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Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good (Emergent Strategy)

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9781849353267: Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good (Emergent Strategy)
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How do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience? How can we awaken within ourselves desires that make it impossible to settle for anything less than a fulfilling life? Author and editor adrienne maree brown finds the answer in something she calls “pleasure activism,” a politics of healing and happiness that explodes the dour myth that changing the world is just another form of work. Drawing on the black feminist tradition, she challenges us to rethink the ground rules of activism. Her mindset-altering essays are interwoven with conversations and insights from other feminist thinkers, including Audre Lorde, Joan Morgan, Cara Page, Sonya Renee Taylor, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs. Together they cover a wide array of subjects—from sex work to climate change, from race and gender to sex and drugs—building new narratives about how politics can feel good and how what feels good always has a complex politics of its own.

Building on the success of her popular Emergent Strategy, brown launches a new series of the same name with this volume, bringing readers books that explore experimental, expansive, and innovative ways to meet the challenges that face our world today. Books that find the opportunity in every crisis!

adrienne maree brown, author of Emergent Strategy and co-editor of Octavia’s Brood, is a social justice facilitator focused on black liberation, a doula/healer, and a pleasure activist. She lives in Detroit.

PRAISE for Pleasure Activism:

“[brown] demonstrates how we can tap into our emotional and erotic desires to organize against oppression.” —Colorlines

“adrienne maree brown...continues to stake her claim as one of our most critical thinkers and strategists by intentionally combining the power of story-telling with practical applications to help readers conjure their own definition of pleasure and how it is inextricably linked to every part of our existence.” —Monica Simpson, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective

"adrienne marie brown is back, again dropping wisdom about alternative ways to live at this deeply fucked-up moment ... Let this book be the best Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever given yourself." —Vice/Broadly

“adrienne maree brown dives deep, head first, into a fast swirling pool of pleasure-related topics. She swims her way from one end of the pool to the other with some help from her body-wise, experienced, friends. This book is all at once so cool, and so hot, with a rainbow of glorious compleXXXities. Pleasure Activism is bound to make a huge splash!” —Annie Sprinkle, author of Explorer’s Guide to Planet Orgasm—For Every Body

“Engaging with politics and social justice issues, whether it's climate change, race, or gender, can feel like work (and it is). Adrienne maree brown makes the case that you can feel good while doing so ... [Pleasure Activism] will challenge you to rethink your approach to changing the world.” —Mashable

"Pleasure Activism is an invitation to know ourselves and be in conversation with the desire of our lustful imaginations... [I]t makes our personal liberation irresistible." —Jasmine Burnett, activist and anti-oppression consultant

"adrienne maree brown elucidates a philosophy of Pleasure Activism to transform individuals and so the world. Her explicit instructions encourage orgasms of the body, mind and spirit. First, in support of our own authentic lives, then so that we can live in loving community with others. It’s like a wise and juicy black goddess reopened Eden and said, 'Okay, everybody, let’s try this again.'" —Veronica Vera, author & founder of Miss Vera’s Finishing School For Boys Who Want to Be Girls

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About the Author:

adrienne maree brown is the author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and co-editor of Octavia's Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is a social justice facilitator focused on black liberation, a doula/healer, and a pleasure activist. adrienne lives in Detroit

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Welcome to the Pleasure Dome.

I first read the words “pleasure-dome” in a Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem, the rest of which I promptly forgot. But the image of a massive space dedicated to the exploration of pleasure planted itself in my young mind; I thought, “Yes, I want that.”

Years later I came across Audre Lorde’s life-changing essay “Uses of the Erotic: Erotic as Power,” in which she taught us what she had learned about the ways the power of the Erotic makes us “give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering, and self-negation.” Lorde made me look deeply at my life to find the “yes” inside of me, inside of the communities I love and work with, inside our species. I became attuned to the ways erotic and other pleasures shaped and healed me. I reflected on how my experiences with sex had opened doors to loving my body in spite of what society had taught me about big Black girls being undesirable, and how my experiences of deep political alignment with people who wanted to collaborate had taught me more than years of battling with people who wanted to dominate me.

I began to make decisions about whether I wanted to do things in my life and in the movements I am part of by checking in for my orgasmic yes. To feel for that resistance inside, the small place in my gut that knows before I do that something is not a fit for me and will not increase my aliveness. This exploration led me to some core questions that have shaped my work:

What would I be doing with my time and energy if I made decisions based on a feeling of deep, erotic yes?

How do I find balance in the things that give me pleasure, especially the things that tend to be misunderstood and manipulated by racialized capitalism, such as drugs, sex, drank, sugar?

How would we organize and move our communities if we shifted to focus on what we long for and love, rather than what we are negatively reacting to?

Is it possible for justice and pleasure to feel the same way in our collective body?

Over the years some of my work has been directly in the realm of pleasure, but even as I facilitate movements for social and environmental transformation, I always prioritize how people feel—is it a pleasure to be with each other, does the agenda/space allow for aliveness and joy, is there a “yes” at the center of the work? There are so many things that are violent, offensive, unbearable. Your embodied “no” is so justified—but I don’t think it moves us forward. “Yes” has a future.

At the same time, I’ve been tuned into pop culture and the ways ideas and norms move from the margins and movements into the realms of music, movies, television, books, and other arts, as well as humor, food, travel—even gossip. We can examine what gives us pleasure by observing those spaces. Beyoncé albums give many of us a feeling of power in claiming pleasure. Comparing Dave Chappelle and Louis C.K. as comedians speaking on class, race, gender, and sexuality can give us insight into where the culture is in terms of trans acceptance and solidarity and tangible diversity. Musical artists Tunde Olaniran and Mother Cyborg inspire us to reflect on how they can be so radically pleasing just by being themselves.

A quick glance at pop culture shows us that we get pleasure from violence and dominance, public shaming, trolling, being righteous together, knowing other people’s private pain, over indulgence, and the accumulation of material things. And those of us explicitly working to grow justice and liberation in the world are not immune to these things; we pick and choose what compromises we make, where we indulge, and where we hold standards.

I think there is a fertile ground for learning how we align pleasure with our values, decolonize our bodies and longings, and get into a practice of saying “yes” together, deriving our collective power from our felt sense of pleasure.

We’re going to start learning together. This is a space to ask shameless questions, love what we love and explore why, cultivate our interest in radical love and pleasure, and nourish the “yes” in each of us.

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