We like to do things that make us feel good, whether it’s cuddling up with Netflix, spending time outdoors, playing with baby animals, or eating delicious things. Our brains and our bodies tell us what feels good, but so does our culture and environment. If we feel fear or shame, it’s harder to feel good. It’s also harder to feel confidence and self-worth, which can make it harder to negotiate safer sex.

So much of sex ed focuses on the risks and consequences of sex, and totally forgets to talk about pleasure. It’s time we bring pleasure back into the conversation – here are some ways pleasure is a valid part of sexual health:

  • When we talk about pleasure, it’s not just orgasms – it’s how a person feels physically and emotionally about their experience.
  • When people feel that their needs (including pleasure) are legit and important, they have better self-esteem and a sense of confidence.
  • Sometimes people masturbate to find out what feels good. Once they know what they like, they can tell their partners.
  • When people can talk comfortably with their partners about what feels good, they feel safe and satisfied in their relationships.
  • When people feel good in their bodies and in their relationships, they feel that they are worth protecting. They feel confident asking to use condoms or dams, and feel comfortable getting tested for STIs.
  • When we acknowledge pleasure as a central part of sex and sexuality, we create space for people to talk meaningfully about their experiences, needs, and wants.