SexEd: The Pleasure Principle

Pleasure is defined as a feeling of happiness or enjoyment. But why is talking about pleasure important when it comes to sex?

Everyone is entitled to pleasure and the conversations about pleasure during childhood lay the groundwork for how we experience pleasure in adulthood. Talking about pleasure is not just centred around sex and masturbation, but is evident in all we do. For example, we derive pleasure from the food we eat or getting in a sweaty workout. People who have learned about pleasure are more likely to live safer more sexually satisfying lives, are more likely to recognise unhealthy dynamics within a relationship, have higher self-esteem and a more positive body image as well as greater body awareness.

Simply put, people generally engage in sexual activity because it feels good more so than any other reason. Peoples’ relationship with pleasure is unique and from a sexual standpoint, just because one partner enjoyed a certain activity does not mean another partner will. Communication is one of the most important parts of any sexual encounter be it casual or long term. The expectation should not be that you know what pleasures your partner(s) and vice versa without having a conversation about it, no matter how many partners you’ve had in the past or how great a lover you think you are. I don’t know about you, but mind reading isn’t exactly a talent of mine!

As they say, different strokes for different folks, so what was one partner’s ‘yessss’ could be another partner’s ‘ah hellll no’. Pleasure is subjective. For a vulva owner, direct stimulation of the clitoris may bring them intense pleasure whereas for others, their clit may be too sensitive to touch and they much prefer the surrounding areas such as the labia to be stimulated. If we don’t communicate this to our partner(s), how are they to know? Communication could take that ‘ho-hum’ experience to new pleasure heights!

Talking about pleasure can be challenging as we don’t know what to say or we don’t want to hurt our partner’s feelings, so it’s important to keep things positive. Here are some conversation starters:

• Buy a pack of sex cards – this is a great ice breaker and allows you and your partner(s) to explore fantasies, desires, boundaries in a fun and interactive way
• “What brought you the most pleasure. Shall we do that again?”
• “So I had this dream the other night about…and it really turned me on. Is that something you would be willing to try?”
• “I read about this sex position the other night & wondered if you might be willing to try it as I was intrigued by it?”
• “The thought of you touching yourself is so sexy. Would you be willing to do that in front of me and show me what touches bring you the most pleasure?” (mutual masturbation)
• “I really enjoy having sex with you and wondered how would you feel about using a toy the next time we have sex? I’d love to show you how I use my vibrator to get off.”

These conversations can happen before, during or after sex. Gently guiding your partner’s hands to your erogenous zones can also be an effective ‘non-verbal’ way to demonstrate the touches that bring you the most pleasure.

Ask questions, share what turns you on, explore different touches (mutual masturbation is a great way to model to your partner(s) what feels good to you) and be open to experiencing pleasure in different ways rathe than just focusing solely on the genitals.

We have been taught that orgasm is the goal, the gold standard as it were, of any sexual activity. By doing so we not only negate the importance of pleasure, but we put tremendous pressure on ourselves to orgasm and to bring our partners to orgasm. This can lead to feelings of disappointment and/or failure if orgasm doesn’t happen for all involved and that pesky self-doubt can creep in as can questions like ‘what’s wrong with me?’.

An important component of orgasm is the ability to relax, but with all this emphasis on finishing up with a big ‘O’, you are actually less likely to orgasm. The whole focus of sex shifts from being pleasurable and enjoyable to being more like work.

Let’s say it loud and say it proud, pleasure should be the goal of sexual activity, not orgasm. Hey if orgasm happens great, but if it doesn’t, no biggie. For some, orgasm is pleasurable whereas for others it’s not or it’s just ‘ok’. By reshaping our focus, sex of any kind may actually be more enjoyable!

Let’s normalise talking about sex in terms of pleasure rather than orgasm because learning and communicating about each other’s bodies and pleasure is sexy and fun!

Elisha Miller is a sex educator and Director of 5 Circles Bermuda, which provides modern and inclusive sex positive education and awareness through discussions, workshops and events. Follow 5 Circles Bermuda on Instagram.

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