This article on why experiencing pleasure is revolutionary originally appeared on Blood + Milk.
“Pleasure might be too scary of a sell,” the marketing consultant told me. We were seeing an influx of curiosity around menstruation, reproductive health and justice, and even sex. But pleasure? That was a no-no.
“Why does pleasure matter to you?” the PR consultant asked.
It’s a human right. It is transgressive. It puts a stake in the ground and says “I matter.”
Experiencing pleasure is revolutionary
This is something I have long believed. I am grateful that pleasure has often come easy to me, whether we are talking about orgasms, foodgasms, dancing in nature, or the flush of fangirling joy when your ship gets together (either as part of the canon or in smutty fanfiction).
Sometimes I judged the ease with which pleasure came to me. Words like “hedonistic” and “sinful” and “lazy” rattled around my mind. Those larger messages I got that said success and happiness requires you to work hard and produce—work, children, crafts, something.
And it’s this pressure—a function of colonization that strips lands and peoples of resources; of capitalism that equates one’s productivity with their worth; of whiteness that was created specifically so it could exploit others for labor—that makes leaning into pleasure so badass.
Too often pleasure gets dismissed as unimportant at best or destructive at worst. Few talk about the fact that it is, in fact, a powerful healing force.
Joyful movement, laughter, rest, and hugs—four deeply pleasurable things—are all science-backed ways to complete the stress cycle. In addition, the rush of hormones released when you experience orgasm has countless health and interpersonal benefits. As another example, celebration is seen as an important part of activism:
“Find reasons to celebrate throughout your campaign. Fighting a problem does not need to be depressing. In fact, having fun and feeling joy can be an act of resistance, for example, in the way that Pride festivals celebrate LGBTQ people and culture. Things like holiday meals or dance parties can be forms of self-care.” – Advocates for Youth, Youth Activist Tool Kit.
Enjoying yourself, the moment, the wins—even when things aren’t perfect—heals on so many levels.
Pleasure is a human right
Everyone deserves pleasure, however that looks for and whatever that means to them. Pleasure is not something that should be reserved only when one finishes their work but rather is an essential part of living a full life. Its the right to smile, laugh, and love. Why is this even a debate?
Saying yes to pleasure means letting go of internalized BS
It means that you choose, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, to let go of the “shoulds” and enjoy what is so rightfully yours. Experiencing pleasure often means healing or letting go of judgements fueled by misogyny, racism, fat phobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression. Pleasure says “I matter and I deserve this and I am enough.”
Pleasure does not have to be all or nothing
So often, pleasure is seen as the end goal, the thing you’ll work towards when all the rest of the work is done. And yet, that perspective sits firmly with an “either/or” perspective (another function of whiteness and white narcissism) that limits possibility and hope, and is meant to keep us working and grinding away.
Pleasure is not all bubble baths and dance parties
Thanks to capitalism, pleasure—like self-care—has become a commodity to sell. It gets presented as expensive, time-consuming, and elite. And listen, I love a fancy meal as much as the next bougie bitch but at the end of the day the things that bring me the most joy are smaller than that. Lying in the sun on my couch. Witnessing my dog do something ridiculous. Sipping a cup of tea or cocoa.
Challenging times can clarify what really brings us pleasure
Being forced to spend essentially the last eight months at home has clarified the things that bring me pleasure: deep, regular conversations; delicious food; long walks; nerding out on the nervous system; and cuddling (to name a few).
What would happen if you prioritized pleasure?
What could shift if you made pleasure the lens through which you viewed the world? Made decisions? What would your relationships—romantic, platonic, or otherwise—look like? How would you spend your time? What would your sex life be like? What would you say no to?
Fully leaning into your pleasure means stripping away the stories and the shoulds
It means divesting from the falsehoods that capitalism and the various forms of oppression. It means letting go of the lies you been told about goodness and godliness and sin and temptation. It means, finding freedom in pleasure rather than shame.