Hey there! We're inviting Kristen Lilla, LCSW to share some wisdom around pleasure and finding pleasure in your body! Kristen is the only Certified Sex Therapist and Certified Sexuality Educator in the state of Nebraska. She is the co-author of Vaginas and Periods 101: A Pop-Up Book, available now for pre-order on Indiegogo.
What exactly do we mean when we talk about pleasure? The dictionary defines pleasure as “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment.” Sexual pleasure is a bit more difficult to define, but probably still entails feelings of satisfaction and enjoyment. It may vary from person to person and include feelings of intimacy and closeness, or refer to physical stimulation and orgasm. It’s difficult to have a singular definition of pleasure since it is such a personal experience.
Sometimes pleasure gets a bad rep. Pleasure may be seen as indulgent or selfish, such as when we take pleasure in someone else’s misfortune or gorge an entire box of chocolate in one sitting. When this sense of bliss comes from a place of wanting revenge or instant gratification, we might feel guilty after achieving it, rather than satisfied. So how can you engage in pleasure without being selfish or feeling guilty?
Think Of The Self Care
Fortunately, pleasure can also be viewed as a healthy form of self-care, including as a way to experience intimacy on a deeper level with someone you love and care about. The practice of self-care differs from being self-indulgent or selfish because it is the necessary act of taking care of one’s self. Self-care focuses on the things we do for ourselves to alleviate stress, relieve anxiety, combat depression, and feel worth. Taking care of you is one of the most powerful ways to taking care of someone else. It is the very act of self-care that allows us to take care of other’s and to meet their needs. Just like the phrase, “put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others,” you must take care of yourself so you have the energy to assist others.
So what might non-sexual self-care look like? It could be sipping a hot latte, taking a warm bath, planning a vacation, petting your dog, taking a yoga class, or watching a documentary. No matter which form of self-care you engage in, the intention is to unwind. What works as self-care for some, won’t work for others. Try a bunch of different things to determine what works best for you. Recognize that you will need to have a variety of choices depending on the time of day, your surroundings, and the amount of privacy you get. Being relaxed and satisfied will lead to feeling a sense of pleasure.
Perhaps engaging in self-care will allow you to be relaxed enough to engage in more erotic pleasure such as masturbation or sexual intimacy (unless that is your self-care). Pleasuring yourself can be a satisfying experience that brings about confidence, an increased sense of self, and being comfortable in your own body. Look for ways to enhance pleasuring yourself by lying in a different position, taping yourself, using a toy, or reading erotica. Consider masturbation experimentation a form of self-care!
Sex & Pleasure
Finally, there is the most stereotypical kind of pleasure, which results from sexual satisfaction with a partner, resulting in a mind-blowing orgasm. Be realistic - this is a standard we derive from Hollywood and porn, and not necessarily the best guide. When it’s achieved, it results in mutual pleasure and satisfaction, but when it sets an unrealistic expectation or puts pressure on people, it takes away the fun.
That being said, some of us take pleasure in seeing our partner experience pleasure. We might feel sexual pleasure without having an orgasm. As mentioned above, the pleasure might stem from feelings of closeness and intimacy. Use it as an opportunity to communicate and share with your partner the ways you get pleasure. You can tell them how much pleasure you get from watching the sunrise as a form of self-care and then tell them how to touch you so it makes you excited and aroused. Find out the ways your partner seeks pleasure. Then, go find pleasurable bliss together.