By Remi H. and Utkarsha Jagga
The importance of pleasure cannot be overstated when it comes to mental health and well-being. Pleasure plays a fundamental role in our lives, contributing significantly to our emotional and mental states, whether we’re talking about sexual or general pleasure. Pleasure helps us build our ideas of safety, joy, and most of all, care, whether with oneself or others.
Illustration by Agnieszka Węglarska
Pleasure acts as a natural stress reliever, promoting relaxation and improving overall mood. Experiencing pleasure triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as endorphins and dopamine, which are known to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Engaging in activities that bring joy and satisfaction, whether it’s spending time with loved ones, pursuing hobbies, or enjoying nature, can greatly enhance mental and emotional balance. In addition to that, sexual pleasure and satisfaction also plays a role in releasing hormones that play a role in the general well being like oxytocin.
“Any conversation around pleasure doesn’t exist without the context and the politics of the world we live in.”
Talking about pleasure also requires us to engage with several other factors which help us understand our relationship with pleasure, vulnerability, and navigate through the existing narratives around sex and sexuality. Any conversation around pleasure doesn’t exist without the context and the politics of the world we live in. Therefore, pleasure doesn’t just stand for a sexual act, pleasure is an act of rest and resistance. Pleasure helps us in navigating our relationship with ourselves, other people, and the world around us. Such conversations make it imperative to hold parallel conversations around safety, autonomy, security, boundaries, self-care, and love. Any conversation around mental well-being and mental health is incomplete, if we don’t talk about pleasure and look at it as being essential to one’s journey of growth and fulfillment.
“Pleasure doesn’t just stand for a sexual act, pleasure is an act of rest and resistance.”
Additionally, sexual pleasure can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, improve self-esteem, and enhance body image. Healthy sexual experiences within consensual relationships promote a sense of connection and intimacy. Looking at pleasure from an ethic of love and care also allows us to look at it as an act of being able to choose well-being, and prioritise oneself.
Recognising pleasure is a powerful tool for reclaiming bodily autonomy, well-being, and better relationships. Pleasure is personal as much as it is political.