The Pleasure Issue
This issue is dedicated to exploring pleasure as it connects to our efforts to change the world, and, hopefully, get free in the process.
In 2019, I published Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, a collection of essays, interviews, practices, poems, and art from myself and other writers and movement workers. Three years later, it has been a delight to work with the team at YES! Magazine to create an issue on pleasure activism in our current context.
This issue is grounded in the same foundational text with which the book opens, “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,” from self-defined “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde in 1978. Lorde teaches us that:
“We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. But, once recognized, those which do not enhance our future lose their power and can be altered. …
“When we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society.”
This issue is dedicated to exploring pleasure as it connects to our efforts to change the world and, hopefully, get free in the process. We have the incredible Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts writing on Black joy, while Goddess Honey B and Kharyshi Wiginton explore the wisdom and freedom they have found in Black kink. Continuing the reframe of oft-stigmatized pleasure sources, Jay Shifman unpacks how recognizing the pleasures of drug use could lead to better policy and more humane treatment for addiction.
The original Pleasure Activism anthology didn’t include nearly enough disability justice. So this issue features my own writing as a disabled woman, and I was overjoyed when Luticha André Doucette turned in her powerful piece about pleasure and access intimacy for disabled folks.
And because the onslaught of empty, capitalistic pleasures have made experiencing authentic pleasure something many of us have to learn, we also offer some skill-building in this issue. Joaquín Andrés Selva teaches us how to build resilience to shame, while Quincy Gray McMichael shares her own journey in balancing labor and leisure on a regenerative farm.
There’s also, always, the wide realm of pleasures beyond sex and drugs. To that end, Ari Honarvar offers an exploration on the pleasure of friendship, and YES! staff share their own anti-capitalist sources of pleasure.
We believe the collection of words you’re holding in your hands invites a deep exploration of pleasure activism as it flows through our movement and society right now. But most of all, we hope it offers you inspiration to practice increasing the satisfaction and happiness in each of your days.
adrienne maree brown