Pleasure is a loaded word for many women. Most of us think pleasure means ‘sex’ or ‘sexy,’ which often implies ‘for a man or partner’. Culturally, female pleasure is a commodity—it’s been co-opted for the male gaze. As a result, many women reject their pleasure altogether because we want to refuse this and don’t know how to do it without denying ourselves pleasure outright. Unfortunately, this hurts us far more than it hurts anybody else.
There is another way!
We need not deprive ourselves of pleasure. In fact, it’s your birthright as a human to feel pleasure in your own body. We can acknowledge the issue at hand and work to dismantle the system that created it, while simultaneously experiencing ecstatic amounts of pleasure in our own sovereign bodies.
I believe it is a radical and subversive act to be willing to feel the pleasure inherent and innate in your body in any moment. To not withhold this deeply nourishing experience from yourself, simply because another might witness you in the midst of feeling good.
One of the ways we deny ourselves the depth of pleasure available to us is to pretend that pleasure is only sexual. The sensual pleasure that is latent and available in your body right now—from the tips of your fingers to the top of your head, to the soles of your feet, up and down your spine and throughout your whole body has so much power in it. You could move mountains woman, if only you would allow yourself to feel it!
Another way we deny ourselves the depth of pleasure is by unconsciously imagining that the source of pleasure lives outside of our own body. When we are not engaging in intimate relationship(s), we often deny ourselves our own touch and the platonic sensual touch of others.
When we are in relationship(s), we often default to expecting our partner to give us pleasure. We imagine that, once we are in a relationship, we no longer ‘need’ to touch our own bodies and source our own pleasure. But this is bullsh*t. The pleasure you have with yourself is not only equally valid but deeply essential and nourishing for you as women, whether we’re single or partnered. You are allowed to feel, enjoy, and experience absolute sexual and sensual pleasure without a partner. Freeing ourselves from being dependant on another to give it to us, simultaneously frees the other from our subtle demand that they are the ones to fill us with pleasure.
So how do we fill our body with genuine pleasure?
Learning (over and over, in every new moment, and throughout the many cycles of your life) what is pleasurable in your body requires a few things:
1. The willingness to feel. Most of us shut down the majority of our feeling, both pleasurable and painful, and everything in between. Feeling takes courage.
2. Get in touch with your senses. Explore! Smell a rose. Taste a new flavor. Touch your own skin in different ways. Allow your eyes to linger on beauty. Listen to the birds, or a beautiful piece of music.
3. S L O W (the f*ck) D O W N. Take time with yourself. We live in a world that is addicted to speed. Can’t wait 5 days for a book? Pay for Prime! This is not a process to be rushed.
4. It’s not all about sex, but let it be about sex, too! Wear a sexy bra because you want to. Notice what turns you on. ALLOW yourself to feel turned on – without needing to DO anything about it.
Does this mean you never want or need to receive pleasure from another person? Of course not. But if you were own perfect lover, how would you offer yourself pleasure? How would they touch you, speak to you, set up the space for you?
The way you would want your partner to pay attention to you, is the way you need to pay attention to yourself. Make a clear commitment to your own pleasure. Here is one way.
A Regular Pleasure Practice
Create this as a regular practice. It doesn’t ever have to be sexual (though it can be), you might lie on the floor and stroke your own arm slowly one day. There might be moments where you don’t know what to do – keep exploring and do it anyway! You are worth more than the thoughts in your head that want to dismiss offering yourself the kind of love that you would want someone else to offer you.
There’s an even deeper layer and it’s this:
I believe that pleasure exists inside everybody and inside every moment.
None of the external circumstances need to change—the pain in your shoulder, the roll in your belly, your feelings of fear or anger. When we’re willing (and without any need to push away or suppress any other feelings), we can find one tiny part of us that feels good. Maybe there’s a little tingling in the soles of your feet that feels delicious, or you take a breath and feel the pleasure of breathing, or there is a warm ray of sun hitting your big toe. Your willingness to bring attention to and magnify your own pleasure, no matter how small—is a radical act of self-nourishment.
One note on sexual self-pleasure: Masturbation and orgasm are great! And, this practice is meant to be an exploration, not a place to try to achieve the ‘goal’ of getting off. Again: Slow down. Let go of ANY idea(s) you already have about what ‘should’ feel good and find out what really does!
Fear of women’s real embodied pleasure is powerful. But let that stop with us. Let us be the women who change the story for all women who come after us, that we make a world in which it’s safe and wonderful for a woman to be filled with pleasure. Be the change you wish to see in the world, and start your pleasure practice today.
Interested to learn more about embodied pleasure? Check out Fierce Grace, a 7-month immersive journey into the art of embodied wholeness for women.
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Thank you for pointing me to this piece! The word ‘pleasure’ is definitely one that has been corrupted in my vocabulary. After reading this post, and making a distinction between sexual and any other type of pleasure, it is clear to me that my body understands, but my mind struggles. Stepping back, the words I would use that resonate with me are ‘feels good’. ‘Pleasure’ is a word and idea to be reclaimed, but until the words and ideas/feelings match, ‘feels good’ will work.
Revelling in and honouring what ‘feels good’ to me is a practice that I want to invest in. It feels like a reclamation of being and enjoying being a woman, living into all that makes me a woman, and holding my own value to the highest level. It feels rebellious and liberating to just do something because it feels good. A big component of this is allowing myself to be ‘all about me’, not referencing someone outside of me to decide what feels good.
Awesome post, thank you so much.