Including desire and pleasure in sex ed classes appears to encourage condom use. 

A meta-analysis of research from 2005-2020 finds that incorporating pleasure in sex ed programs can have positive effects on attitudes and safer sex behaviour.

The experts say sexual education and health intervention approaches that do not acknowledge that sexual experiences can be pleasurable should be reconsidered. 

Researchers from The Pleasure Project, WHO’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research and colleagues have reviewed 33 unique interventions targeting STI/HIV risk reduction that incorporate pleasure. 

They found evidence that including pleasure can have significant positive effects across information- and knowledge-based attitudes, including participants’ self-belief in behaviour change, and motivation to use condoms, as well as in behaviour and condom use.

“Pleasure has been over-looked and stigmatised in health promotion and sex education, despite its obvious connection to sexual health and well-being,” the authors said. 

“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.”

While the authors searched for interventions across a spectrum of sexual health interventions (including contraception and family planning interventions), the review ultimately included only STI/HIV-related programs targeting populations traditionally considered ‘vulnerable’. 

The authors note that future work is needed to incorporate and evaluate pleasure-inclusive interventions in the reproductive health space and for general populations.

The study is accessible here.