On this podcast episode, Jamila Dawson joins us to talk about how to discover what is pleasurable, ways you might be limiting your pleasure, and how to make it part of your practice. We end the episode with Jamila walking us through a body scan.
Jamila, let’s start with, what does pleasure mean to you?
In some ways, pleasure can mean so many things. But really pleasure is the practice of being aware of one’s senses and what feels interesting, good, nourishing, and sustainable, not just physically or sexually, but also spiritually and intellectually. I strongly feel that following our curiosity and senses can lead to pleasurable experiences.
How does a person find pleasure?
When I’m working with clients, I suggest starting by building a pleasure profile that includes exploring all six senses, not just the five typically considered, including temperature. Then, spend time identifying scents, sensations, colors, and temperatures that feel good and nourishing, and building a lexicon of pleasure to guide future experiences.
How do you define pleasurable sex?
Pleasurable sex is more than just both people having an orgasm. For me it is important to have a sense of playfulness and discovery, where partners explore and try new things. Communication and asking for consent is important, and the experience should feel like a playful game. Eye contact and being watched by the partner can be intense but also enjoyable when there is deepening relaxation. Laughter and enjoying each other on a deep level are some additional elements of pleasurable sex.
How do you go about discovering what pleasure means to you and owning your own pleasure?
To discover what pleasure means to you and own your own pleasure, start with self-pleasure and exploring what feels good to you. When having sex with a partner, share what you like and create a shared experience, like sharing a meal. I think it’s like food, where, how wonderful if people share, “Oh, I like this,” or “I like that.” “Oh, taste this, tell me what you think.” “Oh, you don’t really like that, okay.” Really creating a shared “meal.”
Rather than owning pleasure, I prefer to call it a practice. You cultivate it, starting with changing the story around pleasure. Many people have been taught that pleasure is indulgent, selfish, and bad, but by creating new stories that pleasure is connected, exploratory, and about curiosity for self and others, pleasure can become a natural part of life.
How is pleasure communal and societal caretaking?
Pleasure comes in different forms, such as alleviating someone’s suffering or having great sex. When we experience pleasure, we want others to feel good and not suffer. When I’ve had great sex, I’m a nicer person and more patient and compassionate towards others’ struggles with pleasure. Following your pleasure path can lead to a better understanding of empathy and a desire to eliminate suffering in society.
Are we innately having good sex, or is it something that is truly learned?
Having good sex is not innate but something that is learned. Great sex is just like learning to make great food. Nobody starts out as an amazing chef, nobody starts out as an amazing lover. There is a need to learn about how different parts of the body work, what kind of lubricants to use, and so on. Changing the paradigm that we are just supposed to innately know what we are doing is important. That is why I’ve dedicated my life to this. There is so much to learn.
What are some common pleasure traps that you see?
When Marcus and I started writing the book on pleasure it was during the pandemic, which presented challenges for us in terms of staying centered. We had to realize that pleasure was the anchor point of our book and that even in writing it, we had to keep practicing pleasure.
Some of the pleasure traps I’ve seen include rushing through life and feeling like there’s no time for pleasure, making pleasure conditional, and trying to do new things alone. Really, pleasure is integral to truly moving into life, so finding others to share pleasurable experiences with.
You deserve pleasure and care. You deserve to give that to other people. You deserve to have that offered to you. Pleasure is absolutely your birthright.
To learn more about Pleasure as a Practice by Jamilla, listen to episode 167 on the Vaginas, Vulvas, and Vibrators podcast.
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