The concepts of sex and pleasure might be inextricably linked, but the first doesn't always beget the second simply by default. We all have different preferences and aversions, sexually speaking—so, learning what feels legitimately enjoyable to you could require some experimenting. While mainstream culture has made strides in recent years to destigmatize this active pursuit of sexual pleasure, the work is hardly done to close the gendered pleasure gap and celebrate the experience of it for all people. With that in mind, the time is ripe to pick up a few tips for maximizing the pleasure in your life, no matter how you identify.
In the most recent episode of The Well+Good Podcast, sexuality doula Ev'Yan Whitney and Alexandra Fine, CEO and co-founder of sexual pleasure tool company Dame, share their personal journeys to discover what pleasure means to them and discuss the pleasure gap, offering their advice for how we can close it.
Listen to the full episode here:
“I would define pleasure as anything that you can do that makes your body feel good,” says Whitney. “And I like that definition, because I think pleasure has been so sexualized… And, yeah, that's one aspect of pleasure. But I want us to remember that we have the potential to experience pleasure outside of the sexual realm; that pleasure is about feeling good in our own bodies.”
“I would define pleasure as anything that you can do that makes your body feel good.” —Ev'Yan Whitney, sexuality doula
Fine agrees with Whitney, adding that, when it comes to finding pleasure, “there are so many ways we can do it.” Think that sounds time-consuming, or like it involves a lot of effort? Whitney has some advice you can use to reframe this pursuit as a positive opportunity rather than just another task. “Listen, we're all busy. We've all got something to do,” she says. “Is it possible for you to take a tiny baby step in the direction of your pleasure each day?” she asks.
Well, with the help of her and Fine's top tips for finding more pleasure, the answer is yes.
3 tips for finding more pleasure, according to a sexologist and a sexuality doula
1. Find what feels good to you outside of sexual activities
Even though Merriam Webster's definitions of pleasure are “a state of gratification” and “a source of delight or joy,” it’s often relegated to only one source: sex. But that doesn't have to be the case, according to Whitney, who offers up some areas to consider other than sexually focused activities.
First up? She suggests auditing your wardrobe: “Are you wearing clothes that feel good on your body, or are they constrictive? Do they feel rough?” Perhaps you can incorporate more items that feel soft or smooth to the touch or relaxing to wear.
Separately, you might also consider experiences that make you feel good, like traveling, listening to music, or eating a delicious bowl of pasta. Whitney recommends asking yourself: What are the things that bring you joy, that delight your senses, that help your body soften? Then, start there.
2. Figure out how performative you like (or don't like) to be during sex
Sexual acts don't need to be performances, but they certainly can be—so long as that's something that brings you additional pleasure, rather than something you're doing for the sake of someone else.
“Go through the journey of being as performative as you want to be, to questioning all of your scraps, to re-picking how and what you want,” says Fine. “Sex is such a powerful stage of negotiation, of communication—and being able to do that well has a ripple effect.” In particular, prioritizing your own pleasure may help spark curiosity and conversations around what feels good for all parties involved, which is an important ingredient of any truly pleasurable experience.
Because it’s essentially having sex with yourself, masturbating is a powerful, low-stakes opportunity to fully explore your body, which might help you discover new erogenous zones that can amplify your overall pleasure, too. According to Fine, there's a correlation between masturbation and the satisfaction that people have in their sex lives. And science backs her up: A March 2022 study of more than 12,000 Finnish people found that masturbation frequency was positively associated with overall sexual function for those who identified as women.
If you find that the biggest hurdle between you and a regular masturbation practice is making the time to do it, keep in mind that pleasure is your birthright. And the simplest way to get there is to ask yourself, "What do I need in this moment that will make my body feel good?" says Whitney.
To learn more about how to find pleasure, as well as how Fine and Whitney conceptualize a pleasure revolution, listen to the full podcast episode here.
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