Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sex is Magic: Or, Orgasms in Health Class?

Via the Huffington Post's Lazy Bloggers Who Apparently Can't Do Their Own Reporting, a unit of England's National Health Service has put together a brochure for parents and people who work with young people* that advises that, in addition to good nutrition and exercise, semi-regular orgasm could help maintain good health. The document was written by the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health, part of Sheffield's National Health Service office (!).

Unfortunately, the actual document in question is not available online, but the Centre offers a training for health promotion people called "Pleasure Pursuits" that promises the following:

Introducing sexual pleasure in sexual health promotion
This two-day course will provide participants with an opportunity to explore the rationale behind incorporating sexual pleasure in sexual health promotion work with:
• Young people
• Lesbian, gay and bisexual people
• People from BME communities
• Disabled people
• Gender issues
By the end of the course participants will have been given the opportunity to:
• Discuss blocks and barriers
• Identify practical strategies and exercises for addressing sexual pleasure
• Explore sexual language and early messages
• Explore physiology

The Sheffield Centre's Director, Steve Slack, had this to say in an editorial for SHINE, the organization's newsletter:
The critics of improved sex and relationships education seem to think we live in a society in which the denial of appropriate sex and relationships education will protect young people from predatory adults and abuse; a soft-focus ‘Youth-topia’ where young people will be imbued with all the knowledge, skills and experience to negotiate safe, pleasurable consensual sex the first time they engage in sexual activity; a ‘Youth-topia’ where there is a consistent and infallible ethos to ensure the rights of children which protects them from all forms of sexual, physical and emotional abuse; a ‘Youth-topia’ in which young people’s sexual awareness is only awakened when they meet their prince or princess, fall in love, marry and live happily ever after. Those days of innocence have gone – but did they ever exist? Or were children bullied and
abused as they are now, with the additional insult to their sense of selves of being gagged by society?
The comments sections of both the Times UK and the HuffPo's articles make clear that lots of people who don't know what they're talking about think that acknowledging that teenagers can have pleasaurable sexual experiences is bad. But one thing this NHS office does understand is how to get people's attention on health issues that most people would rather avoid: they also publish the surely un-put-downable "Start Talking Balls: Information and Advice on Testicular Cancer."

Maybe I should move to England...these seem like my people.

*not for the kids themselves, as both HuffPo and the Times UK say. This appears to be a case of lazy reporting, wherein bloggers repost stuff from other news sources without bothering to do any reporting like, you know, looking at the actual website of the organization in question. The actual description, from the NHS website, is this: "Why and how to raise the issue of sexual pleasure in sexual health work with young people. An innovative new booklet is for those who work with young people and looks at why raising the issue of sexual pleasure in this work contributes to positive health outcomes. It also gives tips and ideas on how to raise the issue with groups of young people and individuals."


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