At the end of our most recent Koinonia event, I shared that, for me, pleasure and revolution dance hand in hand. In that sense, I’m a drop in a river that has been flowing for longer than we can know, a river running through Aristophanes’ play Lysistrata, first performed in 411 BC, which tells tall tales of the women of ancient Athens going on a sex strike to stop the Peloponnesian war – and also through the electrifying performance I watched on Zoom earlier this year by Estudio Jorōgumo shibari, a queer feminist collective practising “ropes for resistance” in Mexico. It’s part of why it feels possible, and even generative, to keep offering work that is oriented towards pleasure in these “interesting times” – because pleasure can be both a resource and a tool for change, and because the world we are changing towards must be one in which everyone has the permission and possibility to embrace their pleasure.
What follows are some ideas for incorporating pleasure into your change-making, and letting your pleasure be the change you want to see in the world.
If you are someone who is creating change – or just someone who is creating, full stop – experiment with inviting more pleasure into your (change)making.
My definition of pleasure here is a large net, cast wide to catch all consensual activities, from the tiny to the transcendent, that make you feel good:
If you’re creating/creating change in company, be an instigator of pleasure cultures with your colleagues and collaborators. Suggest group hugs and pot-lucks; make more opportunities for collective embodiment (dance breaks, collective stretching, DIY spa moments); invite everyone to take three deep breaths before we begin. Become a guerrilla gardener of pleasure. The more pleasure you share, the more connected, committed, and resourced you and your fellow change-makers are likely to feel when it comes to your co-creating.
Are the processes through which you create/create change pleasurable ones? If not, why not? Is it because they are inherently unpleasant, hard, boring, and/or time-pressured? Or is it because they have been shaped, however unconsciously, by a capitalist mythos of “hard” work, an inherited sense that it is normal for work/making change to be “hard”, and that stress and exhaustion have some kind of inherent moral value? For many of us, there’s probably a little of both in the mix. If you strip your (change)making down to its bare essentials, is there any pleasure to be found in the doing, in the tools of that doing, or in the purpose of that doing? Can pleasure – even micro-pleasures – be built around it? Breath and embodiment practices can help you stay present – and find pleasure – in the task at hand. Comfort can be created with the smallest of things – hot or cold drinks, a change in textures or temperatures, the addition of something beautiful to your creative space, a kind word or touch. Intention can help you re-orient towards your why – the change you want to make – and also towards ease, enjoyment, and/or togetherness. Sometimes, when we are trying to make change towards a kinder and more just world, or create something for beauty or connection, we forget to make sure those qualities are present in the making, and to turn them towards ourselves and each other. But the more you can find, nurture, and share pleasure in your change-making, the more sustainable that will be, and the more people will want to join in!
Do you keep your erotic self entirely separate from your creative/change-making work? If so, take a moment to ask yourself why that is – why that aspect of you that Audre Lorde described as a source of creative power and satisfaction is kept apart from your creativity. How might you include that part of yourself? This could be in the music that you listen to while you work, the way you adorn yourself, or how you include your body – your movement, your intuition, your strength, your vulnerability – and your voice in your creative endeavours. When we invite our erotic selves into our making (in ways that are consensual for us and those around us), we invoke the fullness of our power and tap into our flow, with potentially potent, inspiring, and liberating results!
Let your pleasure reflect and/or resource the changes you want to be and see in the world
This time I’m talking about pleasure in a more specific, intimate, physical and/or sexual sense:
And I want to preface this by affirming every single one of you for whom pleasure is currently a rare place of rest, retreat, release, who don’t need or want anything else to think about when you’re in that space. I see you. Consider what follows less of a to-do list, and more of a permission slip, a parade of possibilities from which you might choose one or two to play with. Because pleasure is also a powerful practice space: A place where we can try out new forms of expressing ourselves as individuals, and where we can embody new ways of being that we would like to see and be in the world. In play, we can disrupt the status quo, deconstruct who we were told to be, and discard outdated behaviours and old skins that no longer serve us.
So what would you like to disrupt? Tired of gender-binaries and the ways they play out the same old scripts in your relationships and/or life? Exhausted by a sense of always having to be responsible and make decisions, or burning with the frustration of feeling powerless to do so? Want to stick it to the man (perhaps literally)? From strap-ons to role-play, from energy genitals to the many styles of Domination/submission, there will be a sensual, kinky, or sexual activity out there that was created to meet that need. So play with it. How is it you want to feel, what part of you has been yearning for expression, what might that look like in an erotic context? Do your research, get consent, negotiate a scene… and let your body, and your pleasure, be an expression of the tomorrow you are calling in.
If doing so leaves you with a renewed sense of power and/or possibility, that same energy can resource you in disrupting the status quo or creating change not just in the bedroom, but out in the world. Let your pleasure fuel, empower, and inspire you. We are encouraged to associate pleasure with rest, with rare moments of leisure. But what if pleasure was our go to when the going gets tough? Pleasure that’s intentional, mindful, that brings us out of our heads into our bodies, and taps us into our perspective and our power? If there’s one thing I learned about pleasure from the daily pleasure experiment I conducted in February, it’s that things don’t have to be “good” in order for us to access pleasure, and pleasure also doesn’t have to be an escape route from things feeling “bad”. It’s important to practice having pleasure with – with grief, with anger, with exhaustion – to let pleasure touch us, hold us, resource us in hard times, and also in the ways we strive to change the times we’re in.
As well as resourcing from pleasure, you might like to notice what resources support your pleasure. To put it another way, who is leading the (pleasure) revolutions you want to be part of? When you reach for inspiration or tools for feeling good, who would you like to be raising up? There are so many incredible sex geeks and pleasure pioneers instigating more deliciousness in the world; some have to fight harder to be seen than others. So put down the best sellers, and go seek out the folks – the authors, educators, space-holders, sex-workers and touch therapists – who are marginalised and still rising, whose beauty and brilliance are signposts to a world you want to live in.
Finally, one of my favourite ways to combine pleasure and change making – Sex Magic! Gather up the sweetness, the sparks, the energy, the release yielded by your pursuit(s) of pleasure, and send them some place where you think they are most needed. For a step-by-step guide to combining ritual magic and the erotic, check out my book Igniting Intimacy: Sex Magic Rituals for Radical Living and Loving – or join a closed group of fellow seekers and sex geeks for Sex Magic for our Times, a virtual journey in ritual, pleasure, and resourcing from the erotic for making change. The journey begins on Friday the 28th of April, and unfolds over five Fridays through to the end of May. You can find out more here, express your interest in joining us here – the deadline for doing so is Sunday the 23rd of April.