If You Teach Them, They Will Come: Providers’ Reactions to Incorporating Pleasure Into Youth Sexual Education

Vanessa Oliver, Emily van der Meulen, Sarah Flicker, June Larkin, Toronto Teen Survey Research Team


OBJECTIVES: Sexual pleasure and satisfaction are integral components of the human sexual experience, yet these crucial aspects of sexuality are rarely placed on sexual education agendas. The objective of this paper is to explore the ways in which various groups of Service Providers (SPs) participating in the Toronto Teen Survey (TTS) understand the role of pleasure in sexual education for youth, highlighting the challenges and benefits of teaching pleasure in diverse settings.

METHODS: The TTS employed a community-based research (CBR) methodology. Between December 2006 and August 2007, 1,216 surveys were collected from youth in over 90 different community-based settings across Toronto by youth peer researchers. In 2008, 13 follow-up focus groups were conducted with 80 service providers from 55 different agencies around the Greater Toronto Area. All transcripts were input into qualitative data management software, NVIVO. Coding and analysis of data employed the constant comparative method.

RESULTS: SPs had a number of competing opinions about the inclusion of pleasure in sexual health education and programming. These concerns can be divided into three major areas: placing pleasure on the agenda; the role of gender in pleasure education; and the appropriate spaces and professionals to execute a pleasure-informed curriculum.

CONCLUSION: Access to resources, training and personal background determine SPs’ willingness and ability to engage in the pedagogy of sexual pleasure. Medically trained clinicians were less likely to see themselves as candidates for instructing youth on issues of pleasure, believing that public health and health promotion professionals were more adequately trained and organizationally situated to deliver those services.


Adolescent; sexual development; education; health personnel; Toronto; Canada

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.104.3620