I have run my tongue lightly across something small and hard and reached up as far inside a girl as I could get. I’ve woken up with her smell all in my hair and on my skin and I enjoyed it. I have begged and pleaded with beautiful men to fuck me and I have run my fingers over the damp spot in the bed and smiled to myself at the evidence that my pleadings have been successful. And I’ve been chagrined when my begging has not been enough.
Because it feels good.
And because it makes me happy to feel good.
And because I don’t often feel good about myself as a sexual being.
I carry around my Protestant upbringing like fucking Jacob Marley dragging around heavy chains for eternity. I believe myself to be ugly and unattractive and desperately awkward and uncomfortable in my own skin. I believe myself to be unworthy of happiness and unlikely to find it. And that bullshit colors my whole worldview. It ruins my whole life. Chris Wage told me I have a negative worldview. Chris Wage, you don’t know half of it.
I’m like a well that’s gone bad, cut off from its source, there’s nothing fresh to keep me from going stagnant.
I tell you all this because I want you to get it when I tell you how freeing pleasure is for me, how amazing it is for me, a person who goes days without so much as a handshake from another person, to find herself fumbling in the back seat of a car with someone equally as delighted to be there. I don’t do it often, I can’t do it as often as I like, because it means crossing some chasm in myself that scares the shit out of me. But when I do, when I just go ahead and give myself over to pleasure for its own sake?
It heals me. It makes me a better person.
But I think I mean “better” in a much different sense than most people. At least I get that feeling.
My whole goal is to live in such a way that I am happy, that my life is pleasurable to me.
Being a feminist, for instance, makes me happy. I’m not a feminist only because it’s right or just, but because it both brings me pleasure and proves a framework, I believe, for bringing pleasure to a large amount of people. And I believe pleasure and happiness to be libratory.
This whole weekend I’ve ended up discussing with a lot of people in various incarnations how most people seem hell-bent on being miserable and inflicting their misery on others.
But isn’t this weird? Why do we continually organize our lives in ways that make us unhappy? In ways that seem guaranteed to continue to make us unhappy?
Why don’t we try experience pleasure and to bring pleasure to others? Why don’t we make room for happiness–our own and others?
Living only for pleasure is often framed as selfish, but how can it be any more selfish than misery? At least sharing pleasure and making room for happiness doesn’t hurt anyone.
But more importantly, to bring us to the main point, each of us knows when we’re experiencing pleasure. It’s a measure of success we each can judge. To focus on pleasure, to be selfish in a way that suits us and encourages us to share happiness with others is a useful measure of whether we’re doing the right thing in any given situation. And, to keep Bill Friskics-Warren in the conversation, pleasure can be transcendent and, regardless of what all the stories of ancient martyrs might try to convince us of, misery rarely is.
So many feminists derisively call feminism devoted to the libratory functions of pleasure “fun feminism” that I’m starting to realize that many feminists are instead devoted to a worldview that privileges misery, that encourages suffering as a measure of one’s dedication to the cause.
Well, fuck that. If I wanted to be miserable, if I wanted to suffer, I’d stay under the thumb of the patriarchy. I’d be starving, depilating, and stupifying myself into some perfect flower of femininity and working at it, day after day, to make myself into some kind of idiot maid/prostitute/nanny. Because at least that suffering holds out the hope that, if done right, I can make a man give me all his shit.
I’m perfectly aware what the arguments are regarding feminism and beauty culture and I wrestled with the implications of my choices for several years while I tried to figure out how I could be true to my beliefs and still indulge myself in the pleasures of femininity, because I personally find many things deemed frivolously feminine in Our Dear Patriarchy pleasurable.
To which I say both “Preach on!” and “Oh no.” On the one hand, I’m thrilled to see someone talking about pleasure, talking about the importance of figuring out how to experience pleasure in a very fucked up world. But on the other, pleasure ought not to be an indulgence. Why frame the problem as if feminism and pleasure are incompatible, that one must compromise feminist ideals in order to let some pleasure leak into one’s life?
That, my friends, is bullshit. It’s that old sexist bullshit idea that “good girls” don’t like pleasure recast as “good feminists” being the ones who wrestle with implications of choices in order to show that they’re not like those “bad girls” who don’t give a shit about anything other than their own pleasure.
But please, if there’s one thing we should be suspicious of by now, it’s when any discussion devolves into making distinctions between “good girls” and “bad girls” and if there’s one thing we should be certain of by now, it’s that, if there is such a split to be made–between good girls and bad girls–the feminist position is almost invariably on the side of bad girls.
If seeking pleasure is bad, then slip your hand between my legs and cup my boob in your hand. If it’s a choice between purging the ranks of the women who aren’t trying hard enough to be miserable and whispering things that make me blush and giggle in my ear, then put your lips on me.
Because here’s the truth. I will never be miserable enough to make some folks in feminist circles happy, but I can, I’m convinced, find a way to be liberated by pleasure, because I have, often enough to feed hope, caught glimpses of what such a liberation might look and feel like.