The power of pleasure

The Love Matters Arabic team recently designed and implemented a campaign around sexual pleasure which generated the highest reach and engagement they’ve seen since the platform launched in 2014. The topic is a highly sensitive one in the conservative Egyptian context – but the team was determined to tackle it because, “We believe a sexually satisfied, pleased and happy person will have a better personal life and will be able to better contribute in social change.”

The work of Love Matters Arabic has always been ground-breaking – addressing the many taboos and stigmas around the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) of young people that prevail in Egypt and other MENA countries. It’s the only Arabic language platform to take a ‘pleasure positive’ approach to sexuality, and it felt like a natural step for the team to take to take on the challenge of starting such a controversial conversation with their online community. Project Coordinator Dr Ramy Metwali and Social Media Editor May Elhosseiny explain:

We believe our ultimate role is to work on social change to make people’s lives better and to promote that sexuality is a normal part of the human wellbeing, so it is not shameful! We are trying to help people be educated about their sexuality and to know that “pleasure” is the main motive and aim when having sex.

Monitoring feedback
In total, the content created for the week-long campaign reached more than 7.7 million people and generated more than 1.1 million interactions (likes, comments, shares). While reactions were overwhelmingly positive there was also criticism from some users. When designing the campaign, the team had in-depth discussions about how they would deal with negative reactions and ways in which moderators might be able to encourage positive conversations. Once the campaign started, audience feedback was carefully monitored and sometimes content planning was modified to reduce risk. Anal sex, for instance, was highly controversial so the visual content around this topic was adjusted to be less challenging for conservative followers. But, say Metwali and Elhosseiny:

We understand that “change” never comes smoothly or without a cost, but we believe that keeping the communication channel with our audience open is a priority. No communication, no messages, means no change.

In the end, there was much less negative feedback than the team had been expecting. The number of new ‘Likes’ for the LM Arabic Facebook page was three times greater than ‘Unlikes’ and the page attracted 41.5k new followers while only 16.8k people Un-followed. The website attracted more than half a million extra page views during the campaign period. The team were also pleasantly surprised by the very positive feedback they received from partners as they had expected that the content might be considered too ‘shocking’ for some of the organisations they work with.

Greatest hits
The most popular post on the FaceBook page was a ‘painted’ animated video created collaboratively by the whole team

Other popular videos included How to enjoy having sex with your partner and Dr. Sandrine Attalah discussing sexual positions that allow clitoral stimulation while the post that attracted the most comments was one asking followers to share what they say to their partner when they want to have sex. If you’d like to know more about the most popular – and unpopular – campaign posts on various channels, take a look at this Pleasure Positive Campaign report.

Next challenge
The team are confident that they achieved their main goals of engaging young people around the issue of sexual pleasure and raising awareness and changing attitudes toward the right to sexual pleasure. A challenge that emerged though was the number of people asking about where they could access sex-friendly services. They even decided not to publish an article named “When to visit a sexologist” as they would be unable to refer people to such services. This is an issue Love Matters Arabic will follow-up on in the coming months with research into possible service providers to which users can be referred.

You can view more Love Matters Arabic videos on their YouTube channel.

Love Matters Arabic has also been attracting international media attention recently, featuring in a BBC documentary and an article on the BBC Arabic News channel. (Both in Arabic)