So, Shannon took me to task for my hedonism post and holy shit, it hurt my pride. I thought I was being all brilliant and eloquent, but I guess not. I about wrote her two book’s worth of words in the comments over at her place, but then realized that I don’t quite have it all worked out for myself, so maybe I need to come back here and think things through before I go running at the mouth over there.
I do believe in the transcendent power of pleasure. As I’ve said before, I believe that we live in a system that thrives on the suffering of a large amount of people so that a very few people can live very well. Therefore, any act that reduces suffering and increases pleasure is a revolutionary act.
Pleasure–and I’m not just talking physical pleasure, I mean all sorts of pleasure, but the pleasure one takes in whatever task one enjoys–is so revolutionary that the system recasts pleasure as frivolous and selfish, not something good folks do for its own sake, in order to strip it of whatever power the system cannot co-opt.
Often, we can’t even be honest with ourselves about what brings us pleasure. Look at how many women, even many feminists, who won’t leave the house without make up and heels. Look at how many of us do incredibly painful things and say that we like it. In general, we don’t really like it, but we take pleasure in the validation we get when we do those painful things well.
So, I’d like to make a distinction between types of pleasure. There is the pleasure one takes in doing something one enjoys. And there is the pleasure one takes in receiving outside validation for our efforts. The first type can be transformative in a positive sense, because it nurtures one’s sense of self and gives one a sense of her own worth. But I think Shannon is rightfully suspicious of pleasure in its second form–when one receives outside validation for her efforts–because women will do a lot of stuff that is no good for them in order to receive positive attention from others.
I hadn’t made that distinction. But I think it’s an important one.
Turns out that Winter is mulling over this stuff from a middle-class white perspective, and getting at some of the stuff I was trying to get at in my comments, but from that direction.