“Yes! Yes! For Satan’s sake, yes! I’m cumming! Oh no! Here goes all for nothing, again. Why does everything have to go wrong exactly when the right things are going on!” Lily shrieked at the top of her voice before switching off her vibrator and answering the person at her door impatiently buzzing the doorbell. Now, let’s take a moment (I’ll wait for you), what’s the first thought that comes to your mind when you read the word “Pleasure”? Hold on to that thought for me, we’ll reflect into it later. Back to the above mentioned scenario, it is an universal experience that most pleasure seeking people go through at least once in their lifetime. On the other hand, something that should happen more often but rarely does, are discussions around pleasure.
The Cambridge dictionary describes pleasure as "the feeling of enjoyment, happiness or satisfaction but today we will be focusing solely around physical pleasure." Fascinatingly, even though pleasure is an universally shared emotion, the act of physically achieving pleasure might mean different things to different people depending on their likes and dislikes.
On an individual note, pleasure might depict the act of self-exploration where one touches themselves in order to find feel good erogenous areas like nipples, thighs, back of the neck and so on, that are sensitive to touch and experiment on them with different textures or temperatures. Self-exploration also includes the act of masturbation where an individual stimulates their sensitive genitals areas using their hands or sex toys, that specifically generates a pleasurable feeling by releasing stress and may or may not result in an orgasm. It is more of a sensual activity that can be enjoyed solo or with your consenting partner(s). Partnered pleasure, on the other hand, is a shared, consensual act of exploring and pleasuring each other either in a duel or group setting; via means of mechanical sex toys, exploration of kinks and fetishes and so on.
Pleasure is a dynamic word. Exploring it is like jumping from one window to another in a multi-dimensional world. Two such interlinked windows are that of kinks and fetishes. While kink is an unconventional pleasure centric act a person might like to do to themselves or their consenting partner(s); fetish is more about the desirability of the presence of any object that erotically arouses a person or helps them achieve a state of pleasure. While consensual kinks like roleplay, bondage and submission or cuckolding are subjective and based on verbal communication, trust and comfort of all the parties involved; fetishes are objective depending on the presence of a certain object that arouses an individual; both of which can often overlap.
For centuries, pleasure has been expressed through a cisgender heterosexual male point-of-view, who’s sole derivation were men. Oppressed bodies, be it people with vaginas, disabled, neuro-divergent or queer people; are to this day denied agency over pleasure of their own bodies and shamed into the shadows for exploring it. The lack of comprehensive sex education make it harder for them to talk about their pleasure without risking their safety in so many scenarios. Pleasure through a cis-het male centric point of view is not only dismissive but also dangerous as it discourages pleasure positivity in our generation.
In a country like India that treats religion and tradition as guiding laws, slut shaming is so prevalent that masturbation is seen through a sinful set of eyes and having sex before marriage for a person with a vagina is equivalent to losing their entire worth. Who put our worthiness in our vagina is still a mystery! Be it in the socio-political setting where people with vaginas are influenced into believing that the purpose of their body is to help their male partner derive pleasure or in a media setting where in most relationships it is expected of the cis het male to coerce people into physical intimacy; problematically builds into crushing down the concepts of consent and mutual pleasure under all that weight of misogyny. Male gaze, in this context, as Laura Mulvey coined it, refers to the imbalance in sexual pleasure where pleasure for penis owners is seen on an active note and pleasure for vagina owners is seen on a passive note. Such narratives also dismiss the pleasure of people belonging to marginalized communities.
Often when we talk about pleasure belonging to marginalized communities, we leave behind disabled, asexual and polyamarous people out of the conversation. There is no one way of pleasuring oneself and each consenting person is free to choose between exploring or not exploring physical intimacy with themselves or their partner(s). Media platforms play a major role in reinforcing stereotypical bodies in conversation around desirability and pleasure. Little to no prioritization is given to marginalized bodies which also contributes to self-image issues where they themselves view their bodies as unworthy and not deserving of pleasure.
Pleasure should be seen as a safe practice that encourages people to know their own bodies better, as a self-care ritual and as a mutually fun activity. Pleasure should exist beyond the boundaries of prejudice as each and every consenting adult is deserving of it in whatever way they seek. Now, do you still remember the thought which I asked you to hold on to at the beginning? Let’s go back to it. As long as your version of pleasure encompasses mutual consent, respect and sensual fun, you’ve absolutely got the right idea, friend.