While writing this article, I’m sitting on my bed blasting music and humming alongside Ari Lennox to the song “Self-Love” by Dreamville. This past year was extremely difficult for me, and I had completely forgotten what it felt like to be truly content. 2019 was a very significant year for me— I turned 21(yay legal!), I graduated from college, and I applied, got into, and started an MFA program. All of these changes brought with them a lot of turmoil and I was struggling to find ways to deal with them.
Transitioning from undergrad to graduate school turned out to be a lot more difficult than I could’ve ever imagined. Graduate school is a difficult space to exist in as a black woman— I find myself constantly dealing with imposter syndrome, self-doubt and the many other disparities that are present in higher education. Added to these are my struggles with mental health— depression and anxiety have become two of my closest friends (unfortunately). I’ve been stuck in survival mode for so long that I have forgotten the importance of self-care and self-love.
Pleasure Activism came into my life when I needed it the most—it introduced me to the concept of “Radical Self-Love, ” which has transformed my relationship with my being. adrienne maree brown defines “Pleasure Activism” as “the work we do to reclaim our whole, happy, and satisfiable selves from the impacts, delusions, and limitations of oppression and/or supremacy.” Her book is a combination of written and gathered works—including essays, poems, conversations, practices, and art. At the foreground of this book is Audre Lorde’s concept of the erotic as power from her essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” but Pleasure Activism broadens Lorde’s perspective to include “all experiences that bring us happiness, aliveness, and transcendence.”
Before my journey into this book I was familiar with the concept of achieving self-love through self-care. In fact, I’ve always been an advocate for practicing self-love, and I’ve been on a journey of discovering what self-love looked like for me. It became clear to me early on that a lot of the popular self-care practices that I was familiar with weren’t enough and I needed more. This book encourages its readers to do difficult work like confronting how we have been socialized to view pleasure as a reward instead of something we all deserve.
Pleasure Activism is a book for everyone—wherever you are on your journey to self-love, this book is the perfect companion. I hope readers can experience this book with an open mind and a willingness to unlearn the stigmas they have around sex and pleasure. I will encourage everyone to come into this book willing to do the work—bring a pen and paper to take notes, engage with the art, read the poetry out loud, and do all the “hot and heavy homework.”