Erin O'daniel is a writer, artist and gender expansive womxn living in Duluth, Minnesota

Drumming Up a Pleasure Resistance!

Newsflash. We are afraid of the word and the idea of pleasure. Especially in Minnesota, the state I adoringly call home for handfuls of reasons, where silence and nice are ubiquitous .

The history of the repression and/or hypersexualization of womxn’s bodies and desire is painfully long. While womxn’s pleasure has existed and been celebrated in choice circles forever, it’s still rarely discussed outside the one dimensional framework of reproduction versus the multiplicity of purposes for experiencing the erotic.

We are fighting for body autonomy, some of us more than others, because of this history. Take a minute to toy with the words pleasure  and justice in your mind and mouth. What do they feel like? How are they contradictory? Have you ever paired them together before now? If not, there are infinite reasons for that.

Recently while organizing an event I’ve coined Pleasure, Bodies, Justice (PB&J) 2019, I was reminded of the deep-rooted fears folx have and how institutions will not save us. Thus, I’ve concluded, it is necessary to always be drumming up a pleasure resistance!

Our shared sex negative white supremacist United States history collides with contemporary anti-choice stupidity and hypocrisy (pro war, pro environmental destruction, pro patriarchy, pro religious subjugation of womxn, queer and trans folks,  pro wall, pro police, pro “life”) and  equals limiting access to comprehensive sex ed and reproductive health services for so many. This vocal, fearful minority with too much money is especially afraid of queer, trans and POC pleasure. And yet even among those who support access to abortion and other reproductive health care, “it is only within the context of a culture that has already affirmed our lives (and our reproductive capacities) as desirable that we can imagine our actions as unmediated and free.”

Again, my community, let’s drum up a Pleasure Resistance! I imagine radical beautiful folx coming together, fists raised, in tune and in step with their own power, using the word, advocating for the freedom to talk about pleasure, demanding pleasure for all- not just cis white hetero people. Asking others, “What does it mean for folx on the margins to talk about who they are and what they pleasure?”

Let me stop us there.

The dictionary defines Pleasure this way:

noun

  1. a feeling of happiness, delight, or satisfaction

  2. gratification of the senses, especially sexual gratification

  3. recreation, relaxation, or amusement, especially as distinct from work or everyday routine

  4. a source of happiness, joy, or satisfaction

  5. somebody’s desire, wish, or preference

verb

  1. to give somebody pleasure, especially through sensual or sexual stimulation or gratification

  2. to derive satisfaction or happiness from something

adrienne maree brown, a self proclaimed pleasure activist, badAss creative hero of mine, brilliant author of Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism, , talks about pleasure activism this way,

“Originally about claiming our right to experience pleasure, to be safe and respected in the pleasures we choose, pleasure activism has expanded. Knowing to really transform, we will need to make justice one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have.”

We have to stop demonizing pleasure. We try to leverage control over the natural world by making our emotions and sensations less reliable than our thoughts, and then burn at the stake anyone who stays attuned to the ways an power of pleasure. Audre Lorde’s essay The Uses of the Erotic is foundational writing on the radical act of tuning into pleasure and not settling for less than the erotic sense of wholeness and rightness in one’s life.

My vision is about changing our how, more than seeing clearly our what. In some imaginations, pleasure is dangerous. And that imagination, mostly white, male, cis, hetero, is so ‘respected’, that when anti-choice folx advocate for hate and hinder access to basic knowledge of pleasure and health care related to sex and pleasure, based on patriarchal, racialized, homo and transphobic fears, rarely are they held accountable.”

adrienne asks powerful questions that in my mind locate a pleasure resistance in something bigger- Love- while holding pleasure front and center. She says,

“Perhaps humans’ core function is to love, our core human goal is to increase the love. Love leads us to observe in a much deeper way than any other emotion.” Thus with the creation of Pleasure Resistance, I ask, ‘How do I use pleasure to reach lovingly for/towards others?’

Yes, our Pleasure Resistance reaches for/towards others. We fight the fear instilled in our culture about all thing pleasurable, keeping folx silent and separate. This work is about showing each other more of ourselves and imagining our possible shared futures together. The invitation of a Pleasure Resistance is to keep growing, learning, loving, organizing, designing and evolving together by fighting for the things that give us the greatest pleasure. Let’s make today and the future as pleasurable and compelling as possible. A Pleasure Resistance acknowledges and shares the solid core of truth inside ourselves that cannot be shaken by external fear and pressure. We are cohesive enough to always be moving towards each other and collective liberation. We are smart enough to tap into the most ancient systems and patterns for wisdom as we build tomorrow.

Let’s be thrilled by how we constantly stand up against our own and our culture’s weaknesses. Let’s turn our collective, full bodied intelligence towards collaboration and pleasure.

My Pleasure Resistance! Unite!

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