In Which the Author has an Imaginary Conversation with a Pleasure Skeptic

(aka The Great Pleasure Challenge FAQ)

The Great Pleasure Challenge opens today and I know there are things you may want to know. What follows below is what I imagine you may be wondering.

So, The Great Pleasure Challenge is…3 weeks of masturbation?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked! No. That sounds both exhausting and painful. The Great Pleasure Challenge is an experiment which centers around a simple yet profound practice: for three weeks asking yourself, ‘Is this in my pleasure?’ for every decision or action. You commit to doing things only if the answer is a ‘yes.’ This process encourages you to tune into your genuine desires and make choices that truly resonate with you, enhancing your daily experience with more conscious and fulfilling moments. It’s pretty rad.

The problem that I often run into is people think pleasure must be referring to something sexual, which is understandable. But to place pleasure squarely in the realm of orgasms inhibits our capacity to experience the best of life. It also diminishes our capacity to enjoy sex, but that’s a different topic.

Well what do you mean by pleasure then?

So it’s going to be different for everyone because that’s the thing about pleasure. But let’s think of pleasure as a sense of – or a state of – deep satisfaction. You could call it joy, awe, gratitude but I think that any of these only touch on aspects. They may feel a little aspirational and like pleasure is only possible through peak experiences. What I’m most interested in (and what TGPC is designed for) is exploring and uncovering all the moments of delight that are possible in the every-day. It is a feeling of aliveness. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that we are somewhat limited by language.

Pleasure in the every day. That sounds like…kind of simple. Is it that simple?

I swear it is. Though I’m not sure how you feel about that word “simple”.

Can you tell me more?

Well, it kind of feels maybe boring. Like, if it’s every day then doesn’t that make really special things (like sex, for example) less special?

Oh this is such a good question! We live in this curious reward-based culture. It’s a little bit like how I train my dog, you know? She does something good, and I give her a treat. It’s very transactional. I think we can agree that we want more for our lives individually than to be well-trained animals and to have transactional relationships with ourselves. Yes? What actually happens when we’re more oriented towards pleasure is that we experience more of it. It’s like a muscle that gets exercised.

Or, sometimes I think of it like a very dry sponge. That first exposure to water, the water runs right off. It needs some slight dampening before it’s actually able to soak things up well. Similarly, the more attuned to pleasure, the more we are welcoming it and embracing it whenever possible the more we actually receive until we’re pretty well soggy with it. Rather than making special things less special we actually become MORE sensitive to their specialness.

Huh. That sort of makes sense but I’m not sure I’m ready to take your word for it.

I mean, nor should you. It’s not for me to dictate how you’re going to experience any of this. It’s about YOUR lived experience. I’m a bit of a mad scientist and believe the best way to understand is to experiment and give it a try (hence The Challenge!). This isn’t a class or a theoretical exploration, though. Participants in The Challenge are testing it on the ground in their daily lives, gathering data and diving back in to test more. A healthy dose of skepticism is very welcome.

Ok, fair. So this is just for women, obviously?

Nope! Everybody is welcome: men, women, gender-free, and gender-fluid. Your orientation to your genitals has nothing to do with your capacity for pleasure. (Technically you don’t even need genitals).

Oh, I sort of assumed that this was a woman-only thing.

I get that and it makes sense, really. I am not shy about criticizing the Patriarchy and the various power structures our society operates under.

One of the many, many dangerous aspects of patriarchal thinking is that only women are allowed access to these kinds of spaces or experiences. (Note: that pleasure is often seen as frivolous is absolutely a result of the patriarchal disparagement of anything associated with femininity)

Men often operate in a framework where pleasure can only be connected to sex. As a result they miss out on the pleasure that’s available to them that doesn’t require someone else’s participation. And being able to access that is liberating, really. So, men often get excluded from experiences that could afford them a tremendous amount of nurturing and support and that’s a monumental shame because everyone needs nurturing and support (and I could argue that men, in particular, need a healthier and more attainable version of both).

Uh, I didn’t expect this conversation to go in this direction. Is it really that deep?

It really is.

It sounds like this really matters to you.

Honestly, I think this is one of the most important things there is. Pleasure unerringly puts people in touch with their deepest values and illuminates what they most hold dear. It is the key to being true to oneself and truly responsible to others. We’re in some tough times and in order for things to get better collectively we have a lot of work to do. Pleasure gives us the resources to carry on doing what’s tough. It sustains.

I might be sold on this whole pleasure thing.

How utterly delightful. You should join us. You can register here

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