The Pleasure Portal by Jennifer Dhingra

“Pleasure motivates behaviours, both positive and harmful. Which is why this is an incredible opportunity for positive change.”

Love Matters is a multi-national organisation that provides a platform for people from many different cultural backgrounds to talk about sex in a positive, honest, and open way. Therefore, when they invited Sexpression:UK to take part in their secretive immersive event, ‘The Pleasure Portal,’ I had no hesitation in strolling down a dimly lit alleyway in East London, clutching a contraceptive display kit.

Being a London based student and sex educator, this experience combined three of my greatest loves in life: SRE, immersive theatre, and an open bar. Upon arrival at a candlelit reception area, guests were shown into a seemingly ominous doctor’s waiting room. Amongst the old school sex education posters, portal passengers were presented with an invasive sex questionnaire, the results of which determined the appropriate ‘remedy’ needed to cure you of your ills, which was handily served to you in a bottle by the ‘certified’ medical professional present. This was intentionally the least pleasurable aspect of the entire experience, and cleverly depicted the detached, and sometimes shaming approach to sex that is so commonly experienced today.

Soon afterwards however, a small group of us were called forward to enter the portal, and begin our sensory journey. Portal passengers were then seated in a dimly lit room and blindfolded. It was here, in the chamber of smell and sound, with the scent of oil and smoke of sage being passed under our noses, that the Pleasure Portal delivered its key opening monologue.

“Yet when it comes to talking about sex, sexual rights and education, the subject of pleasure is taboo. At best, it’s seen as fluffy or a luxury – something to discuss once the REAL issues have been addressed. At worst, it is a dirty word. Visceral, fundamental, emotional, deeply connected to our sense of wellbeing: we ignore pleasure at our peril.”

The idea of sexual empowerment being linked to pleasure is a concept often misunderstood or even off-limits to modern society. The notion that pleasure can be used both openly and positively in sex and sex education is often deliberately ignored or feared as an ideology. This dialogue sought to make us reconsider the way we view pleasure as a society, and see past the clinical attitude towards sexual wellbeing. “By acknowledging pleasure, we can better understand sexual health as a state of physical, emotional, mental and social wellbeing in relation to sexuality.” As the words were spoken, their meaning was reinforced as Portal Passengers were exposed to different sorts of pleasure through, taste (sweets), touch (massage) and smell (sage).

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After the monologue ended, passengers, still blindfolded, were then led into a relaxation room to lay down on cushions in order to experience a ‘gong bath,’ a practice used by Buddhist monks to offer stimulation by sound and vibrations. This enabled passengers to experience pleasure through sound, or enjoy a Zen nap before they moved onto the next room.

The rest of the portal then led us on an educational journey of different rooms and experiences, each lasting 5 minutes, showing us different approaches to sexual health and education. Participants were taken to have tea with a LGBT activist from Morocco, who told us about her experiences of living in a society that shuns homosexuality. They were also able to speak with FGM/C activist Sarian Karim Kamara who told us her inspiring story of finding empowerment through pleasure, despite being a victim of FGM herself. People also found themselves holding an ‘intervention’ on sexual harassment, reading the real words of Indian activists to educate the young adult ‘Navinda’ on the issues around gender based violence, and watched a scene between a couple discussing HIV/AIDS and contraception. Passengers also experienced situations such as their first live broadcast on Pirate Pleasure Radio, hosted by Charlotte Rose, discussing sensual super powers, and questions on the power of porn and education with porn actor and Porn4Prep campaigner Jason Domino.

The experience ended with everyone congregating in the final room; a lounge where individuals could grab a drink, or grab some confession time in the onsite sexual confessions booth. Sexpression:UK was also there to provide contraception education through fun and interactive condom demonstrations. Once everyone had gathered for the final discussion, we held up our glasses to celebrate, “breaking taboos and frontline baddassary; to sex ed that makes sense; to expression, to knowledge.”

The Pleasure Portal was both an enlightening and educational experience. With inspiring information, immersive theatre, and an innovative environment, Love Matters was able to push beyond the boundaries of conventional sexual wellbeing, and empower individuals to embrace new ideas on the power of pleasure in sex and sex education. Love Matters lead creative Hannah Wallace said, “In many ways, The Pleasure Portal was a physical manifestation of the work Love Matters does online - engaging young people around their sexual health and rights, openly and without shame. By weaving together real audience testimony with theatre, research and storytelling, we sought to create a playful and safe space where our guests could experience first-hand the power of a pleasure-positive approach to educate".

“Pleasure motivates behaviours, both positive and harmful, which is why this is an incredible opportunity for positive change.”

Ask your MP about statutory SRE now!

As another academic year begins, schools in England once again have the choice of whether or not to teach sex and relationships education (SRE).

But, with a new Secretary of State for Education and a new Prime Minister there is a window of opportunity to get Government commitment for making SRE a requirement in all schools.

MPs from different political parties have said that they support SRE, but the views of some MPs are still unknown. We need your help now:

  • To find out if your MP would support legislation to make SRE statutory
  • To ask your MP to write to the new Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening

If you agree that every child and young person has a right to learn about their bodies, growing up, sexual health and about equal, safe and enjoyable relationships please contact your MP using a quick and easy e-mail template available here. What is known about your MPs current views on SRE is reflected in the letter, and you can edit it to personalise it even more.

Please encourage friends, family and colleagues to take part too because it helps if MPs know that there is support across their constituency as well as from individuals they may have been in contact with before.  

Please also consider signing the ‘SRENow’ petition on change.org which is being run by the End Violence Against Women Coalition and Laura Bates, and has reached almost 45,000 signatories.

Furthermore, check out the SEF's 'Talking SRE-a guide to meeting your MP about SRE', which contains fact and evidence pages that can be printed out and presented to an MP on meeting them.

Charity Status for student-led sex-education organisation Sexpression:UK

For immediate release

Charity Status for student-led sex-education organisation Sexpression:UK. 

April 22, 2016

London, UK: Sexpression:UK, a student organisation that empowers young people to make informed decisions about sex and relationships by running comprehensive sex and relationship sessions, has been  granted charity status.

Sexpression:UK is a nationwide organisation that is run by university students and has been running for 16 years. The organisation has 25 groups across the UK with approximately 1000 volunteers.

In 2015 the organisation reached over 9000 young people mainly in secondary schools and youth groups and ran 405 workshops. The workshops included topics such as sex, relationships and abuse as well as issues surrounding consent, sexual orientation and gender identity, STIs, safer sex, and contraception. 

Rebecca Ryce, National Director of Sexpression:UK says, “We are very excited about being granted charity status. This is a huge milestone for us as an organisation, and we believe this will make it easier for us continue providing a high quality service for young people as well as making it easier to spread the word about the work we do. ”

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For more information please contact:

Jennifer Dhingra, Externals Director:

press@sexpression.org.uk

 

Note to Editors:

Sexpression:UK are sponsored by Durex and webmed pharmacy.            

Sexpression:UK Website: http://sexpression.org.uk/

Photographs available on request.

Education Select Committee inquiry recommends statutory SRE and PSHE

Following the Education Committees report on PSHE, Sexpression:UK welcomes its recommendations to make Personal, Social and Health Education, which includes Sex and Relationships Education (SRE), statutory in primary and secondary schools.

The report identifies reasoning behind the need for statutory SRE such as young people relying on SRE as their primary source of information about sexual matters, the importance of SRE in preventing STI transmission and unplanned teenage pregnancies as well as the response from the majority of parents and young people who feel that schools should provide SRE. 

Furthermore the report recognises the need for better provision and quality of SRE and recommends that the Government incentives schools to improve the quality of PSHE and SRE teaching.

Key recommendations of the report include:

  1. That the Government formally endorse and issue the 2014 advice produced by the voluntary sector, and promote this advice more actively to schools and governors.
  2. That the Government monitor schools' compliance with the requirement to publish information about their PSHE and SRE curriculum on their websites.
  3. That the DfE restore funding for the National PSHE CPD programme, with the aim of ensuring that all primary and secondary schools have at least one teacher who has received specialist training in PSHE, and monitor progress towards this.
  4. That Sex and Relationships Education be renamed "Relationships and Sex Education" to reflect the (existing) focus on relationships and to emphasise the importance of this part of children and young people's education.
  5. That all schools be required to run a regular consultation with parents on the school's SRE provision, in a way that allows all parents to participate.
  6. That the Government commission Ofsted to produce regular subject survey reports on the quality of PSHE and SRE.
  7. That the parental right to withdraw their child from elements of SRE should be retained.

Sexpression:UK fully supports the recommendations of statutory PSHE and SRE. We agree with the need for better quality teaching and evaluation of PSHE, and we hope to see the Government implement these recommendations as well as seeing manifesto commitments from political parties to make SRE statutory.

Along with the PSHE Association, FPA and Brook, we have been advocating for this change for a long time and also providing the vital, high quality SRE to young people in UK schools in the current absence of appropriate legislation. We're really pleased to see the recommendations which will  hopefully lead to SRE being prioritised in the school timetable and would help us to work with teachers and parents in delivering age appropriate and effective lessons.

Sexpression:UK
http://sexpression.org.uk
press@sexpression.org.uk

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Scottish Conference 2015: Highlights & Reflections

Scottish Conference 2015: Highlights & Reflections

Good-quality sex and relationship education is also needed because we’re in a world where changes in technology, medicine, legislation and attitudes are ever accelerating, and it’s vital that we stay on top of these changes and what they mean for sex and relationships, both as educators and as well-rounded people. This is where Sexpression’s conferences come in. These are weekends run by Sexpression branches where other branches are invited to come together, attend talks and workshops, share ideas and get better informed about the work we are doing from other professionals, campaigners, sex workers and so on.

The most recent Scottish Conference was held in St Andrew’s on January 31st and February 1st. The whole weekend was packed with talks and workshops (as well as a competition to win sex toys, which I’m gutted I didn’t win) and it was great to meet and talk with so many like-minded people. Below are some highlights from the talks and workshops I attended.

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Is there a gay gene out there?

Male sexual orientation is a widely debated topic throughout all cultures and nationalities around the world. Many people have strong opinions regarding their own views on it. Here in the UK, homosexuality is accepted by most people and is often a celebrated part of society. Most people have friends that are gay or know of people that are gay. However, despite this acceptance I feel like there is a long way to go in terms of gay rights.

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Shifting the Shame: speaking out about schools that are silent on sex

Whilst giving a sex education session at a local secondary school, I was struck by a sense of nostalgia at the resemblance of the school to my own. However there was one fundamental difference, and it wasn’t the fact that this was a co-ed school. At the end of the morning, one of the head members of faculty explained to the students why our session was as important as the lessons they’d missed that morning, “because we do not want you leaving school ignorant on anything. Because we are all members of the human race and we all need to know how to look after our sexual health.”

Read More

Our Petition For Compulsory SRE In Scotland Has Closed

We are disappointed that the Scottish Government was not in favour of our petition for sex and relationships education to be compulsory for all schools. On Tuesday the 9th of December 2014 the decision was taken to close the petition. Advice was taken from education councils from the regions of Midlothian, Glasgow, Dundee and Shetland, with only Shetland being in favour of the proposal. The Educational Institute of Scotland and the Scottish Parliament Information Centre were also asked for their views and both were not in favour.

The Committee agreed to close the petition on the basis that “the petitioners are supportive of the Scottish Government’s forthcoming revised sex and relationship education guidance; the Scottish Government has given a commitment to raise the profile of SRE when it publishes its revised guidance, Education Scotland will be tasked with monitoring and assessing the implementation and delivery of the Government’s revised SRE guidance by local authorities and the submissions received by the Committee were supportive of the current non-mandatory provision of SRE.”  

We feel that an opportunity for improving education in Scotland has been missed. We welcome the review of the 2001 SRE guidance but are disappointed to the see the petition fail to reach the Education Committee.

We will continue to urge the Scottish Government to implement compulsory SRE in Scottish schools in the future to ensure that every young person in Scotland has access to the information to enable them to make their own informed about their health.

We would like to thank everyone that signed the petition and the organisations that gave their support for their much valued input. Again, We would like to give a huge thank you to Lucy Emmerson (Sex Education Forum) and Chloe Swift (Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People) their input has been invaluable. A big thank you has to go to our members which were of great support throughout the petition’s dealings and also to Rebecca Ryce for helping Jack Fletcher present it to Parliament.

The video is available on YouTube via this link from 2:10:00 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCMsrAa6m9o

More information is available at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/GettingInvolved/Petitions/MakeSREstatutoryInScotland

Sexpression:UK
http://sexpression.org.uk
press@sexpression.org.uk

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A Summary of the Challenges in Global Health Debate- 2015 and beyond #health2015

The overall aim of the talk was to reflect on the progress achieved regarding global health as well as to underline the setbacks, new and continuing challenges. The next Parliament will be a crucial time for global health; the final negotiations on the next set of global development goals will be one of the first tasks for the new government.

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