Love Matters at Women Deliver 2016 
RNW Media

Love Matters gets serious about pleasure at Women Deliver 2016

How do you stand out when you’re trying to compete with big name organisations such as Guttmacher and Planned Parenthood that represent the royalty of sexual and reproductive health and rights? Simple: you talk about things that nobody else in the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) world dares touch upon…sexual pleasure.

The Women Deliver Conference is the biggest gathering of development organisations and individuals in the world focusing exclusively on the health and rights of women and girls. With over five thousand in attendance in Copenhagen this year, Love Matters had to bring their A-game.

Pleasure Matters
It may seem obvious, but traditional SRHR organisations tend to focus on unwanted pregnancy, abortion and STDs. In fact, many organisations shy away from really talking about sex, let alone how good it can feel. Then along came Love Matters with our goody bags full of condoms to inject some sexy truths into the world of SRHR.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. In fact, just as we use pleasure as a hook to talk about difficult topics on our websites, promoting the need for pleasure-positive sex-ed with conference goers opened up a world of discussion surrounding the issues faced by young people when it comes to sex, sexual health and relationships.

Presenting digital sex-education at Appy Hour
Love Matters was one of 10 apps selected by Women Deliver to present at Appy Hour, a reception style event highlighting the best apps changing the face of global health for women and girls. Although not technically an app, the innovation of the Love Matters responsive websites, which can be utilised on any device, won us a seat at the table. Indeed, with over 50 million sessions to date, Love Matters proved that providing sex education online in conservative societies is not only doable, but can be incredibly successful as well. 

Pleasure for women living with female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C)
Love Matters Arabic’s Abir Sarras was invited to present on the panel “No Girl Overlooked: Ending FGM/C And Meeting The SRHR Needs Of Girls And Women” alongside experts from WHO, Population Council and Tostan. Talking about FGM/C can be difficult when concentrating on statistics and policy however, Abir managed to give a face to FGM/C survivors who are seldom humanised. In fact, her presentation was so touching that an FGM/C survivor sitting in the audience stood up and thanked her for recognising the need for pleasure in women’s lives, leading to a round applause from the audience.

“We know it’s worth helping women who have undergone FGM/C because they will help end the practice for their daughters.” - Abir

Abir Sarras did not only shine on the FGM/C panel, her groundbreaking work with Love Matters Arabic lead to two interviews with “Women Deliver Live” for their Inspiration Sessions and Evening Recap segments.

Love Matters' Abir Sarras on Women Deliver Live

Putting pleasure on the map at the pleasure session
Finally, Love Matters’ Hannah Wallace Bowman wrapped up the conference at a session dedicated to pleasure, which included the likes of the Pleasure Project, IPPF, WHO and Sense and Sensibility. After revealing that she went on strike in primary school to protest the lack of sexual education classes, Hannah broke down the consequences of life without sex education and the need to accept that sex feels good in order to make real gains with young people.

“We need to accept human beings in all their sweaty, sexy selves and invoke the power of  OOOOOOO” - Hannah

The consensus from Women Deliver was overwhelming: talking about pleasure not only engages young people in sexual health and rights, it also empowers them to voice what they like and even more importantly what they do not. The need to talk about pleasure was so palpable that even older conference attendees complained to us that “pleasure isn’t only for young people!”, highlighting the fact that pleasure is not only global but cross-generational too.


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