Blurring the boundaries of porn and sex education into the night

7 March 2017

Last week we gathered an intimate crowd at the delightful ‘under the trees’ venue of The People Tree, in the beautiful heritage village of Assagao, Goa to discuss the new IDS Bulletin. It was the perfect warm, humid night and softly lit setting to discuss such teasing subjects such as ‘Should sex education be more like porn?’, ‘Do condoms really affect our physical pleasure, or have we been programmed to dislike them’, ‘When did we first get turned on by online sexual content, either education or porn?’. Maybe the venue made us brave to tackle such large questions, and the Bulletin guided our hands but the discussion and confessions that night were brave.

We started with a few short readings from Alain De Botton's How to Think More About Sex including his views on the changed world order through access to online porn. As Botton says: ‘it's rare for anyone to get through this life without feeling – generally with a degree of secret agony, perhaps at the end of a relationship, or as we lie in bed frustrated next to our partner, unable to go to sleep – that we are somehow a bit odd about sex.’

We then went on to share some of the key points made in the IDS Bulletin highlighting how access to porn now has changed the type of sex education we have in the world, and how we must adapt our public health messages to keep up. How with the click of a mouse we can be transported into the heart of our deepest darkest fantasies, and maybe after orgasm feel a huge guilt about that, when twenty years ago a glimpse of an object of desire across the street might have excited us just as much.

It was no surprise then that the discussion was so exciting, people shared their experience of the first porn films they watched, good and bad. Some shared experiences of their worried hunts for sexual photos online that might have been ‘leaked’ by their ex-lovers. The terrible or non-existent sex education we, generally all, had with instructions to ‘just don't do it ‘or ‘go and self-study that chapter’. And worse the anger that some of us had about the guilt and shame we had been taught.

After just a short time the group felt a bond of trust and the debates and sharing of intimate moments continued late into the night, with many participants stressing the need for more events of this kind to break down taboos and barriers and share those most common of human experiences without fear. We listened to the rising rustle of the wind in the palms as the night wind picked up, and agreed that we need to have a shame free love of your own sexuality, especially if we don't fit ‘the norm’, for example after an HIV positive diagnosis or as we get older.

The discussions continued in smaller groups under the palm trees and included subjects such as diversity of desire in different cultures, how class/caste affects sexual knowledge and astrology. No leaf was left unturned in our keenness to get to the bottom of this tricky subject of sexual desire.

And there were requests to do this every week … we at The Pleasure Project would just love that…

Arushi Singh is a pleasure and sexual rights advocate working with the The Pleasure Project. Follow the Pleasure Project on Twitter @thepleasureproj

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