Vindication of Pleasure
SRHR isn’t just about domestic and international policies on gender-based violence, unintended pregnancy and STI’s. While that’s very important, pleasure is also a critical part of sexual and reproductive health and rights! Bergen Cooper from the Center for Health and Gender Equity sits down to talk to us about why pleasure matters when discussing reproductive health.
It may come as a shock, but the vast majority of people don’t have sex for reproductive purposes. They have sex for a variety of reasons, including pleasure. But, many people aren’t prepared to talk about pleasure with doctors, partners, friends, or sex education teachers. It turns out that refraining from talking about pleasure is a disservice to ourselves and young people around the world- how can we expect people to have fulfilling, pleasurable and safe sex lives if sexual pleasure isn’t discussed within the context of SRHR?
Pleasure isn’t a part of a lot of conversations under the umbrella of sexual and reproductive health and rights. For example, pleasure is completely left out of the conversation on female genital mutilation and cutting. We often talk about ending FGM/C and the medical and health effects that come along with it, but rarely do we talk about how the procedure impacts female pleasure. 200 million women and girls around the world have undergone FGM/C, and data shows that these women and girls experience less desire, arousal, and orgasm. While discussing the ending of this practice, we can’t forget to keep in mind alternatives for seeking pleasure.
Lack of conversation around pleasure also exists for women post-reproductive age. Women’s health is so often linked to their reproductive capacity, and when, for whatever reason, women don’t have reproductive capacity, they are often forgotten about. Women have sex far past reproductive age- into their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. If a friend, provider, or family member doesn’t view a woman as someone who has a sex life, they might be asking the wrong questions, or not asking questions at all! For example, women need STI testing past reproductive age, experience gender-based violence past reproductive age, or find other ways to experience sexual pleasure. Providers need to be comfortable having those conversations so women can receive the services and care they need.
Don’t forget, pursuing a pleasurable, safe, and satisfying sex life is a human right!