Welcome to Modern Anarchy, the podcast featuring real conversations with conscious objectors to the status quo.
I'm your host, Nicole. On today's episode, we have the founder of the Pleasure Project and join us for a conversation all about the liberation of pleasure. Together, we talk about the Declaration on Sexual Pleasure, the Seven Pleasure Principles, and changing the paradigm of sex education.
It was such a delight to be connected to Anne and learn about all the incredible and powerful work that she and the whole Pleasure Project is doing on a global scale. Like Anne said, there is a silence that has been imposed upon us and especially if you have a minority identity or multiple in the intersection of that, it is so difficult to take up space for the pleasure that we all deserve. It is a conversation like this, conversations like last week with Cooper that are changing the paradigm. If you are having conversations with your friends about your pleasure, if you are texting your friends links to this podcast, you are a part of the movement that is making change, making ripples to create a new paradigm.
Anne was talking about the joy of building community with other Pleasure Propagandists in this space who are doing that work. Speaking of community, I wanted to give a huge shout out to two new Patreons that joined the modern Anarchy community. Kelly and Jay, it is a pleasure to have both of you and to connect deeper and share some of the behind the scenes content and private pieces of my life. I posted a couple of pictures of Fat Cat in editing this episode and I'd like to do more of that. I want to share with you the books I'm reading, the things I'm finding in my research, fun pictures of Fat Cat. There is a lot on there that I intend to share with you. I just went to a play party.
Can we talk about that in a safe space? I think that Patreon is going to be the space where I'm starting to share more of these pieces. Also, it is the support on Patreon that makes this podcast and the educational content that I'm releasing each week sustainable. I understand why so many podcasts are going behind paywalls and subscriptions because it takes a lot of work to make a podcast. This is a lot of time, a lot of love that is invested, but I don't want to be the person to put this content behind paywalls and subscriptions. I think when we're talking about liberation and we're talking about a new pleasure paradigm, keeping these conversations trapped behind people who have the financial means is just not going to get us there. We have to keep this content free.
If you want to be a part of that movement and support this educational content, then feel free to check out the Patreon link below. You'll join all the fellow anarchists in the community that we've created there to have private conversations in a safe space. I really hope all of you enjoy the conversation that I had with Anne today.
I want to invite all of you to slow down and try and do at least one thing that is pleasure-based for yourself, whether that's having a cup of tea and enjoying that, or masturbating, having sex with a partner, or maybe enjoying a lovely bath, whatever it is, just taking the time to honor that and your pleasure today. Alright everyone, let's tune in. Do you have any questions before we start? For me, the podcast? Yes. I mean, obviously I've listened to a few.
Not really. I mean, unless you want to get out of it in terms of the podcast. I mean, I like to take a little bit of a seat back. So if there's something specifically you want to talk about.
Yeah, I want to talk about pleasure-based sexual health, the pleasure principles, our research with WHO. I listen to Alan McKee's just now in the garden. That's nice when I was doing my reading. Because I was on his advisory group, right? His research. And he was great in terms of also making the academic stuff very accessible. So that would be, I guess for us, that would be really great.
Yeah, I mean, I'd love to do that. And I'd also love to hear a little bit about your own personal experience with any of this. If that ties into some of this, I feel like it always kind of does for all of us, you know what I mean? Yeah, I'm definitely happy to talk about working in public health and HIV prevention. And, you know, when the straw broke the camel's back and I decided to go into pleasure and why and that stuff. Oh, yeah, I would love to hear that story.
Maybe you want to start there? Like, yeah, what was the straw that broke the camel's back for you? So I guess pleasure had been bubbling in my mind for a long time. My first public health job that I did was running a young woman's sexual health project. And I was the youth that was selected to run it, like the representative of the community. It was on an estate that had relatively high unintended teenage pregnancies. So that was the kind of public health aim. But I was always really interested in the conversations when you ask young people, and maybe it's because I was a young person at the time, but why did you have safer sex? What were the conditions that helped you have safer sex? How was that for you?
And I think that really opened up young people's, you know, their truths. Because rather than being on the defensive and being asked why didn't you have safer sex? It's always this kind of cut path, empty approach from public health.
And then, for example, you know, young men would say, there's so much, you know, basically my own paraphrasing, but they would say, I've got so many other things to worry about my performance, you know, like I don't have a locked room. I have to go and buy the condoms. You know, I want to, but I'm worried about my erection. I'm going to be teased.
You know, all of that. And young women would say things. I mean, this is not, you know, exclusively gendered, but would be more common that they would say, well, what did one say to me?
Oh, the, you know, it's like in the films when the music starts and the violin start playing, and then you're kind of on the beach, and then you don't want to ask for it. Or, you know, they would say that's why they didn't do it. But when they, when they did do it was when they could reconcile that romanticism with being able to have that conversation about care, for example. And so, you know, young people would say, oh, when I, when I feel safe, when I have a private space, when condoms are easily accessible, that's when I can have so for sex.
I suppose that positivity and that flipping the narrative to asking people when they did led me to be thinking, why don't we ask more often about. about what do you want? So what we all get taught in sex education is to say no to what you don't want. And I always say, like, how can you know what you don't want if you don't know what you want?
So that was kind of in my mind, right? And then I was, and then I, you know, it was very excited to work in public health. I love public health. And it was something that I didn't know was open to me. And then I was working in HIV.
So I'd worked in South Africa at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic and became really passionate about the importance of prevention. As it went, as the cases went from less than 1 % and we thought this is like, this is horrendous. Like this is not possible up to the sort of 25 % of the adult population that it did.
And the tragedy and catastrophe of that was unthinkable. So I was thinking more and more about the constructive ways to support people to have safer sex. And then I was working promoting the internal condom. So I was working for the organization that had kind of supported the first version of that. I was working with public sector in Asia and I was based in Sri Lanka. And I, you know, was running in lots of different countries, workshops to introduce the internal or the vaginal condom, or you can use it for anal sex to different groups. And I loved working with sex workers who had the most experience of negotiating safer sex and the incredibly valuable experience and expertise and lived experience of how to do that. And I remember sitting with a group in Sri Lanka and we were having fun talking about how we could make it more erotic and sexy it up. And, you know, then we were like, well, you know, the inner ring can rub on the end of the penis and on the, you know, on the end of the cervix and be like that little internal tickle and it's extra lubricated. We were really going for it, you know, we'll let the client insert it.
Oh, I'll let him, I'll tell him he's the special one. And it's got a lot of, you know, and it's, you know, and I was saying, well, maybe you could say it's only big because he's big or it makes noise when the sex is really good. So all of these kind of creative techniques were bouncing around. And then they took away internal condoms overnight and then came back the next day with lots of these little handwritten notes from their clients that were saying things like smooth and hot.
I loved it. And some of them charged more for having sex with the internal condom. And I was like, we're really onto something now. I love this. And, you know, so that kind of seeing the potential of promoting a condom as a sex toy in the way that you talk about it, in the way that you negotiate it, in the way that you introduce it, rather than saying, you know, the way that we're all usually introduced to them is the condom moment right now we've got to stop, you know, use this and we muster us with naughty people and you must use a condom, like this kind of finger wagging approach. And so, and it, you know, it helped that it was a new product.
So people didn't have preconceived ideas. So you could say, oh, I've just been told about this from a friend and they love it. And then I went to the Barcelona AIDS conference of these big global gatherings, like, you know, 20,000 people who have activists, policymakers, researchers, and this was all a bit new to me. And I landed there and I was thinking, God, if a Martian landed at this AIDS conference, they would think that AIDS is an airborne disease, like nobody's talking about sex. You know, they're talking about maybe, you know, incidents or technologies or, you know, lots of wonderful things, but the reality of why people become infected and why they have sex and why they want sex and pleasure was just never mentioned.
And I thought, I'm going a feel a bit odd here, like I really missed something. And then I went to one particular session, which was about the gynomicrobicides, which is this potential gel that could prevent HIV. And I thought there could be a potential here because lube, right? Lube the unsung hero of sex, I think, or heroin.
Yes. More lube people, more lube. So I went along and then this, you know, researcher was talking, a very formal researcher, was talking about how they did the research about vaginal microbicides. And then he was saying, talking about the incertive probe and the receptive cavity. And I was thinking, oh my God, I'm not keeping up. I don't really know what's going on.
It's a really technical session. And then I realized he was talking about, like, the penis and the vagina. And I was thinking, just use the words, use the words. And so that was it then.
I think something snapped inside me and, you know, my rant pipes got even hotter. And then I ran out for a drink with a friend who also works in HIV prevention and condom promotion was like, that's it, I'm doing it. It's going to be called the pleasure project. And that was the beginning of the journey in 2004.
Wow. I mean, yeah, I think you're talking about the importance of the narrative that we're telling ourselves around these things, around sexuality. And the reality is these narratives are powerful, right?
Oh yeah, incredibly powerful. And I think, I guess, another thing that frustrates me is that when it comes to sexuality, sex, or sexual identity, you know, everything that we know about good education flies out of the window. So the vast majority of us have had a sex education that has been shaming and has been not allowing us to explore or discuss even exploring.
And it's been, just don't do it. And that's particularly strong for, it's a kind of pleasure hierarchy or the girl rubin hierarchy that is even more, I think, applied when it comes to pleasure, like a pleasure privilege is there, right? It's real in the, you know, it's acceptable pleasure if it's heterosexual married couples. Or it's acceptable pleasure if it's heterosexual white men. Or, and it's not, you know, the further away you get from societal norms, the less acceptable it is.
If you're queer or if you're not able bodied or if you're a person of color, and you can see that very clearly that that becomes even harder then to unlearn that shame and stigma, which is you then really internalize because you've been told just don't do it. And one of the questions I'm kind of fond of asking people to think about or discuss is, you know, what was the most pleasurable sex you ever had? And then think about how that's not a muscle that we really ever use. Whereas, you know, as I was saying when it comes to education, when we're taught about learning to drive or learning to cook or whatever, learning to garden, you know, we'll be told this thing could give you great pleasure and joy. It's, you know, you need to be whatever independent or you need to be mature enough to handle the skill like it comes to driving. but we're going to try and keep you safe when you learn this and you need to be responsible, but it could be wonderful. That's exactly the same way that we should be teaching about sexual activity and sexual behaviour, whereas we're kind of all fumbling around trying to figure out what we enjoy or maybe looking at resources that aren't the right resources for us or online now.
And so for me, that kind of internalised narrative that we take a long time for most of us to shake off or unpack is very, very strong when it comes to sexuality. Absolutely. I mean, I think we are not having conversations about it, right? And I think this is part of, it gets kind of tricky when you think about like public versus private conversations, right? I feel like even, at least in my experience, and there's space to hold for this, but like when I would be in a monogamous relationship, it'd be like, oh, I can't really talk about the sex that I'm having because it's a private act that I'm doing with this other person. But then in that, I'm not having conversations with my friends, with my community about what I like, what I don't like and expanding in the conversations about that. So I think it gets to be a hard line of like keeping it private, but also allowing yourself, if you want to keep it private, right? Like I'm in a very different space now where I freely talk about this and I like being able to bounce off of all of my experiences with my friends and learn from the different ways that we're engaging in sex in our community.
And that's really powerful, right? But navigating that, the privatization of our sexual experiences and honoring that, but also allowing ourselves to have conversations about what feels good with other people in your life. Because like you said, if you're not talking about that, not learning from other people, you're using maybe non-ethical porn. I mean, you're going to get some messaging that I would say is not helpful in that way.
Yeah. And so, I mean, one thing we did at The Pleasure Project, which was really fun, is we did a whole project around your fantasy. And we've done another whole project about what was the most pleasurable sex you ever had.
And it can be anonymous. And we collected them on a postcard. And one event in Delhi, I sat on a sofa, we called it the sofa sex event. And then people told me, if they wanted to, what was their fantasy? And did another project at one of the, a big global feminist conference. And we had what, you know, what was the most pleasurable sex you ever had, just write it on the back of the postcard, pop it in the box.
It was so popular. And I think, and then read them out. But because they were anonymous, you didn't, you know, it was private, but it could go public.
People felt safe. And it's for me, I used to think about it as a kind of community fantasy or pleasure bank, right? Where you kind of dip into it and like learn from other people. And I think that helps create new narratives, which are community driven. And on means that people don't have to then rely on, you know, the really unhelpful porn that's out there. I mean, there's some really great porn as well, ethical feminist porn and safer porn.
But yeah, it just kind of creates these new narratives. I mean, of course, there's wonderful literature and erotica and poetry. And that's one thing I really like thinking about with the pleasure project is moving away from the kind of public health literature to help people feel inspired by the nuances and complexities of pleasure and desire that, you know, come through a poem much better than they do from, you know, well, very much better than they do coming from an health education leaflet. But we have a lot to learn from, you know, the wonderful creativity that is out there. And there is, you know, some really great stuff.
Absolutely. I mean, you're looking at a research article, I don't feel the pleasure in the research article, you know what I mean? In the same way that I might with a poem, I can't really connect to pure knowledge versus maybe an artistic story, a human experience, someone telling it on a card, right? And that natural humanist that's there rather than the academic lens kind of like you were talking about at that conference, right? Of like the insertion versus like just using the words for what they are, you know? And I think there's a, you know, there needs to be a better medium than we have. And I think part of the stigmatization of pleasure in the world of sexual health practitioners or policy or public health is that people find it hard to navigate, you know, you don't have to talk about your own sex life in explicit terms to be a promoter of pleasure, right? Or a pleasure champion.
Right. You might find it helpful, but you might not. We all need to work out our own boundaries on that in different moments. But it's like almost people feel that they're not a professional if they talk about pleasure. And you know, when I had the first satellite at the, it was the AIDS conference after that, I then went all gung ho and did a pleasure satellite, in which somebody from the international community of positive women HIV positive women read a poem, read a number of erotic poems. So we mixed it up. It was great. But people, somebody caught me in the corridor and said, this is the end of your career.
What are you doing? So I think enabling people in their professional spaces to feel more confident and comfortable to be able to talk about sex, you know, using words that people understand in an honest way, but that doesn't make them feel that they're compromising their own privacy is absolutely the way it needs to be. And that can be done and, you know, is done by many, but the whole community needs to do that. Because if you're in the world of being a sexual health professional, you need to be able to talk about sex.
And it sounds a bit obvious to say, but like, it doesn't happen often enough. And so what I think we're doing at the pleasure project is also bridging between these worlds of academia, of community of practice, but also of the world of explicit media. But we're also creating a new narrative, which is not the usual narrative of sexual health and sex education, which as I say, I call it death, danger and disease, right? All about, you know, what you need to avoid and the negative consequences, but it's not the hyper sexualized negativity that we can get with a lot of explicit media or porn, but it we can walk a new path, which is pleasure based sexual health, which is about integrating and incorporating pleasure within sex education and sexual health interventions. And we just need some kind of support to understand how we do that and how we do that safely with the people that we're working with, right?
Absolutely. I mean, everything you're saying is hitting me that if you have letters behind your name, the trickiness of being able to talk about sex, let alone your own experience, if you'd like to, if that feels empowering, right? I think when we talk about empowerment, it's all about the opportunity to choose, right? Not feeling like you have to and not feeling like you can't, but that choice, the autonomy in it that if you would like to share about your own experience and still be a professional, there should be space for that. And I think part of that is normalizing the conversation around sex and So I'm thinking about how I just did a presentation about, because my work is in psychology, right, about how we work with survivors of sexual violence, right? And the whole trajectory with that is, you know, processing the narrative, processing the experience and what the meaning is that we take from that. But the endpoint is moving people towards pleasure. That is the endpoint of healing after an experience like that. And if we're in the psychology field, not talking about what pleasure is, how do we expect our clients to get there?
We're not really helping people to get there. If we're not having conversations about what pleasure is, all we're talking about is the trauma, the scary things about sex. And we're leaving out this whole piece that is really, really needed for healing.
Absolutely. And I think, you know, it's also denying people who have had those experiences the opportunity to work towards this vision of well-being and pleasure and joy and reclaim that. And there's some really interesting work on this about how pleasure-based sexual health can be more effective for people who have suffered sexual trauma, which is a high proportion of people on the planet. And actually, one of the papers that supported our work at the World Association of Sexual Health was about just that by Dennis Fortenbury. So the World Association of Sexual Health had a, I was in their sexual pleasure task force, which was a joy to be in, with lots of really big brains thinking about pleasure. And we pushed through a sexual pleasure declaration.
And that was ratified last September. And that, as far as I know, is the first global normative agency to put out a declaration to say sexual pleasure is important. And it's important for all of these kinds of reasons. It's important for people who have suffered trauma. It's important to think about gender dynamics and, you know, breaking down the harmful norms around masculinity and femininity. It's really important for sexual health.
It's important for practitioners to think about it. It's also sex, if it's safe sex, can be good for you. It can be good for your health. So there's a paper about how it can be good for your health. And it's like remarkably little written or said about that, you know, it can reduce heart disease.
It can improve your mental health, you know. And so there's a number of papers that are written to support that declaration. And a technical document that brings it all together with some really fascinating stuff in it. So it brings it all together in a way that you can, it's an academic paper, but you can kind of pull from it and, you know, become a pleasure geek as you're reading it. Yes.
I would love, I would love if you could send that to me because I can link it into the show notes for people to find. Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely.
Both the declaration and the papers. And they're all on our website, actually. So I can send you our website where there's a lot of other pleasure resources. We're trying, our website is like a portal to pleasure. We can go in and find all the academic research. We've also got a global mapping of pleasure that has world map with all other pleasure positive people who are doing pleasure and sexual health work.
And you can see a short description of the words. You can find people in your neighborhood and not feel so alone. So we've, that's grown from 15 examples in 2005 to over 100 now.
So, and we'd love to add their examples. We want to really have, you know, we're a, we're a small but growing community of people who have this passion for pleasure. And I think it's really important that we connect because it can feel isolating.
It can feel scary. And, you know, I've heard time and time again from people who have connected in that it's been such a relief. It's been such a relief to be able to talk to other pleasure positive people.
Huge, right? Because there's this part of like, wow, there's such a profound level of healing I want to talk about that I cannot talk about with other people because of the taboo. I think this is coming up for me in this exact moment. I try to be as open as I can in my own experience, right?
Writing that line. Because I am a sexual assault survivor. And that is 100 % what set me on this trajectory of becoming a psychologist without a doubt, right? So more recently in my life, I've been exploring kink practices and learning to trust another person to explore all of that. Oh my God, what level of healing I have felt in my experience of just surrender and trust and to be in that state with another human is profoundly healing.
But I don't know who I can talk to about with this, right? Because it's talking about healing that is also about sex, you know? And the second that I say it's about sex, it creates this sort of like, you know what I mean? Well, the taboo around kink, right?
But, you know, I think that the vanilla sexual health world has a huge amount to learn from BDSM. And it's great that you've had that experience. Congratulations.
Thank you. I literally, I literally called it an exorcism. It felt like to me of releasing so much sexual trauma and so much, at least for me, purity culture, you know, I was raised very Christian. And so to like, really release all of that and step into a new state and feel that energy be moved throughout my body was so healing. I mean, you have an experience like that. And I'm like, wow, I'm, you know, like you said, your horns are going like, I need to talk about this. This is huge. I'm glad you found people to create that space for you as well.
There's a lot. Yeah, create that safe space. Yeah, a lot of trust. But I think, I mean, you know, there's also some malpractice in the kink community, of course, but I think that there's a lot to learn in terms of creating safe spaces, in terms of how safer sex negotiation can be sexy. Which then the vanilla world could learn from in terms of like that stuff I was talking about eroticizing condom use and so on. But in terms of discussing the norms, working out, using the words to say what you want. And then, you know, using the words again to say if that's changed, that kind of overcomes what I was talking about at the beginning with that kind of norm of on then the music starts, and then it goes quiet.
And then I don't use the words, right? So actually, I interviewed the author of the ethical slat, which is very exciting. Yeah. And that was something that we spoke about on when we spoke about it, about the learning from the kink community. But I think it's a really big learning for the public health world. And it's a bit like what I was saying about sex workers experience, that the problem is that again, there's this hierarchy of evidence where that experience or the skills in negotiating sexy, safer sex would be not respected if it comes from a sex worker, very, very sadly, who could have had like 5000 % more experience than the public health researcher.
And then so it's been kind of maybe put in the wrong hands, or you know, the role of promoting condoms has been given to people who have been trained to focus on disease treatment or, or, you know, a more comfortable talking about stopping behaviour. So to actually focus on the sex positive, the what to aim for rather not what not to aim for is what we're all what we're all about. And I think there's been a lot more, I was, you know, hoping during COVID and I think it did happen that people centered themselves for a while and started thinking more about what they want in their lives, what they want to aim for, what brings them well being and had a moment to reflect and I hope that lasts. And, you know, for me, the pleasure projects work fits very much into that space of us all thinking about this paradigm shift in terms of what we want in our lives and what we want our societies to aim for, in terms of well being. And I think, you know, rather than this kind of chasing growth, actually, you know, for what thinking about for what and I think it's a really equally important moment to think about this in terms of the, you know, planet well being right and for me that's, you know, that that question of what we're aiming for in the world of public health research or sex education isn't enough to be focused on. So when I've seen so many interventions that, you know, our HIV prevention or so called women's empowerment that are all about teaching people how to stop something and I'm like, can we just aim a bit higher, you know, and the standard indicators and the STGs for gender equity are focused on measuring, you know, important things but things like, you know, women and female identifying people not experiencing violence or being able to open their own bank account and you know these are important things but I'm kind of like we just lift our heads slightly higher and think also, you know, could we have a, you know, a longer term vision for more pleasure, more joy, more well being, you know, and I'd die a happy woman when the World Bank or the STGs have an indicator of pleasure which is measuring pleasure as the ultimate empowerment indicator. Wouldn't that be fabulous?
Being able to ask for what you want, you know? Yes. Please let it be so, right? Because I mean, we know the orgasm gap, right, and the data on that but even that it's like that the orgasm is not the only way to have pleasure, right? So like even that's aiming at a very like this is where you need to get to have this experience. So it would be very interesting if we had data that could gauge pleasure wholly not so focused on the orgasm but what we do know from the orgasm gap is already that like there is a significant gap here and oh yeah when I think about it we're, I mean, I mentioned sexual trauma, right? And when you work that down to the other areas, yeah, if you're a trans person of color, like being sexual comes with a slew of societal judgment and all these other things so it can be even harder or if you are a woman, you know, at least in America, marital rape wasn't rape and illegal for a long time.
That was very recent, right? And so when we think about all of the narratives in that of women being property and that you know your husband at the time could have sex with you and it not be rape if it was non-consensual, all of that is so much trauma and our collective experience that when you're asking about what is pleasure, all these pieces are deep in our psyche and it takes some time to heal through all of that. So even if we haven't had a sexual assault or a violence like that, there is this collective narrative that I would say of the patriarchy that is absolutely trauma that we've all experienced in terms of our sexuality. And I think, yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, it gets deeper and deeper depending on where you are geographically, right?
Yeah. And what legal protection you have. But I think, you know, and then also talk about your sexual identity being illegal.
Yeah. But I think that pleasure can be a way of also helping us process that and flipping the narrative towards being positive and having some ownership over that and even asking yourself that question which you may never have asked yourself like what's my most pleasurable sexual experience or what will be my most pleasurable sexual experience, you know, is so powerful and kind of changes the conversation. And, you know, that's why that's why we do what we do at the pleasure project. It's to make sure that the world that is responsible or gets funding for sexual health globally, which is billions of dollars every year, is also ensuring that they are seeing this as an important part of their work because this is what makes sexual health programs more effective. And by, by missing this, actually, you know, there's been needless deaths because condom programs haven't worked as well as they should have done, right? And the right conversations haven't happened.
And, you know, there's been more trauma from people not being able to say this is what I want and this is what I don't want. And so that's why I've been on this, this trail, but it's been really exciting over the last three years because from us being this activist group running around conferences, sticking up posters in the looze and, you know, doing it all completely with no funding. I used to call us the Grilla Girls of HIV Prevention.
We were kind of, you know, fly posting. We now are seeing a real, I call it the pleasure wave, a kind of paradigm, the beginning of a paradigm shift. I'm hoping that in about 10, maybe 20 years, people will look back and go, I can't believe they didn't teach pleasure. As well as sexual health in schools.
But since we've had the, you know, we had the WASP pleasure declaration, which is amazing. And as a result of that, we also designed these pleasure principles, which is taking that evidence and the evidence paper and turning it into seven principles, which make it for the practitioner, for people, for communities to be able to have something that can break that down in a way that they know how to implement it. Because people often say to me, well, I get it all, but how do I do it? So this is seven principles, which is about how you actually do it in practice, starting with, you know, the core one is be positive about being sex positive. The next one is rights first, you know, absolutely rights are critical to the piece, sexual rights, but focused on pleasure inclusive sexual health.
And then other ones are embrace learning, it's really important for us to share the knowledge that we have in this small and growing community. Think universal, I mean, pleasure is something that we can all universally feel if we if we want to. But then also to think within people's context as well, like, you know, you need to also promote pleasure based sexual health in a way that is thinking about the context, not necessarily yielding to specific gatekeepers who might be trying to gatekeep other people's sexuality.
but then also the one that I, my favorite, and I shouldn't have a favorite is love yourself. And that's about thinking about the journey you're making as a sex educator, recognizing that and what you're bringing to the table in terms of the work that you're doing and doing that work in terms of the conversations you're having and also sharing that kindness and love through the community of practice that is the kind of pleasure family. And then also thinking about what we're doing to the planet as well.
And putting Annie Sprinkle's eco sexual manifesto there, you know, how you can think about pleasure in a much, much wider way. So that's our tools and we have them all on our website. It's all open access. It's, you can go in and look at people who are doing this work, suggestions for starting a conversation, links to the evidence. And so it's kind of this trajectory of this declaration of the evidence and the pleasure principles. And then in a very super exciting way, we published a big review of research for the last 15 years with the World Health Organization, which came out on Valentine's Day this year.
That took a lot of work. It's about three years, but we, you know, wanted for the first time to do a very gold standard review of the research. And so systematic review is a way of doing that. And it looks in a very, as it says, systematic way across all the research.
And you probably know about systematic reviews. And then we asked the question, you know, does can do considerations of pleasure and sexual health improve sexual health outcomes and interventions? And we had to go really wide. We had to look at all, all studies that hope to have an impact on sexual health outcomes. So contraception, HIV prevention, HIV testing. We looked at the last 15 years. And we looked at 13,000 abstracts, but then we found 33 studies that were comparing the usual way we do sex education to that, but including pleasure. And we found that there was a significant positive impact on sexual health for across those studies. So all of them, all of the pleasure arms had more impact. And yeah, and we did a meta analysis, which means eight of them that looked at condom use. We pulled the results of those and found that it had a significant positive impact.
So this was great. And it was brilliant that the World Health Organization agreed to do this with us. And we got a huge media interest from that. There was like 50 media stories around the world that were all pretty positive, you know, and all around the world, like Arab news, and Union news, and that's good. Wow. The German press went big on it.
That was nice. The BBC was the top story on BBC Health for a few days. Yeah, so that was fantastic because there was that really credible research, which is saying not only is it an important thing to think about, but it's the way to make your programs more effective. So there's no, I'm hoping that it means people can continue to avoid it because if you're responsible for sexual health, this is what you should be doing. And it's not like it's a kind of complex new technology that needs a whole infrastructure, like a vaccine rollout.
I mean, that is really complicated, you know, the cold story and all of that. This is changing the conversations we're having and becoming more comfortable. Yes, and thank you for that research. I mean, this is what we need. This is what we need, right?
I mean, I'm thinking about so many paradigm shifts where people would be like, oh, but then younger people are gonna start having sex and all the fear-based of if we start talking about pleasure, then it means this, right? This is gonna happen. But when you come and hit them with data on research in their own game and you're like, well, but look at this, what are we gonna do with that? You know what I mean? It changes the paradigm. I think we're seeing that also with psychedelics and the use of those for treatment and mental health. That's another area that I'm in where it's like, so much fear-based about that. And then when you come with this research on how effective it is for treatment-resistant depression, then people have to sit back and say, okay, well, we're gonna ignore the data then and not listen or we're gonna have to change a paradigm. And I think that's exactly what you're doing is putting out the research, the credible research to show that this paradigm needs to be shifted.
Yeah, and we did the systematic review so thoroughly that there would be no question about it. It was like every screw on that machine was polished. Oh, yes.
Like every tune. Yeah. And we had a brilliant co-author, Mirella, who's, I think she's doing her PhD in how to do systematic reviews.
Oh, no. And so she was phenomenal. And then we also had a co-author from the World Health Organization and myself and somebody else from the Pleasure Project did it, Arushi. And it was pretty epic. I learned a lot in the process, but we didn't want there to be any, because when it's a stigmatized subject, you have to go above and beyond, right?
We all know that, right? So then we had to kind of really get it to be absolutely spotless as it were. So that's great.
But yeah, it does seem to be really holding weight, which is brilliant. And another thing that we've been doing is using that evidence, obviously, for the Pleasure Principles, where we're encouraging organizations to endorse the Pleasure Principles and take actions towards pleasure-based sexual health. And if they are responsible for sexual health outcomes, that's what they should be doing with this new effective way of doing sex education.
And so it's great. We've got some really good front runners and some really inspiring organizations that have already endorsed. And they're on our website, but they're like some really big global sexual health organizations. We're quite excited that recently the International Planned Parenthood Federation endorsed the Pleasure Principles. So that's the, you know...
Yes. The biggest provider globally of sexual and reproductive health services, they provide over 200 million unique services every year, like all around the world. And it's been great. And the kind of concrete actions they're taking towards this, they're implementing a great campaign in their Africa region by their Africa Regional Office called Treasure Your Pleasure, which is brilliant. And it's been really impactful. They've had, they've done a whole range of social media about all different aspects of pleasure in a way of getting more young people on the continent to engage, you know, bring themselves kind of up to date. And they've had, gosh, nearly a million engagements. They've been doing it just for four months. They've had eight million views. And so it's a way of kind of bridging that gap again with the kind of content that you might be getting on social media, but also with somebody who is using the evidence, is providing services.
They've worked with some really great young African influencers who have really brought this brilliant creativity to it. This is so profound. There's so much healing in this. So much healing that you and your team are bringing to the world. I mean, I want to ask like how does it feel to be at the front of this of changing the paradigm? Well, it's interesting when it kind of changes, right?
So, you know, at the beginning I was like the waving the flag at the conferences and, you know, feeling like the kind of lunatic activist that people would like discussing. Oh, it's her again. What's she talking about? And the assumptions people make about you and why you're focused on this and, you know, what's she really up to?
You know, all of that is especially also if you're female identifying, then it's like, oh, you know, what she wants kind of thing, all of this nonsense that you get. And then, you know, and it's nice. It's been really nice to share with other pleasure champions in terms of, you know, their similar experiences and we have these brilliant 20 pleasure fellows who are like a kind of pleasure family to us and that kind of sharing. I mean, it's been brilliant for me also to move from that position of the kind of more lone advocate to making these connections. And that's why I see it as really important for others as well. But we have a pleasure fellows scheme and we had amazing response.
We just put a call out on our social media and we had, we had 20 places only, and we had like over 200 applications. And what was brilliant is that we got over 60 % from Africa, about 30 % from South Asia. And that was really great because that's also often a preconceived idea that people have more often in the West, that this is not a subject you can talk about, like in Africa or Asia, like we can talk about in Europe.
I don't really think you talk about in Europe to be honest or the US, but it's like a kind of projection, right? And so what's been brilliant is that we had such a wealth of applications and then these, the 20 pleasure fellows are phenomenal. They're doing this amazing work. They're pleasure activists. They're either working, Jaime is working with men who have sex with men in Chile to talk about pleasure and anal health. Jovian's working with sex workers in Uganda to talk about pleasure and sexual health.
There's a great Ana's in the Philippines and she's got a great podcast called middle me, which is about sexuality for women in midlife and how you know something that's uniting. So it's all brilliant. And I think so coming back to your question, I think for me, it's been at times so exciting. It's sort of overwhelming to move from, you know, pushing at the door to actually then having people saying, yeah, we want this, we want to be trained, we want to endorse the principles. But yeah, very satisfying to sort of have this idea where you're thinking, this really does need to change and I'm going to really like hook onto this like a dog with a bone.
That's a bit like what I'm like sometimes and I might know I know. Good. And this is right. This is just weird that this is not being talked about. And then to have these large, respected organizations start to, you know, get involved with the wave and take it forward and there'd be so much interest, I think is fantastic. Yeah. And I guess for me, it's also confirmed that we stuck to our mission, stuck to our values, even when we couldn't get any funding, we couldn't really get funding for like 15 years. Yeah, so we were doing it. You know, we got some, we've got some small bits and pieces.
Yeah. So we had to find other ways. And then a brilliant organization called the case for her is a feminist philanthropy organization, they kind of stepped in with some of the first funding for the systematic review and sort of took the risk on us. And I think, but it confirmed to me that it's important to stick with your values and your mission and then the world will catch up with you.
Eventually. Yes, I mean that sounds so incredibly validating right you were the person that was screaming that held the signs that was trying to say this is where we need to go and then define that community that is with you in that and says, yes, obviously I mean, there's such a validation in that to not be alone to not be that lone wolf and to find a community of people that can come together to do something like that systematic review because when you do something like that that you can't do that by yourself and maybe it take a long time right there's so much research to go through. You need your team you need your community and then to see that be held in that and to see the effects that it's having in different countries to bring about more pleasure I mean, wow. I mean it's also, you know getting WHO on board is the credible world, literally that the World Health Organization but I think where I found strength was knowing that I was standing on the shoulders of giants as well I mean, you know, there's some, you know, Audrey Lord I mean, I just hold the book all the time and read it, you know, you know, then when I saw a Jim Marie Browns book, yes, I was like, wow. So you know you can find, but then also I suppose the most strength I got was when, for example, putting on those, you know, those meetings at the AIDS conference and that how enthusiastic people were like how packed the rooms were like the first one we did we had to like we were like really sorry people but we have to shut the doors now because this is becoming a fire risk right and people coming up to me afterwards and saying, Oh, thank God, you know, like this is such a relief, you know, like and so that sense of I've also been thinking this and so for me the greatest strength comes from people like the pleasure fellows or people working in, in the sexual health world in the public health world, who have been forging ahead and you know and and shoulders of giants like some of them to work by gay men at the beginning of the AIDS pandemic sex workers who also kind of spoke the truth to power.
Yes. So that's where, that's where I guess my strength has come from but the, the kind of shift from that. Yeah, that's the major shift from being, you know, saying something that people are finding difficult to digest or to one where they're much more receptive and actually now the conversation I have much more regularly is not that pushing on the door conversation making I'm not making the case as much. It's like how to deliver this, you know how we're going to incorporate this within our programs and you know I did a training last week for example with them, one of our endorsing organizations Avert which is one of the largest providers of online HIV prevention information, and that was that was our conversation it was all like we don't need to have that first conversation having the conversation about how we're going to make this work for us as an organization because we want to be as effective as possible so I think for me that's the, the biggest shift and the range of different brilliant thought leaders and lived experiences which brings much more richness to how we move forward with this, this pleasure wave.
Absolutely the pleasure wave I mean that is such a beautiful journey to stand on the shoulders of giants and to keep that momentum going like you said you know now we're not knocking at the door we're talking about how to implement it and that wave is going to be a tsunami and I am ready I am ready for the tsunami. you and I know it's such a general question, big question, but also why is pleasure important? Why is pleasure important?
Gosh, in so many ways. So I think pleasure can be transformational. That's why it's important. Asking ourselves what gives us pleasure centres us in a way to think of what gives us consensual pleasure to our own self-worth. Are due, it allows us to think about what we want to aim for in life, be more thoughtful about that. I mean, it's obviously important now because it leads to more sexual health. There's a very health importance of pleasure to health, but I think it's that and and in terms of allowing us to also question some of the norms that we've been led to believe that we're not worthy of it or that our pleasure is dirty or something. So yeah, so I think it's it's a kind of a way of hopefully cutting through some of those barriers to be able to think of ourselves as worthy, I guess.
Oh yes, absolutely. Yeah, that sort of self-love, like you said, of I deserve pleasure. I deserve pleasure and to sit in that versus the maybe more victim mindset of the consent conversations, which are obviously important, but when it's focused on sexual trauma, the negatives, all those pieces, that is not necessarily an empowering conversation. So like you're saying, shifting that to what do I find pleasurable? What do I want in my fantasies? That brings so much autonomy to yourself, the ability to dream and fantasize and imagine because you know that you deserve that pleasure.
That is a radical shift. Yeah, and I think, yeah, absolutely. We can probably, I think we're not probably, we can definitely, pleasure allows us to be more imaginative and creative. And you know, we, you know, if you look at the wheel of consent, and we have that in the pleasure principles, thinking about that, overlaying that with a pleasure lens and you know, giving pleasure, receiving pleasure, knowing what we're going to be able to ask for, you know, that, that the beauty in that consent conversation and being able to articulate it in a positive frame, moving towards something that will be, something that will be pleasurable for all the people involved is the way that a consent conversation should be, I think, because that also allows you to know what you don't want in that frame. I mean, it sounds fairly obvious, but it's a sort of an obvious truth that isn't spoken about often.
Right. And it comes through, at least in my experience with some of the kink partners that I've been playing with of like being able to state what I want or what I don't want, even, you know, like that's too much for me and having the response back from a partner of thank you. That's a radical shift of like, instead of when you say I need a pause or break it, like you said, throwing off the music of the situation and being this thing versus like, thank you for telling me what you need so that we can connect closer or what you don't want so that we can connect closer and bring more pleasure. I mean, whoo, this is a radical wave.
I'm ready for it. And it should be the way all of those sexual conversations happen. It should be, you know, thank you for expressing that and I hear you and I understand you better now. That's an intimacy, the intimacy of that consent. Yes, it's a beautiful thing.
Yeah. I have one more closing question unless anything is really sitting on your tongue that you just need to get off. I mean, I guess just join the pleasure work, right? I want people to see the global mapping of pleasure, see all the brilliant people that are pleasure experts now, you know, we're starting to get like a, I love it. It's like a pleasure, Rolodex. Oh, yeah, this person knows what this, this person knows those endorse the pleasure principles and join the pleasure wave.
We are literally the funnest people on the planet. I'm working with pleasure, pleasure propagandists. I call myself a pleasure propagandist.
We're the funnest people. So connect with us, talk to us if you want to endorse the pleasure principles. We've got lots of tools that you can use. We're like, you know, spreading the pleasure.
So, you know, if we have a training toolkit, so there's lots that we can help you with. Great, great. Yes, join the pleasure wave. Yes. Well, then there's one last question I ask everyone on the podcast.
Yes. What is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal? That it's normal to honor your pleasure. Yes.
Say more. But, you know, it's normal to think about what you want in your relationships. It's normal to explore that.
It's normal to play with yourself until you know what feels good. It's normal to talk about it. It's sexy. It's intimate. It's not a stepping away from a relationship.
It's a stepping into a relationship and an interaction. It's normal to, for sometimes it might feel awkward. It's normal. Sometimes it might jive.
It's awkward. We're all on a journey. We're unlearn silence. We're having to unlearn a silence that has been imposed upon us and we're in a particular moment in history, which is quite a dark moment, quite a sex negative moment.
But other moments in history haven't been like that. There's been much more open conversations of pleasure and that's normal. We're on a down dip. We need to get up on the pleasure wave to get on the up dip.
Yeah. So we can celebrate all the heritages of pleasure out there. Read.
You know, there's wonderful historical books that are full of the normality of pleasure and poetry. So yeah. Yes. Yes.
Yes. And I want to thank you so much for being a leader in that space and for supporting the wave and to come on the podcast and talk about this and share this message with the world. It's very, very powerful. Well, and also thanks to all the other pleasure propagandists and leaders out there, I get a huge amount of joy from the building community. Yes.
A big buzz. Yes, we're in this together. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast and bringing all of your wisdom. Thank you. Well, thank you for having me. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And if you're a part of the anarchist community, then follow us on Instagram or nominate a guest for the show by sending in a letter to modern anarchy podcast at gmail.com. Otherwise, I'll see you next week.