PleasureRush Talks Sex

GALAEI's new initiative looks at the positive side of safe sex

Courtesy of Elicia Gonzales

When PleasureRush was created earlier this year, GALAEI wanted to encourage people to take a positive approach to safe sex. As the organization gets ready for the “PleasureRush 101: After School Special” event on Dec. 9 (6 p.m.) for those 21 years and older at the William Way, we talked to Elicia Gonzales, executive director of GALAEI, about the connection between being safe and experiencing pleasure, and how to talk to your partner about important issues. For anyone who attends the event- hosted by Notorious OMG – there’s free admission to ICandy.

How did PleasureRush first get started?

PleasureRush was created in May 2011 in honor of National Masturbation Month to promote sex-positive sexuality education in order to provide an alternative perspective to current HIV prevention messages. Many messages focus exclusively on condom use or talk only of the medicalization of HIV. We often neglect to consider that much of HIV is contracted sexually, yet we shy away from real conversations about sex. And we rarely, if ever, allow ourselves to talk about sex as pleasurable. Also, some people who are living with HIV and AIDS receive implicit messages that they can no longer enjoy a healthy and satisfying sex life. We wanted to reintroduce the notion that sex is something that can be celebrated and that having a healthy and pleasurable sex life involves so much more than simply putting on a condom.

How does the campaign education people about these messages?

PleasureRush is the sex-positive arm of GALAEI that acknowledges the necessary connection between pleasure and health, and supports an understanding of sex and sexuality as healthy, natural and an integral part of everyone’s life. PleasureRush is a multimedia project designed to engage LGBT communities in conversations about having a healthy and pleasurable sex life, regardless of orientation, gender identity or HIV status.

What have you done so far?

So far we have created “What If” videos, three to date. “Episode 4” will debut at the After-School Special event to depict real-life sexual scenarios and the decisions many of us are faced with regarding our sexual behaviors. The “What If” videos beg the questions, “What if you decided not to wear a condom,” “What if you decided not to tell your partner you cheated,” for example.

We are also creating a series of informative sex-ed videos, such as “How to put on a condom,” and tips for masturbation – and we hold sex toy parties. We held a sex toy party for women, with Kali Morgan of Sexploratorium, before the Arouse party in May. We aim to continue providing these in various venues.

We are working with interns from the Widener University Human Sexuality Program to create sex-positive mini workshops (five minutes each) to present at health fairs, to bar patrons, or people waiting in the lobby to get an HIV test.

With so many messages about safe sex in our culture, why was PleasureRush created?

To combat the deficit-based, pathologizing messages surrounding HIV prevention today. When HIV first came about, sex-positive images and messages were used all of the time. We got away from that and need to revisit some of the earlier messages and images that existed. Many people like having sex. Many people don’t like being told what to do (i.e., put on a condom or else).

What do you hope to accomplish?

We hope that LGBT communities will recognize that an HIV-prevention agency can be about health promotion, not just disease prevention. We hope to show that safer sex is about more than just putting on a condom – there are so many ways to experience and express our sexuality that are both pleasurable and low-risk. We hope to lessen some of the shame and embarrassment many of us face about our sex and sexuality. We hope to capture people’s attention and get them talking about sex, not just as it relates to the negative consequences that can arise but of sex and sexuality in their entirety. We hope to elicit emotional responses from the community who give pause to the notion that we all deserve to have a healthy and pleasurable sex life.

How can people learn more and get involved?

Pleasure Rush is volunteer-run and funded by private individuals. As such, we always need both volunteers and money to keep the project moving forward. The upcoming event will feature the debut of our new “What If, Encounter 4” video, sex education stations, a photography booth, dancing, drinks, and entertainment aimed at connecting and educating people around sex and sexuality.

PleasureRush 101: After School Special, Dec. 9, 6 p.m., William Way, 1315 Spruce St., 215-732-2220.