Culture

Pleasure Is a Form of Resistance

| 06/11/2020

pleasure activism Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

Pleasure activism is the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy, satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy…learning to make justice and liberation the most pleasurable experiences we can have on this planet.”  adrienne marie brown

For marginalized people and especially Black people, holistic healing is a lifestyle of resistance, and care is the antidote to violence. Wellness requires us to start questioning the hegemony that normalizes shame and suffering. Over time, we have learned to associate our productivity with our worth, so rest becomes a rebellion. Systemic racism has poisoned us with disparate access to healthy food and clean water, so detoxification and nourishment are forms of radical justice. Because white supremacy has silenced us, storytelling and consuming our own music and art become revolutionary acts of collective care. Physically abused, sexually exploited, and hyper-sexualized, we honor and reclaim our sexuality for ourselves as a form of liberation.

The truth is that wellness strategies are even more critical for marginalized communities than they are for the rich, white women targeted by this multibillion-dollar industry. As a Black, queer wellness professional who has survived dating violence and reproductive health trauma, I have found compassion for my mental health challenges and divested from my old, insatiable Ivy League measures of success. I teach restorative yoga classes and lead mindfulness workshops, and I started Blind Seed events and self-care coaching to bring inclusive and accessible care and wellness strategies to marginalized communities. The following care rituals have been integrated into my ever-evolving personal practice in response to the trauma and crisis we now face, and they have blessed me with immeasurable resilience. 

It is a pleasure to share them with Swell and the Dame community in solidarity. 

Questioning: Dreamwork and Intention-Setting

Considering a vision for the future is essential groundwork for any revolution. It’s not enough to identify the problem and offer solutions. There must be a greater vision beyond righting the wrongs of the past. What are our dreams and fantasies for the future? These dreams will keep us tethered to our activism in a way that tiny victories cannot.

Rest: Naps and Time Alone 

Embedded deep into New York’s innovative start-up world for the past ten years, I’m finally stepping into the truth that activist and community healer Tricia Hersey so clearly states: “Grind culture is violence.” And it often upholds the white supremacist systems that value profit over people. So I’ve started to schedule rest in addition to meditation. I dedicate time to napping in my calendar after a sleepless night, using time management tools to remind myself that my productivity isn’t a measure of my worth. It’s a difficult mindset to unravel, but these are the lessons in unlearning that dismantling systems of oppression require. 

Wellness requires us to start questioning the hegemony that normalizes shame and suffering.

Detoxing: Soaks and Purifying Baths

Drawing a bath with epsom salts and oils of mint and eucalyptus has brought so much peace to these chaotic nights. Like a weighted blanket, soaking the body in warm water can lend a sense of safety and recreate a comforting, womb-like experience. Adding salt to the bath brings a purifying element to the ritual, drawing out impurities from the body. As the weather starts to warm up, regular submersion into cool saltwater will also offer a similar grounding through uniform pressure with an added benefit of invigorated blood flow. Take a dip on your next beach day!

Nourishing: Healthy Home Cooking 

Each week sheltering in place, I cook one thing I’ve only ever enjoyed in a restaurant. I fill my grocery list with items based on a menu plan that excites me and also attends honestly to my allergies and aversions to dairy, wheat, and sugar. I consider what dish I would order if I could pop into any of my favorite restaurants, and then I look up the top-rated recipes for that dish online. So far, some of my favorites have included buffalo cauliflower, red red black eyed peas, and lamb-stuffed cabbage rolls

Visualizing: Color Therapy

Colors have a visceral effect on our experiences, so I often check in with myself in mediation to consider what color I could imagine the air to be in my current and then in my best feeling state. I envision that best feeling color washing over me and breathing it in. Sometimes I’ll connect even more to that color. For example, I’ve embraced ultraviolet lately and find myself writing with purple ink pens, wearing amethyst jewelry, and painting my toenails with violet polish to access that best feeling more often.

Listening: Self-Love Songs

For me, music has a way of expressing our humanity and emotions in ways that words or actions cannot convey. Coming from a lineage of great Black musicians and music-lovers, it’s powerful for me to reframe love songs as messages from my ancestors or from my highest self. Check out my Songs to Sing to Myself playlist for hours of soothing self-love. Listening deeply to some of my favorite love songs’ lyrics through a self-directed lens has been one of the most healing practices I’ve ever embraced.

Storytelling: Energetic Exchanges With Elders

The elders in my community have faced decades of disenfranchisement, police violence, emotional abuse and systematic racism—yet somehow, they’ve managed to survive and thrive. I’ve started asking my parents and older relatives about their experiences integrating predominantly white institutions and how they cared for themselves in hostile work environments. I’ve listened to my queer elders tell how they coped and cried and carved out safe spaces for community care during the height of the AIDS pandemic. All of these energy exchanges have opened truly intimate spaces for enlightenment and mutual empowerment.

Mindful Masturbation: Shameless Sexuality

Healing touch and sensuality is central to this sacred ritual. Massaging my head and body with coconut oils or drenching my bare flesh in sunlight are two strategies to both heighten and extend the effects of any self-touch experience. Because I live in a world that diminishes the beauty and value of my life based on the color of my skin, it’s important for me to embrace my natural Black features and literally shine a light on my body to counter this toxic narrative.

As the world continues to wake up to the thinly veiled atrocities that marginalized people have endured across the world and especially in the United States, let’s continue to open access to healing, justice, and love.

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