Amidst the different dos and don’ts of sex and desire, have you ever paused and thought - what does ‘pleasure’ mean to me?
I asked the same question to participants in our workshop लाज (Shame): Deconstructing Pleasure. The aim of the workshop was to create an intentional space for our participants to redefine their desires, pleasures and intimacy beyond societal pressures.
I conducted a total of 4 workshops in both Pokhara and Kathmandu, Nepal from December 2021 to May 2022. The workshops consisted of 60 AFAB (Assigned Female at Birth) participants, who came together to reflect on their relationship with pleasure, specifically self-pleasure, and deconstruct the guilt, shame and stigma associated with it in our Nepali society.
Here are some of my reflections from facilitating these pleasure workshops, as well as four activities that can help you create your own pleasure practice:
Understand pleasure beyond penetration
In Nepal due to cultural taboos around sexuality, conversations around pleasure are often hushed and pushed to private spaces. The limited knowledge that does exist in public, defines pleasure as only accessible through penetrative sex (penis in vagina), which ideally should take place within a marriage. Since only 18.4% of people with vulvas orgasm through vaginal sex alone, this narrow understanding largely prioritises the sexual pleasure of cis-het men, creating a pleasure gap. Additionally, it erases queer expressions and practices of pleasure since it equates pleasure to only exist within heterosexual (opposite-sex) relationships.
In order to decentralise this single narrative of pleasure, we started our workshop with The Pleasure Project’s prompt, “I get pleasure from…”. The prompt facilitated participants to take a step back and think about the activities they received pleasure from.
The answers we received included both sexual and non-sexual activities, ranging from masturbation, to eating, to reading books. This activity allowed us to establish that the only universality to pleasure is that it is subjective to each one of us and our unique needs. It also helped us expand the narrow understanding of pleasure and emphasise the importance of non-sexual activities in our pleasure script. While pleasure innately is not sexual, given the taboo, the workshop then proceeded to encourage participants to think about their experiences specifically related to sexual pleasure.