The pursuit of pleasure (beyond sex) opens up a world of possibility to indulge in and share with others
We live in an incredibly sexual society. There’s a reason “sex sells” is a well-known phrase. Everything from music, movies and media in general, influences the amount of sexual content that we consume.
Sexuality can be a positive and important part of our lives, and with sexual messages being in every medium we consume it can become difficult to think about how much of it bleeds into our lives and affects the way we express ourselves sexually.
How do we begin to look inward in understanding what it is we actually want for our own pleasure, especially in our 20s? How do we separate what we see in porn and what happens in our own spaces? How do we make sure that the sex we’re having is for our own pleasure and not just a simple performance based on societal expectations, regardless of which gender you are?
My answer to many of these questions, and how I start sexual pleasure workshops is by asking a lot more questions. And these start with you, before you involve others. It’s about understanding what pleasure means to you, what it is that you like and then working from that place to include others in your own pleasure.
Getting to a place where you love your sexual experiences is a journey, not a location, so it’s important to be patient with yourself. Even the most experienced aren’t completely happy, and why would they be? There’s always something more exciting to be discovered.
What sort of pleasure are you looking for? Sexual pleasure, intimacy, touching, kissing or platonic pleasure? How vulnerable are you willing to get, with yourself and others? Are you willing to admit that it’s okay to not know what you’re doing sometimes? What pleasures can you give yourself? What pleasures do you enjoy sharing with others? Are you enjoying the experience, rather than the performance of sex? Do you even want to be having sex at all?
You could explore these questions by watching porn, reading erotica or listening to erotic podcasts. Do something new; engage in something you haven’t before; look for a different sense to engage. Wear something you find sexy and do something you enjoy. Whether it’s lacy lingerie, a night in of exfoliating and moisturising yourself in the mirror, going dancing with friends or being at home in your birthday suit; you should explore what makes your body feel good, even without being sexual.
The unlocking of my sexual pleasures blossomed as I explored self-pleasure. Often, the best orgasms I had were the ones I gave myself, and as I explored alone, I was able to bring this into my sex life. Being able to speak about what brought me pleasure and what I wanted, with confidence, was the gateway to my sexual breadth.
Dr Nicole Prause, of sexual biotechnology company Liberos, has said, “sexual breadth is strongly related to sexual satisfaction”. These are the ways we explore and broaden our sexual behaviours and, in the long run, improve our sex lives.
Going slow and honouring the process of exploring allows us to be patient and gentle with our learning. Again: pleasure is a journey, not a destination.
Self-pleasure led me to get increasingly curious about what else could make me feel good.
Make a list of some of sexual fantasies — a sex bucket list. It doesn’t have to be extreme, it can start off as simple as asking a partner for oral sex more often, setting masturbation dates with yourself, or including a toy in sexual interactions. Be more intentional with the way you engage in sex and think about how to care for yourself during sexual interactions.
Once you start, the ‘big ticket items’ may start rolling in a bit more naturally. Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to a sex party, engage in BDSM, or have sex with multiple partners at once.
The goal isn’t to simply list the wildest sexual activities you can think of, but rather to engage in different forms of pleasure that interest you. The goal is always your own pleasure, expanding it and sharing that with others.
Make a list of some of sexual fantasies — a sex bucket (list).
Author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, Adrienne Maree Brown, has said: “Pleasure is the point. Feeling good is not frivolous, it is freedom.” Being intentional in the act of making yourself feel good can never be considered a bad thing. When it is between actively consenting adults, sexual pleasure can only be a good thing.
“The definition of pleasure, as I see it, is about happiness, joy, contentment and satisfaction,” Brown said. This radical way of thinking about our pleasure can allow us to work through the guilt and shame that may be present from years of being told our pleasure is not a priority.
We can only begin to live a life of pleasure once we are conscious about making it our own priority. While I risk sounding dramatic; in a world that is filled with much violence, pain and discomfort, investing in our pleasure is a revolutionary act.