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I’ve been putting the sexy back into safe sex

My name is Aida Bilajbegovic and since September 2021 I've been putting the sexy back into safe sex as a pleasure fellow for the Pleasure Project.

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Tags: Pleasure project, sexual health

My name is Aida and since September 2021 I have been a pleasure fellow for the Pleasure Project. What on earth is a pleasure fellow I hear you thinking? Well, it is quite simple really, a pleasure fellow is someone who advocates for pleasure in sexual and reproductive health. Organised and coordinated by the Pleasure Project, pleasure fellows tackle the overwhelming aversion and discomfort towards discussing pleasure in the world of sexual and reproductive health and stop the medicalised sexual experience rather than the human sexual experience.

 

Being a pleasure fellow has been a very enriching and exciting experience for me. The pleasure fellows are a young, vibrant group of 12 people from all around the world. During our online sessions, we have been learning, discussing and reflecting on pleasure and inclusive sexual health.

All pleasure fellows have been working on their own pleasure projects. We all do this in our own ways, in our own contexts, linked to our own work or topic. Through the amazing work of other fellows, I, for example, learned more about the complexities around sex toys for disabled people in the UK and the taboo on sexual pleasure for ‘elder’ women in the Philippines. For my own project I worked on a resource around sexual pleasure after abortion (I will share more about later this later!).

 In many contexts, also in the Netherlands, sexual pleasure is still considered taboo.

For me, a pleasure-based approach to sexual health has always been very natural. Being a rebellious teenager, I couldn’t think of any other reasons than fun and pleasure to have sex 😉 Getting older and starting my career in sexual and reproductive health, confronted me with the difficulties around sexual pleasure. However, we know that having sexual pleasure as a starting point in sexuality education programmes can really help (young) people to make safe and informed decisions about sexual relationships. Therefore, I have always looked at sexual pleasure as a challenged but crucial part of my personal life and work.

Being a pleasure fellow showed me the importance of having a pleasure conversation over and over again.

It confirmed what I already knew: addressing sexual pleasure might not always be easy but so important. What most touched me is the work I have been doing around sexual pleasure after abortion. By hearing stories from people navigating sexual pleasure after the abortion I learned more about the variety of experiences and that different (sometimes contradicting) feelings and experiences can beautifully co-exist. It also confirmed how important open communication and trust are. This is something that I cannot repeat enough. Whether it is before, or after an abortion, or whether people did not have an abortion at all: we can only meaningfully support (young) people navigating their (sexual) lives if we do so on the principles of communication and trust and truly listen to their unique and diverse experiences.

Rutgers has endorsed the pleasure principles of the Pleasure Project in 2022, join us and endorse the principles in your work in sexual health.

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