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A massive wrap of the latest news on sexual and reproductive health, wellbeing and pleasure

Croakey is closed for summer holidays and will resume publishing in the week of 9 January 2023. In the meantime, we are re-publishing some of our top articles from 2022.

This article was first published on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.


Sex educator Brenna Bernadino recently took the reins of Croakey’s rotated Twitter account @WePublicHealth for a wide-ranging and timely discussion given that September hosts World Sexual Health Day, World Contraception Day and BiVisibilityDay while today is International Safe Abortion Day.

A summary follows below, including details of how communities around the world are fighting back against restrictions on sexual and reproductive health, and links to a wealth of reading and related resources.


Brenna Bernadino tweets:

This week for Sexual Health September, I plan to cover pleasure, access to sexual and reproductive healthcare (SRH) in Australia, racism and eugenics in SRH, sex-positivity, global threats to SRH and then will finish by covering World Contraception Day and International Safe Abortion Day.

The World Association for Sexual Health – @WAS_org – Sexual Pleasure Declaration states: “Sexual pleasure is the physical and/or psychological satisfaction and enjoyment derived from shared or solitary erotic experiences, including thoughts, fantasies, dreams, emotions, and feelings.”

The first @WAS_org goal for World Sexual Health Day WSHD 2022: “Promote sexual pleasure in law & policy as a fundamental part of SH and well-being, grounded in the principles of sexual rights as human rights, including self-determination, non-discrimination, privacy, bodily integrity & equality.”

The 2nd @WAS_org goal for WSHD 2022: “Recognise that significant barriers to sexual expression and the experience of pleasure are rooted in diverse systems encompassing policy and legal frameworks; cultural mores, and economic injustice.”

@WAS_org believes that “leadership from institutions is ESSENTIAL” to address barriers to pleasure in our society.

Read the SMH article on getting ‘cliterate’ here.

There’s even some research to suggest that animals may experience pleasure too!

Have you heard of the orgasm gap? It’s “the disparity between men and women’s frequency of orgasm while having sex”.

How do we understand what gives us pleasure (in the bedroom)? Well, they say practice makes perfect…

Pleasure can look different to everyone. Asexual activist Yasmine Benoit notes that “Masturbation has no bearing on my sexual orientation and it doesn’t make me more or less asexual.”

Pleasure x disability: We need to shift the focus on pleasure rather than penetration and make it accessible. Some disabled people may have injury/sensory issues, and instead may get pleasure from earlobes, knees or any touch that isn’t medicalised!

Pleasure may also be important for kinks, such as with BDSM. Some people experience pleasure from painful sensations like impact play which can increase endorphins and also just sound good!

Pleasure also happens across the lifespan. As we get older, we can still experience pleasure but just in different ways. Things to be mindful of include physical changes due to age, but also the added health issues that arise when getting older.

When most people think of pleasure, they might associate it with an orgasm. But some people have anorgasmia, or a lack of orgasms. That’s why it’s important not to focus on “achieving” an orgasm as the end goal, and to centre overall pleasure instead!

Sex ed also needs to talk about pleasure! Recent research suggests that a focus on pleasure can condom use and enhance positive attitudes towards safe sex: @jen_j_p

Pleasure sounds nice and all, but does it reaally add anything in sexual health interventions? One massive study says YES! Pleasure x condom use can HIV and STIs, and improve sexual health knowledge, attitudes and safer sex practices.

If you want to learn more about pleasure, check out the recent @SRHMJournal podcast episode about pleasure as a core element of sexual and reproductive health.

The conversation around access to SRH care such as abortion has been in the media a lot recently in Australia since Roe v. Wade was overturned in the US in June this year

@childrenXchoice also have a fantastic resource to make sense of #abortion legislation in Australia which you can check out here.

Overall, the laws on abortion care in Australia vary between state and territory. Abortion access is as @thejamalhakim says, a “postcode lottery”.

WA MP @ChaneyforCurtin has recently called for the state to harmonise their abortion laws: “In Western Australia, abortion is still in the criminal code”.

And did you know it was only in July when South Australia finally decriminalised abortion, extended their gestation limits and permitted teleabortions??

There are many other barriers to abortion access besides the law. There are more challenges for “rural women, young women, disadvantaged women, and women from culturally and linguistically-diverse backgrounds” says @Danielle_Mazza.

Abortion laws don’t mean access in Australia. A recent @smh article found three women who shared their own challenges: docs who said it was against their religion to provide an abortion, long travel to access care and family stigma.

A recent study also found that family or intimate partner violence also are a critical barrier to abortion care: “Cost, stigma, and intimate partner violence continue to impede access”.

How can we reduce abortion costs to ensure healthcare equity? One way would be to ensure medical abortions have their own Medicare Benefits Schedule #. This would help reduce out-of-pocket costs!

Since there are low numbers of abortion providers, it would make sense to train up others like nurses to support abortion care. That’s why the legislation and policies would need to change.

What about access to #SRH in the workplace? It’s where most spend the majority of our time right? One employer decided recently to provide support for menstruation, menopause, miscarriage, abortion & fertility! See this article @WomensAgenda.

Access to SRH care has also been identified as an “area of urgent need” for women on temporary visas in Australia.

It’s critical to remember that access to SRH care in Aus is always ongoing. As we have seen from the US, access can change dramatically. It’s unlikely that Australia will severely roll back SRH access, but it doesn’t mean we should stop fighting for it.