By: Riley Fortier, M.Ed.
When people think of the word “pleasure,” they might think of sexual pleasure. And while that is one form, there are so many other ways we can receive pleasure in our day to day lives. Pleasure is simply a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment, like a warm cup of tea, sharing food with loved ones, dancing.
The term “pleasure activism” was coined by Keith Cylar, the founder of Housing Works, and popularized by adrienne maree brown, author of “Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good.”
It is justice and liberation. It is the politics of healing and happiness that minimizes the myth that changing the world is just another form of work.
It is the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and supremacy (brown, p. 13).
It can be thought of as a multi-functional framework to guide us in activism and community work, while also guiding us in our daily lives, habits, and routines.
brown states that the intimacy that many people expect to come out of romantic relationships can be explored in so many other places in life. The desire to be deeply known and deeply real should not solely be for romantic or sexual relationships. Brown states:
“Black and Brown folks usually need to turn up the pleasure side of pleasure activism — the first thing I often recommend is looking upon our bodies in wonder and awe, accepting and loving the vessel. Understanding that it has been hundreds of years of white supremacy trying to convince us that our miraculous human bodies are inferior, not beautiful, only desirable as a fetish. So a first move is taking yourself in, naked. Exploring desire, making sure that you can see yourself in a decolonized way, as beautiful. Another way is nourishing each other. Being in meetings and spaces together where we get to practice care and delight. Dance when you make decisions.”
She says that for white people, it’s similar, but because of the privilege, it’s about turning up the activism side of pleasure activism, making sure that you are aware of the footprint of your white privilege, that your pleasures don’t come at the expense of others, and that you are aware of the distribution of pleasure in the community you live in.
* adrienne maree brown typically stylizes her name in lowercase, which is what is shown here.