Conversations

Exploring Pleasure 

A conversation with Sarah Lorrimar – Sexual and Reproductive Health Coordinator and Sexologist 


What comes to mind when you think about pleasure? A quick google search defines it as “an experience that feels good, that involves the enjoyment of something” and “a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment”. 

We tend to know what is needed for us to experience pleasure – the things that make us feel good and happy. Yet, when it comes to sexual pleasure, many of us are reluctant to explore and share what we need to enjoy pleasurable sex. This is no fault of our own, pleasure is often left out of the conversation in sexuality education. When it’s missed in our education and it’s not discussed as we’re growing up, people are left to develop the skills to communicate and navigate pleasure and intimacy on their own, which can be isolating, overwhelming and uncomfortable. 

Without consistent exploration and understanding of our own needs, it can be very difficult to express these when intimate with others. So how are we meant to know what pleasure looks and feels like, or how to achieve it? We sat down with our Sexual and Reproductive Health Coordinator to discuss… 

How would you describe pleasure? 

It’s important to think of pleasure as more than just a sexual experience. We can experience pleasure in our everyday lives – think about delicious meals you’ve eaten, laying in the sun, or laughing with friends. These are things that make us feel good. We can experience pleasure in so many ways and in so many different areas of our life. We all experience pleasure differently – it’s really valuable to explore and do what feels good for you. 

Why is pleasure important? 

For a lot of us, pleasure is something we don’t often prioritise. We wait until we’re exhausted, until we’ve met the needs of others, before we allow ourselves rest. This leaves us feeling disconnected from our bodies, our emotions and hyper focused on doing and doing. It’s important to incorporate pleasure into our everyday lives because it so directly impacts our wellbeing and how we interact with other people. Our self-worth does not come down to how productive we are.    

It can be hard to make time for pleasure when life gets busy. What kind of impact does this have on sex?  

We consume so much information, from the moment we get up to the moment we fall asleep. Whether it be from our phones, Netflix, work, study, conversations, and relationships – our brains are working hard to keep up. This constant stimulation often leaves little time for us to be mindful of what we are doing and this can have an impact on how present we are during sex. Our brain and our body are interconnected, and we need to relax our minds to relax our bodies. Stress and pleasure don’t go together. When we are constantly wired and our nervous system is in switched on it’s hard for us to switch off and be present in our bodies. For many people the mind wanders during sex and we miss out on the experience. With mindfulness we can be more aware of sensations in our body and be more in-tune with the thoughts and emotions that come up. 

This is where mindfulness comes in – being aware of the present moment. Not only is this a good practice in our everyday lives but incorporating mindfulness during sex also helps people notice and experience sensations of pleasure more fully.   

If you find your mind wandering during sex, or any time when thoughts are overwhelming you – try taking some deep and slow breaths from your belly and name five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This is a short practice that can help bring your awareness to the present moment.  

What are some other barriers to us experiencing pleasure? 

Everyday stressors of life, shame around sex, shame around our bodies, and internalising unrealistic ideas around what our bodies should look like, are all things that can disrupt sexual pleasure. 

Some people may have also experienced a traditional cutting of the genitals (FGC) which means that they may not be able to experience certain kinds of pleasure. 

Many people feel uncomfortable expressing their needs, or a sense of shame for wanting to experience pleasure. 

It takes time, but we can unlearn these harmful messages and learn to accept ourselves and our bodies, we all deserve to feel good, to feel safe, to be listened to, and to experience pleasure. 

 
What do you think is missing from the conversation around sex? 

Pleasure, consent, communication and diversity is left out of most sexuality education. We are also often given a very narrow definition of what sex is and how our bodies work. There’s so much more to sex than penetration and orgasms! Did you know the clitoris is the only organ in the human body in which the sole purpose is pleasure? I’d take a bet that most people were not taught this or what a clitoris looks like. 

An important aspect of understanding your sexuality is to unpack and expand how you understand sex and your expectations around it – read books, listen to podcasts, have conversations with friends, explore your own body and communicate with sexual partners! 

Everyone has different sexualities and different bodies. What feels good to one person, might not feel good to someone else. And what feels good for you at one point, might not later on. 

Feeling safe in our bodies and safe with others can enable us to experience more pleasure. To help this to happen we need to learn what feels good to us and learn how to communicate our desires and boundaries to the people we’re intimate with. 

How can we incorporate more pleasure into our lives? 

Pleasure should be something that we cultivate and integrate into our lives daily, not just on rare occasions. 

A good way to start is by making a list of things in your life that bring you pleasure and noting why those things feel pleasurable to you. For example, taking a hot bath might make you feel warm and relaxed, and catching up with friends might make you feel happy and connected. 

You could then make a pleasure plan and come up with three things you could do to bring yourself more pleasure in your daily life. This might be starting a gratitude journal, practicing mindful eating, moving your body, spending time in nature, or taking some time to self-pleasure. 

Resources

Slow Pleasure by Euphemia Russell