improves condom use."


Researchers on 'The Pleasure Project' say a rethink of sex-ed is necessary (Ipsita Divedi via SWNS)

By Stephen Beech via SWNS

Sex ed classes that include discussion of sexual pleasure and desire are far more effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies and disease, according to a new study.

Researchers found that sex-ed programs that incorporate pleasure and desire are more likely to persuade young people to practice safe sex.

They say their findings should trigger a fundamental "rethink" of how sex education programs are oriented.

The study showed that sexual health courses including desire and pleasure can improve knowledge and attitudes around sex, as well as condom use compared to those that don't.

The analysis of research literature from 2005 to 2020, published in the journal PLOS One, found that incorporating pleasure in such programs can have "positive" effects on attitudes and safer sex behavior.

The research team that conducted the analysis recommends revisiting sexual education and health intervention approaches that do not acknowledge that sexual experiences can be pleasurable.


Billions of dollars are spent around the world each year on sexual and reproductive health and rights services and programs.

However, with less than 10 years to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals - which target sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, there is still a massive global burden of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV.

Researchers reviewed 33 projects targeting STI/HIV risk reduction that incorporate pleasure.

They found evidence that including pleasure can have "significant positive effects" across information- and knowledge-based attitudes, including participants’ self-belief in behavior change, and motivation to use condoms, as well as in behavior and condom use.

The research team say that continuing to avoid pleasure in sexual health and sex-ed risks "misdirecting" or ineffectively using resources. They called for a fundamental "rethink" of how programs are oriented.

Study co-author Anne Philpott, of The Pleasure Project, said: “Pleasure has been overlooked and stigmatized in health promotion and sex education, despite its obvious connection to sexual health and well-being.

"Our systematic review and meta-analysis, the first of its kind, shows that including sexual pleasure considerations in sexual and reproductive health services improves condom use and so may also improve sexual and reproductive health outcomes."

She added: "Policymakers and program managers should more readily acknowledge that pleasure is a key driver of sexual behavior and that incorporating it in sexual and reproductive health services can reduce adverse outcomes.

"Eight years out from the Sustainable Development Goal deadline, innovative strategies that can accelerate progress towards Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights targets, including for STI and HIV prevention, are urgently needed.

"Programmes adopting a sex-positive and pleasure-inclusive approach is one such innovation that should be urgently considered.”

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