RSE at Home: Pleasure

RSE at Home with Brook is our series specially created for parents and carers who want to further support their children’s relationships and sex education at home. Brook expert staff use their knowledge and experience to give you support on how to address potentially tricky topics at home! In this blog, Brook’s Business Development and Participation Lead, Kelly Harris, discusses why it’s important to speak to your young people about pleasure and gives some pointers on how you might approach the topic. 

Remember that everyone parents differently. There are many factors which affect how we parent for example our own family values, how we were raised, our life experiences. There is not one way to have these conversations nor is there one way of parenting – we are all different and have different experiences. You know your child best and this will shape the way you have these conversations. 

What do we mean by ‘pleasure’? 

Pleasure is a very personal experience for everyone. It means experiencing something enjoyable which can make you feel happy, overjoyed, content, and is something which you can experience by yourself or with other people in a consensual setting. You can get pleasure from a range of senses – hearing, touching, tasting, smelling and seeing.  

An erogenous zone is an area of your body which is very sensitive, and can produce a pleasurable/happy feeling when it is touched by you or someone you give permission to. Common examples of erogenous zones for people with penises include the penis, scrotum, anus, prostate and nipples. Common examples of erogenous zones for people with vulvas include the vulva, vagina, anus and nipples.  

They can also include, but are not limited to, other areas of your body such as your neck, ears, back, hips and thighs. Everyone is different and it is important to understand what things you enjoy or do not enjoy. 

Sexual pleasure is about the build-up of physical and/or psychological sexual tension and arousal which may lead to orgasm – sometimes known as ‘coming’ or ‘climaxing’. 

Why is it important to talk about pleasure with young people? 

It can seem daunting to talk to your young people about pleasure, in part because you might be feeling a sense of embarrassment or awkwardness. There is a general lack of education around pleasure, and something that traditionally is not spoken about much in society. It is also a personal subject, and you may feel unequipped to discuss it – what should you say/how do you introduce it? 

However, it’s important to remember that if we never discuss pleasure then the stigma will remain. Young people will not understand that sex should be a pleasurable experience or understand that they are in control of their own sexual pleasure.  It is also important to support young people to feel comfortable with their sexuality.  

Adults want to safeguard and mitigate risk to young people when it comes to topics around sexual health as they feel it is the right way to protect young people. Yet not talking about pleasure in a positive light can have the opposite effect on their safety. 

If we don’t discuss pleasure with young people we can be putting them at more risk. 

Consent and pleasure are interlinked. It is important that young people know that they are an equal partner in any sexual exchange, with as much right as the other person/s to enjoy themselves. 

If young people know that they have a right to pleasure it means young people are better equipped to negotiate consent. By talking about pleasure and consent, young people are therefore more likely to be assertive with what they want and less likely to engage in sexual acts that they don’t want to partake in. 

When could I start talking about pleasure with my child? 

We talk about things being age and stage appropriate in RSE. This is about ensuring young people have the information that they need in a timely manner, and in ways that are relevant and accessible to them at that point in their lives. 

Simply put, everyone is different. The beauty of teaching RSE as a parent is that you spend a lot of time with your child and know them really well. Therefore, you can use your judgement to decide when might be a good time to start having these conversations. You might bring it up as a response to a behaviour change, or for example if your child is watching a TV series that covers themes of sex and relationships. They might also ask you a question which could link to these topics. 

Puberty can be another opportunity to discuss changing bodies and feelings, including masturbation and pleasure. 

How could I introduce the topic of pleasure with my child? 

You do not need to get straight to sexual pleasure; you could start with getting them to think about things they enjoy. 

When we’re working with young people at Brook, we might do an activity called a ‘Sense Star’ – This gets them to start thinking about what they enjoy hearing, tasting, smelling, touching and seeing. 

It allows for a conversation about what brings us pleasure, enjoyment and happiness in life. If we become aware at what things we enjoy and be able to vocalise those things, we are able to take ownership and feel more confident for seeking out those things or setting boundaries. 

This can then translate into being aware of what brings you sexual pleasure and help you feel more confident at describing and telling the person/s you engage in sexual activity with what things you enjoy and what brings you pleasure 

What tips do you suggest for parents/carers talking to their young people about pleasure? 

Take a deep breath!  

Be as confident if you can. Even if you are dying of embarrassment inside, being as open and factual as you can will make the whole conversation run smoother, and also further demonstrate the message that asking for pleasure in sexual situations is not shameful.  

Admit when you don’t know. It’s better to research something together and make sure they’re informed than to spread misinformation. Doing some reading and research can help you feel more confident and Brook’s website is a great place to start. You could even go through some of the pages with your young person to help get conversations going.  

Be willing to learn from your young person: this should be a conversation, not a lecture. 

It is important to make sure you have a quiet space and time to discuss this with your child so they feel safe to ask you any questions and you have the time to give it your full attention. 

Keep the conversation going: one conversation about ‘the birds and the bees’ isn’t enough. Keeping a dialogue open means young people can come to you with questions as and when they arise, which keeps them safer and allows them to keep learning. 

Don’t forget to discuss contraception and the importance of ensuring they are engaging in safe sex. Condoms are the only contraception to prevent both STIs and pregnancy. We have some useful videos on Brook’s YouTube which explain different types of contraception and how to use a condom. 

You can also watch Brook’s RSE at Home series in video format on our Facebook page, including this session about pleasure.

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