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The Issue of Pleasure

Discussing and Imagining Pleasure for Ourselves and Others

The week’s readings offered different perspectives on the issue of pleasure both in public and private. They showed the extensive scope of the problems associated with sex, pornography, and prostitution. Among them is the necessity to create a discourse that would consider various points of view, experiences, and other factors dictated by race, gender, class, and other positionality elements.

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The current discussions that take place around pleasure – despite apparent progress achieved over the last years – are still lacking objectivity. A good example is the comment made by Brooks (2007) how literature about sexual expression and prostitution quite often presents a very limited perspective on the issues. She notes that this literature “sends the message that all prostitutes are college students who were tired of being a part of the patriarchal capitalist system”, instead of presenting other views (Brooks, 2007, p. 155). Therefore, it is crucial to open up the discussion for different voices, and reading the diverse materials this week has become the first step.

The Impact of Race and Positionality on Acts of Pleasure

Race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, and other factors directly impact participating in acts of pleasure. It has to do with the established societal norms and how a particular positionality element fits the existing hierarchy. The mainstream pornographic scene is a good example that illustrates how different factors influence the acceptance of pleasure.

The dominance of white heterosexuality makes scenes featuring Caucasian cis-gender individuals the default setting. Pornographic scenes featuring people of color are typically put into niche categories and fetishized, while some other expressions of sexuality are misrepresented. One example is limited Asian male representations (Taormino et al., 2013). It has to do with the balance of power and is not limited exclusively to the pornographic industry. Challenging the existing norms will allow to improve the situation and open up opportunities for a more equal participation in acts of pleasure.

Pleasure, Labor, Racialization, Gender

Pleasure is closely connected to the issue of labor, racialization, and gender. Being one of the valuable human luxuries, it was monopolized by white heterosexual males for a very long time. Moreover, sexual pleasure was a prerogative of cis-gender men. While women were punished for expressing sexual desire, it was expected for males. Moreover, only male pleasure has been a focus of all sexual acts. Only recently, the issue of female orgasm and satisfaction has become an issue of open discussion.

Other problems that are connected to the issue of pleasure is racialization and gender inequality. The pornographic industry is again, a good example. Being an area, catered primarily for white heterosexual men, it exploits familiar tropes that allow keeping the power balance intact. These tropes expose black and other women’s “often ignored contributions to the economy, politics, and social life” (Miller-Young, 2014, p. 4). Domination over women’s bodies and stereotypic fetishization of Asian, Latina, and black women are just two of the multiple examples. Establishing a new framework and redefining the concept of pleasure, as done, for instance, by feminist pornography directors and sex activists, can improve the situation.

Minding Our Business and Exploration of Sexual Pleasure of Gendered and Sexual Minorities

“Minding our own business” is a good strategy concerning the sexual pleasure of gendered and sexual minorities. As with other issues, such as reproductive rights, it is vital to establish a safe environment for individuals to express and explore pleasure. Celine Shimizu writes in her essay, “We see how women experience pleasure from scenes that may look like degradation but are enactments that explore precisely what it means to confront power and power relations” (Taormino et al., 2013, p. 294). As with women’s pleasure, that is being reclaimed by feminist porn, other types of pleasure have the right to be manifested. This freedom can be achieved by allowing people confront the ruling norm in every possible way.

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Brooks, S. (2007). An interview with Gloria Lockett. Working sex: Sex workers write about a changing industry. In A. Oakley (Ed.), Working sex: Sex workers write about a changing industry (pp. 138-159). Seal Press.

Miller-Young, M. (2014). A taste for brown sugar: Black women in pornography. Duke University Press.

Taormino, T., Penley, C., Shimizu, C., & Miller-Young, M. (Eds.) (2013). The feminist porn book: The politics of producing pleasure. Feminist Press at the City University of New York.

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