Pleasure Overlooked in Sexual Health Programs

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Sexual health programs that include aspects of sexual desire and pleasure can improve safe sex behaviors, according to a systematic review and meta-analysis of published studies.

“Pleasure has been over-looked and stigmatized in health promotion and sex education, despite its obvious connection to sexual health and well-being,” the researchers say in PLoS ONE.

“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,” they write.

Anne Philpott with The Pleasure Project and colleagues with the World Health Organization (WHO) and University of Oxford, United Kingdom searched the literature for relevant articles published between 2005 and 2020. They identified and reviewed 33 unique sexual health interventions that incorporate pleasure.

A meta-analysis of eight studies with 6,634 participants showed that including pleasure in sexual health programs can have significant positive effects including on participants’ self-belief in behavior change, and motivation to use condoms, as well as in behavior and condom use.

The authors note that most of the studies included in their analysis focused on STI/HIV-related programs targeting “vulnerable” populations.

They say research is needed to incorporate and evaluate pleasure-inclusive interventions in the reproductive health space and for general populations.

Nonetheless, they say the available evidence is sufficient to recommend that agencies responsible for sexual and reproductive health “consider incorporating sexual pleasure considerations within their programming.”

SOURCE: PLoS ONE, online February 11, 2022.

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