This article explores the link between ‘pleasure’ and ‘health and development issues’, two concepts that seem unrelated but in reality are very much linked. Drawing on personal experiences, participation in a number of sexual health studies in West Bengal, observations, secondary research and interviews with key informants in and around Kolkata, this article explores the relationship between sensuousness and safer sex among men who have sex with men (MSM) living in Kolkata and its suburbs.
I suggest that making sex safer for MSM calls for an approach that
introduces elements of sensuousness. Such an approach seeks to reduce the appeal (pleasure quotient) of aggression, power play and unprotected penetration (if not penetration itself), as it increases
the appeal of safer sexual activities and greater gender/sexual equity. The primary function of work on elements of sensuousness is to make ‘safer sex’ equal to ‘mutually pleasurable sex’.
I begin by exploring sexual attitudes and behaviour among MSM in this context. I then address the struggle to change the broader contextual factors that make sex unsafe for men, and look at approaches to promoting safer sex in which pleasure plays a primary role.