Monday, 13 July 2009

Getting the balance right - the good bits and the bad

Over the last few days I have had some remarkably interesting conversations with journalists about sexual pleasure in response to a booklet for professionals called 'pleasure' published by NHS Sheffield.    All of the journalists have had different perceptions about the booklet, often depending on whether they had read it, or on their view about young people and sex.  

Whatever their view what has interested me is that people are able to take this out of context and be surprised that we should talk about pleasure as part of the mix with young people.   Yes of course we should be talking to them about the risks of having unprotected sex, yes we must talk to them about pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, yes we must talk to them about exploitation and about coercion.  

But as one young person said, 'if sex is only about getting an infection or about getting pregnant when you don't want to, why do people do it.  It must be fun as well'.  And when I was in Holland two years ago when I spoke to young people, young men and young women, it was clear that they did expect sex to be fun, to be a positive experience.  They did expect, and were expected to have sex with people they trust.  

And as Kristen Luker, a eminent researcher in the USA says, you get what you expect from young people - if we expect them to enjoy and take responsibility for the sex they have, they will.  If we expect them to make bad decisions they will.

So, for me the remarkable bit about the conversations I have had, is the accusation that this is liberal lefty nonsense and the sense that we can promote sexual responsibility by frightening young people about pregnancy and STI's.   As young adults if someone had told me and many of my peers that sex should be emotionally satisfying it would have been incredibly helpful!  

As parents, family members and professionals we must ensure young people know sex should be rewarding and satisfying, emotionally and physically, and if it isn't they should be asking do they want to do it at all.

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