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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? 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 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? 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, including Audre Lourde’s invitation to use the erotic as power and Toni Cade Bambara’s exhortation that we make the revolution irresistible, the contributors to this volume take up the challenge to rethink the ground rules of activism. Writers including Cara Page of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice, Sonya Renee Taylor, founder of This Body Is Not an Apology, and author Alexis Pauline Gumbs cover a wide array of subjects— from sex work to climate change, from race and gender to sex and drugs—creating 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!


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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? 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 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? 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, including Audre Lourde’s invitation to use the erotic as power and Toni Cade Bambara’s exhortation that we make the revolution irresistible, the contributors to this volume take up the challenge to rethink the ground rules of activism. Writers including Cara Page of the Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice, Sonya Renee Taylor, founder of This Body Is Not an Apology, and author Alexis Pauline Gumbs cover a wide array of subjects— from sex work to climate change, from race and gender to sex and drugs—creating 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!

30 review for Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

  1. 4 out of 5

    Corvus

    Pleasure Activism is a collection of essays, interviews, poetry, and art composed and/or collected by adrienne maree brown. The structure and organization of the book is well thought out as it spaces each of these mediums apart so that the reader is not over-saturated. The book is very Queer and trans- inclusive and most of the entries and interviews are with women, gender non conforming, and/or* trans people of color. There is one somewhat academic essay but the rest of the entries involve Pleasure Activism is a collection of essays, interviews, poetry, and art composed and/or collected by adrienne maree brown. The structure and organization of the book is well thought out as it spaces each of these mediums apart so that the reader is not over-saturated. The book is very Queer and trans- inclusive and most of the entries and interviews are with women, gender non conforming, and/or* trans people of color. There is one somewhat academic essay but the rest of the entries involve people from a variety of backgrounds from art and performance to on the ground street activism. This makes the book very accessible to a wider audience. "Pleasure activists believe that by tapping into the potential goodness in each of us we can generate justice and liberation, growing a healing abundance where we have been socialized to believe only scarcity exists" -adrienne maree brown, Introduction I should have know from the cover- which depicts many species of animals having sex and the title- that this book would be largely about sex. However, the blurb about this book led me to believe that the book would be a more expansive discussion of "(making) social justice the most pleasurable experience." The book is not only about sex but the vast majority of it is focused on sexual pleasure and relationships. There is a small section on drugs, performance art, fashion, and parenting (which still often center sex and sexuality.) I have spent a lot of time in Queer communities where sex was everywhere and the center of everything. So, I understand why a Queer writer would choose to focus so much on that. But, to be honest, I wanted more. I wanted larger discussions (though there are brief mentions) about how social justice activism is often so punishing and how to form better (sexual AND nonsexual) relationships with each other. I wanted sections on how to actually make activism more pleasurable, fun, and creatuve since activism is in the title. I wanted more discussion on all of the different ways we can find pleasure and how to find them. This was actually detailed wonderfully in the short outro at the end of the book. I wish the rest of the book showed the same amount of diversity in topics. Is simply having pleasure in your personal life "activism?" Where are the discussions of pleasure for people who are isolated from social activities due to disability, illness, geographical location, class, lack of accessibility of sexual partners (re: pretty privilege, etc?) How can we make life more pleasurable for those who lack access? It feels necessary to explain a little where I am coming from in order for my criticism to make sense. I went from being a very active polyamorous Queer in radical, BDSM, and/or activist communities, that were very saturated with sex and play at all times, to being a deliberately single and celibate person focusing on platonic friendships without sex. I spent far more time in the former category but I've been doing the latter for years now. I am chronically ill/disabled and this plus having a lot of harmful and traumatic relationship experiences led me to choose my current path. I also have been sober for about 14 years due to addiction and it is near impossible to find any social and pleasure-oriented spaces for Queers where the majority of people there are not intoxicated- arguably beyond the ability to properly consent. It really sucks when you make a connection with someone who doesn't remember you the next day. It sucks when you get a dirty look asking about how much someone was drinking/using drugs before agreeing to something sexual with them, even though you are doing so to make sure you don't harm them. Intoxication and hypersexuality is the norm in most Queer spaces, even if it isn't in the normative world. So, a book that is basically only encouraging sex and getting high as forms of pleasure activism is a disappointment to me. This is covered in places, such as in Micha Cárdenas' essay, Beyond Trans Desire, in which she states, "I have in recent years been able to build a deep self-love and self-respect that I did not learn from queer communities or radical political communities, where I often felt further devalued, excluded, and objectified. I have found a refuge in people committed to healing, service, and sobriety and that gave me the tools to question my desire and my part in putting myself in situations that caused me to feel devalued." So, in brown's inclusion of others words for portions of the book, she did cover more bases. Brown does indeed briefly discuss celibacy and other topics. Brown does mention that drug use can turn into addiction. But, for the most part, she centers her own experience in what pleasure is. She tells the reader to masterbate, have an orgasm before each chapter, she tells the reader to smoke up, etc. This did not feel very inclusive of those of us who cannot, do not, struggle with, or or do not want to do those things. Weed is generally very safe in comparison to drugs like alcohol or heroin, but it's still dangerous or some of us- especially those of us with addiction histories or problems with/risks of developing psychosis. What about those of us who want pleasure in a sober setting? The sections on drugs make it seem like sober settings dominate and oppress which is not true. The vast majority of Queer and other social situations are dominated by alcohol and other drugs which deprives those of us who don't want to be around that from social pleasure. I do want to say though that it is likely that the focus on drugs and sex in liberatory ways come from a society and government that still punishes people for enjoying sex and which still criminalizes drugs in heinous and murderous ways. These are both things that must be combated at all costs. The harm reduction interview in the drug section was excellent and there is absolutely a place for all of brown's essays and advice on sex and sexuality. I simply wanted more accessibility and variety. I also have mixed feelings about the use of footnotes in this book. This is nit-picky, I know. But, the level of distraction warrants comment. There were times that the footnotes were excellent and I wished more books would use them in the way she did. For instance, when doing an interview with someone and they would mention something from a book, she would cite the author and book. However, at other times, the footnotes were very distracting. The book begins with an Audre Lorde essay that brown litters with critical footnotes even though many of the criticisms are discussed in the intro already (such as the limits of dated language.) In contrast, a later article pins "women and femmes" (will this phrase die in 2019, please) against "men and masculine people" listing all of the ways apparently only feminine people suffer sexual assault, gendered oppression, exploitation and abuse in sex work, etc but butch and androgynous women and transmasculine people are apparently both responsible for the same oppression that cishet men force upon sex workers while also not being victims themselves of said oppression. I am the first person to want to discuss to rampant problems with toxic masculinity in Queer communities. But, denying the trauma, work, and lived experiences of gender non-conforming women and trans people and placing them in the same oppressive role of cishet men who exploit sex workers is not how you do it. Erasing butch and androgynous women from the category of women and acting as if transmasculine sex workers don't exist is not how you do it. (I've known many trans men sex workers who not only exist, but also are often present themselves as women for their clients out of necessity and demand and thus are treated with the similar oppression cis and trans women face.) There were no footnotes from brown on this article nor were there any on other articles that made some iffy statements. This would be fine if the book was just a collection of essays with differing opinions. But, if you're going to criticize Lorde for having some general terms and dated language on an essay from 1978, I hope you're going to treat the people who are alive and writing today the same way. Now that I have been honest about where I am coming from and why this book did not always work for me in the ways I had hoped, I want to talk about the ways that it does work for me. And, I want to state again, that this review is largely about my own taste and is not to say that others would no get exactly what they need from the book, which is why I still gave it a high rating. As I mentioned, this book is very Queer and inclusive of many Queer identities and genders. It centers Black and Brown women and/or trans people in very accessible ways. It offers some great lessons regarding sexual and romantic relationships and harm reduction. It contains excellent and engaging interviews with amazing people. Brown's own contributions are always beautifully and kindly written and easy to read. One of my favorite parts about "Pleasure Activism" is brown's very wise lessons on boundaries, moderation, knowing that you are deserving, and discovering balance. I bookmarked pages over and over where brown discusses how to create, hold, convey, and feel comfortable with and deserving of boundaries. While they are often described in relation to sexual and romantic relationships, the lessons are applicable to all areas of life. Here are a few gems: "Your no makes way for your yes. Boundaries create the contain within which your yes is authentic. Being able to say no makes yes a choice." -amb, Introduction  "Don't compromise your core values, don't giggle at something you find ignorant or offensive. But, don't hang up because this human with a different life than you has reached different conclusions." -amb, It's About Your Game "Set generative boundaries. Create mutual abundance. I envision generative boundaries as organic fences, made of stacked rocks or thick bushes that become home to millions of small creature families. Porous, breathing boundaries that are clear that mark the space between partners in ways that make them both feel abundant." -amb, Liberated Relationships, Expanded For people who are interested in entering into or who are already part of what can be a wonderful world of multi-partnered Queer filth (I mean this in every great sense of the word,) brown offers a great deal of useful relationship, sex, and dating advice. She also offers a lot of information on solo sexual pleasure. I thoroughly enjoyed her discussion of why she likes being "a second," meaning a non-primary partner to someone. I have always felt this way and sought out that position frequently when I was dating and hooking up, but had not seen many other people write about it in the way that brown has. The "Hot and Heavy Homework" assignments were helpful and fun editions to the essays. They are all creative and different from what I have often seen in relationship or self help books. They are also assignments accessible to a wide range of needs. The collection of essays titled "Skills for Sex in the #metoo Era" was my favorite in the book. I adored and devoured each essay in the section. If you are a person who skips around in anthologies like this, be sure to check out that section. Finally, I must say that even though I have my critiques how much of the book centered on sexual pleasure and drugs, this book did inspire me to open up a bit and ask myself questions about my future in regards to relationships. Perhaps that was part of why so much of it was so hard for me. So, please keep in mind after reading my review that my process is not the same as your process and both of our processes are ok. I can see a great many people- including my younger self- getting a great deal of what they need from this book. So, I do recommend giving it a read. There is a lot of great stuff in here from brown and other important voices. ________________ *I say "women and/or trans people" to denote a group of people including people who may be women, other trans people, or both women and trans. Trans women are women. We still lack a great phrase for the inclusion of marginalized and oppressed genders, but I refuse to use "women and femmes" for reasons which I describe in this article and an author describes well here. *I am updating this review with this article which is even better than the other one. I am going to say "marginalized genders" for the most part now. This was also posted to my blog.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Enjoyed the last quarter of the book and some essays along the way but felt mostly like a missed opportunity to go deeper into nonsexual pleasures and explore the dynamic nature of pleasure in all kinds of bodies. Food in particular felt like a glaring omission in a supposedly fat positive book. Also in general lots of assumptions about the universality of sexual experiences and pleasures. Missing an understanding of asexuality, of disability, and of sexual trauma that doesn't just get Enjoyed the last quarter of the book and some essays along the way but felt mostly like a missed opportunity to go deeper into nonsexual pleasures and explore the dynamic nature of pleasure in all kinds of bodies. Food in particular felt like a glaring omission in a supposedly fat positive book. Also in general lots of assumptions about the universality of sexual experiences and pleasures. Missing an understanding of asexuality, of disability, and of sexual trauma that doesn't just get immediately healed into sexual liberation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joshunda Sanders

    I designed a course called Subversive Joy: Writing the Senses as Resistance and am teaching it for the first time this semester. I have been following adrienne maree brown now for a few years and love her work, so I was delighted to see this new book, even though it wasn’t ready for me to teach directly from this semester. The synchronicity between my syllabus and the pleasure politics outlined in the book was amazing - Uses of the Erotic and Joan Morgan’s Black Scholar essay, How We Get Off I designed a course called Subversive Joy: Writing the Senses as Resistance and am teaching it for the first time this semester. I have been following adrienne maree brown now for a few years and love her work, so I was delighted to see this new book, even though it wasn’t ready for me to teach directly from this semester. The synchronicity between my syllabus and the pleasure politics outlined in the book was amazing - Uses of the Erotic and Joan Morgan’s Black Scholar essay, How We Get Off mirrored the foundation of my course! And this book, along with the many beautiful voices and stories it tells, anchored me during a time when I encountered serious pushback in class from a student who was not used to celebrating Black women; he was so uncomfortable talking about our joy that he dropped the class! Anyway, reading this collection helped me find the courage to re-affirm my right to empower myself and to empower young women of color. We are not mules of the world. We deserve joy and beauty and pleasure that makes our hearts soar. This book is a manifesto. I hope to make it the centerpiece of my syllabus next Spring.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    I had so many positive visceral and cognitive reactions while reading this collection of essays and conversations about pleasure. During the first chapter I was wondering aloud, "have I found my bible?" I had never before had so many of my beliefs recognized and expanded upon all in one place. Within the first pages, the author, Adrienne Maree Brown, had outlined the Pleasure Principles: -What you pay attention to grows -We become what we practice -Yes is the way -When I am happy, it is good for the I had so many positive visceral and cognitive reactions while reading this collection of essays and conversations about pleasure. During the first chapter I was wondering aloud, "have I found my bible?" I had never before had so many of my beliefs recognized and expanded upon all in one place. Within the first pages, the author, Adrienne Maree Brown, had outlined the Pleasure Principles: -What you pay attention to grows -We become what we practice -Yes is the way -When I am happy, it is good for the world -Make justice and liberation feel good -Your no makes way for your yes -Moderation is key I was so excited by this list and the explanations of each piece that I was nearly shouting them to anyone who would listen. The pleasure the title refers to is usually sexual pleasure and sometimes pleasure from substances, relationships, and a few other life affirming experiences. By the end, I personally felt like the pleasures of food, humor and art were missing but what is included is still wonderful. One of my favorite pieces in this book, along with the opening chapter, is by Amita Swadhin titled, "Pleasure After Childhood Sexual Abuse." It was devastating, encouraging, very well written and contained one of my favorite definitions from the book, "there is a difference between hedonism that enables dissociation and disconnection versus joy and pleasure that enable presence and intimacy." By the end of the book I wasn't calling this my bible anymore (I don't have one) but I was still enjoying all of the time I got to spend with thoughtful women and non-binary people who gave so many reasons and ways to experience pleasure.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

    What are the main ideas? - liberation work must be driven by pleasure, not by avoidance of pain or harm. - many of us doing justice work have forgotten the above. we are activated by making things less bad for people (including ourselves). however, if we don’t actually know what pleasure feels like, we could fight against bad things forever and never actually know (a) what liberation feels like and (b) if we’re actually getting closer. - if it doesn’t feel good, it’s not sustainable. period. - What are the main ideas? - liberation work must be driven by pleasure, not by avoidance of pain or harm. - many of us doing justice work have forgotten the above. we are activated by making things less bad for people (including ourselves). however, if we don’t actually know what pleasure feels like, we could fight against bad things forever and never actually know (a) what liberation feels like and (b) if we’re actually getting closer. - if it doesn’t feel good, it’s not sustainable. period. - oppressive systems thrive by removing people’s ability to pleasure themselves. they create dependency on the system. it is liberatory to remember that we can please ourselves If I implemented one idea from this book right now, which one would it be? freedom and liberation must be measured by how much pleasure we are able to feel and create, not by how little bad we experience. i need to develop a more finely tuned pleasure barometer/sensor. How would I describe the book to a friend? this book is the upgrade to emergent strategy that we didn’t even know we needed. even if we just organized ourselves and did the hot and heavy homework, we’d all be free WAY faster than all the other “social justice” ~shit~ stuff we’re doing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    Wow wow wow. This book shifted something in me. Never has a book felt this essential since the first time I read This Bridge Called My Back.

  7. 5 out of 5

    andy

    Phenomenal anthology of radical and liberation-focused essays. Something I have always, always appreciated about adrienne maree brown is that she is so invested in the decentralization/despecialization of knowledge: she knows what she knows, and that’s a whole lot, but she never suggests that she is the most scholarly when it comes to Octavia E. Butler, speculative fiction, Black liberation work, or pleasure activism. She is ALWAYS thanking her teachers and naming the political legacies in which Phenomenal anthology of radical and liberation-focused essays. Something I have always, always appreciated about adrienne maree brown is that she is so invested in the decentralization/despecialization of knowledge: she knows what she knows, and that’s a whole lot, but she never suggests that she is the most scholarly when it comes to Octavia E. Butler, speculative fiction, Black liberation work, or pleasure activism. She is ALWAYS thanking her teachers and naming the political legacies in which she believes she continues, and I appreciate that so much in a time where social justice work and knowledge is commodified in a particular kind of way that pushes people to prioritize their egos, status, and standing over the actual work and visions of collective liberation. I will admit that before starting this anthology, I was worried that it would only be about sex and romantic love. Although important topics, I desired deep thinking’s on pleasure being conceptualized in an expansive sense not just in a sex, love, and romance sense (a realm in which we are often taught is the only place “true” pleasure can exist). This anthology does approach pleasure in an expansive sense, and with much exciting variation to think alongside. There’s pleasure and disability justice, substance use, the raising of sexually liberated children, boundary setting and communication, spiritual friendships, somatics, sex work, and so much more. Beautiful book with beautiful thoughts by adrienne maree brown, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Autumn Brown, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs, just to name a few folks. Of course, the anthology’s first essay is a reprint of Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic.” Very grateful to have read this book when I did. Recommend each essay in the anthology. Especially recommend reading when you feel hopeless. Does not necessarily remedy it but it surely does enough oftentimes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This was a super amazing book, more non-sexual pleasure stuff would have been nice to see, but my main issue is small but repeated food moralizing (once the literal phrase "eating clean") - what a devastating sentiment to bring to pleasure activism! A really distracting bummer to find in 3 separate places in the book, but outside of that, really really invaluable conversations, interviews, and short essays around pleasure, intent, growth, dreaming, joy, and non-capitalism-based self care.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Leigh Kramer

    This was such interesting reframing around pleasure and how we experience and cultivate it. It was much more academic in tone than I was expecting. It’s a mix of essays, guest essays, and interviews, some of which work better than others but I liked the variety of perspectives. This would have been particularly valuable to have read at the start of my social work career and I’d particularly recommend it to anyone who works in a helping profession. There is a lot of compassion and grace around This was such interesting reframing around pleasure and how we experience and cultivate it. It was much more academic in tone than I was expecting. It’s a mix of essays, guest essays, and interviews, some of which work better than others but I liked the variety of perspectives. This would have been particularly valuable to have read at the start of my social work career and I’d particularly recommend it to anyone who works in a helping profession. There is a lot of compassion and grace around trauma and how people with trauma can approach and reclaim pleasure in their lives. Some of the stories shared along these lines could be potentially triggering so exercise care if this is a concern. The author is forthright about recreational drug use as one of the ways she experiences pleasure. I wish she’d spent at least some time acknowledging that drugs can become addictions, especially since she mentioned having an addictive personality herself. To each their own but I struggled with this part of the conversation as a result. In fact, I skipped most of section 4 about recreational drug use. I was glad, however, for the inclusion of Malachi Garza’s essay which addresses marijuana and incarceration and the inequity of its legalization in terms of white people taking advantage of the market when POC have been punished for so many decades.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Edith

    A great book with amazing homework and points of praxis, I definitely see myself returning to this book to refresh myself and realign my desire and pursuit in living a pleasurable life. The only reason I don’t give it a 5 is because there were a few too many transmisogynist dog whistles (in one essay a contributor uses the term “womyn” rather than “woman”) in this book for my liking. I believe adrienne maree brown herself does a good job of being inclusive in her writing and placing a disclaimer A great book with amazing homework and points of praxis, I definitely see myself returning to this book to refresh myself and realign my desire and pursuit in living a pleasurable life. The only reason I don’t give it a 5 is because there were a few too many transmisogynist dog whistles (in one essay a contributor uses the term “womyn” rather than “woman”) in this book for my liking. I believe adrienne maree brown herself does a good job of being inclusive in her writing and placing a disclaimer that she is writing from her experience, which I appreciate. That being said, there was a lot of pussy power moments in this book and no space for trans women to speak about their own pleasure. One of the best essays in this collection is, in fact, written by a trans woman, and I believe that essay to be the only one written by a trans woman (“Beyond Trans Desire,” if there’s another essay written by a trans woman in this collection, please let me know). I would have preferred more trans women voices.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Rona Akbari

    grounding, transformative, and healing. i want everyone to read this book. honoring what she calls her political lineage from octavia butler to audre lorde — adrienne maree brown blesses us with data and knowledge around harm reduction, generative boundaries, transformative justice, and other pleasure activism methodologies. this absolutely rich text held me and asked me where it hurt, told me it's going to be okay, encouraged me to use my unbridled joy as a compass to move through the unjust grounding, transformative, and healing. i want everyone to read this book. honoring what she calls her political lineage from octavia butler to audre lorde — adrienne maree brown blesses us with data and knowledge around harm reduction, generative boundaries, transformative justice, and other pleasure activism methodologies. this absolutely rich text held me and asked me where it hurt, told me it's going to be okay, encouraged me to use my unbridled joy as a compass to move through the unjust world.

  12. 5 out of 5

    erika

    So grateful for this book and its affirmation that pleasure and sexuality are important, and not frivolous, parts of life. There's a tendency in left communities to treat pleasure as something that inherently amplifies capitalist bullshit, and sexuality/eroticism as inherently traumatic and unredeemable, and the book did a good job of addressing these issues and asserting a place for pleasure and joy. I wish that there had been more transfeminine voices, though! It was amazing to have so many So grateful for this book and its affirmation that pleasure and sexuality are important, and not frivolous, parts of life. There's a tendency in left communities to treat pleasure as something that inherently amplifies capitalist bullshit, and sexuality/eroticism as inherently traumatic and unredeemable, and the book did a good job of addressing these issues and asserting a place for pleasure and joy. I wish that there had been more transfeminine voices, though! It was amazing to have so many different perspectives, but that felt lacking.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Amani

    I will read this again and again and again. How grateful I am to live and breathe in a time and space where I am given the gift of tools like this.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Marly

    I didn't know how much I needed to read this.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katrina Hamann

    3.75 stars. More thoughts on this later! Just need to enjoy the fact that I FINALLY finished this one

  16. 5 out of 5

    cat

    adrienne maree brown is helping me get through this current administration and is leading me toward liberation. her books are always teachings. if you have not read Emergent Strategy, then I implore you to go and do so immediately! make sure that you own it, your library owns it, buy it for your friends and your family. Emergent Strategy is so full of everything that we need to be moving towards and i love it. and i do love this book too and am so grateful it is in the world and it is absolutely adrienne maree brown is helping me get through this current administration and is leading me toward liberation. her books are always teachings. if you have not read Emergent Strategy, then I implore you to go and do so immediately! make sure that you own it, your library owns it, buy it for your friends and your family. Emergent Strategy is so full of everything that we need to be moving towards and i love it. and i do love this book too and am so grateful it is in the world and it is absolutely 5 stars for me aaaaannnnddd at the exact same time, i am also grateful that there is not a lot that is new for me in this exploration of queer, poly, sex-positive, orgasm-loving, sex educating and self body-loving manifesto. so grateful that those have been a deep part of my own daily practice of survival as a fat queer femme trauma survivor and have helped shape my work whether as an activist/ sex educator/ doula/ apprenticing midwife or anti-sexual assault advocate. i love supporting and seeing this work too, as it comes from a POC, queer, and liberation lens - and that also makes it a revolution.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Ervin

    I loved this so much and I know my copy is going to be dog-eared and lent to friends until I lose it. I skimmed through some of the interviews, and loved it the most when it’s adrienne marie brown’s own writing. Her call for embodied, radical love of self is the antidote we need. She asks us to live in ourselves fully, prioritize authentic pleasure and self-actualization, and bring those priorities into our community advocacy work. My only critique is that it could have been edited down more I loved this so much and I know my copy is going to be dog-eared and lent to friends until I lose it. I skimmed through some of the interviews, and loved it the most when it’s adrienne marie brown’s own writing. Her call for embodied, radical love of self is the antidote we need. She asks us to live in ourselves fully, prioritize authentic pleasure and self-actualization, and bring those priorities into our community advocacy work. My only critique is that it could have been edited down more sharply, but it’s expansiveness also means that it’s more inclusive and there’s something there for every reader.

  18. 4 out of 5

    emma

    I really dig this book and the way each essay comes at pleasure from a different point of view. I do wish it had pressed deeper into pleasure that isn’t mostly via sex and drugs; I hadn’t expected this, from the subtitle “The Politics of Feeling Good.” I feel like there’s so much more to say that could have been said. This is good, but not what I’d hoped for.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mary Margaret

    I need to take the time to write this review, so I will start with my initial thoughts and continue later. I only give five stars to books that have touched me so deeply that I intend on returning. With all the millions of books that I could give my time to otherwise, rereading a book to find deeper insight is the highest compliment. This book was beautiful. It is accessible and varied poetic and moving. Do not take it for granted: this is not another self love narrative. brown is writing with I need to take the time to write this review, so I will start with my initial thoughts and continue later. I only give five stars to books that have touched me so deeply that I intend on returning. With all the millions of books that I could give my time to otherwise, rereading a book to find deeper insight is the highest compliment. This book was beautiful. It is accessible and varied poetic and moving. Do not take it for granted: this is not another self love narrative. brown is writing with the specific intention to teach us how to take care of ourselves so we have the power to take care of others and our world. The power to give justice.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Shagufta

    I loved this book and read it very slowly over six weeks or so, because there was lots to think about from this read. Not all sections was relevant, but there are so many take-aways here - from pleasure principles to liberatory love to woes (friends who are working on excellence) and so much more. I found that this book was surprisingly relevant - even if the exact topic of the essay wasn't something I had experienced or was interested in, I found I could still make connections to other parts of I loved this book and read it very slowly over six weeks or so, because there was lots to think about from this read. Not all sections was relevant, but there are so many take-aways here - from pleasure principles to liberatory love to woes (friends who are working on excellence) and so much more. I found that this book was surprisingly relevant - even if the exact topic of the essay wasn't something I had experienced or was interested in, I found I could still make connections to other parts of my life. A beautiful joyful book and a powerful reminder about bringing joy and pleasure to activism and life living itself.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    Like any compilation, there are some hits and misses, but overall, I consider this soul balm. I am such an admirer of Adrienne Maree Brown’s work.

  22. 4 out of 5

    jewelthinks

    an important, thought-provoking read. my biggest advice is to not attempt to read straight through — it’s not a linear read. jump around from chapter to chapter going where spirit, desire or mood leads. so much to reflect on here and to discuss with others...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a very inspiring collection of essays, interviews, art, and poems that highlights the intersections of pleasure - both sexual and non-sexual- and social justice. The perspectives are varied, diverse and centers queer, BIPOC, and trans voices throughout. Well researched and referenced with lots of engaging feminist publications which I look forward to exploring in further detail.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Bree González

    Pleasure Activism was the most impactful compilation of thoughts, experiences, and work by femmes of color I’ve ever read. As a passionate lover of Lorde and Anzaldúa and countless other femmes of color who have paved the way for intersectional feminism, this book spoke to me as a nuanced, contemporary, and practical reflection of them. Adrienne maree brown makes understanding complex and highly academic concepts so easy and comfortable through fluid interviews with other incredibly admirable Pleasure Activism was the most impactful compilation of thoughts, experiences, and work by femmes of color I’ve ever read. As a passionate lover of Lorde and Anzaldúa and countless other femmes of color who have paved the way for intersectional feminism, this book spoke to me as a nuanced, contemporary, and practical reflection of them. Adrienne maree brown makes understanding complex and highly academic concepts so easy and comfortable through fluid interviews with other incredibly admirable femmes. This will be a book I look back to for the rest of my life.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jasmyne

    "Pleasure reminds us to enjoy being alive and on purpose. Again and again I have realized that our misery only serves those who wish to control us, to have our existence be in service of their own. Again and again I have had to surrender to the truth and freedom of pleasure."

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennie Chantal

    Every year I declare it the Year of *something* or other, and this year is the Year of Pleasure. For me, this means, mostly, being in my body for moments of wonder, awe, curiosity, and pride. Eating something delicious, watching the sun rise or set, the feeling of rain drops or wind on my face. It might be a moment of gender euphoria, of feeling utterly safe, of letting myself rest or asking for what I need without guilt or shame. It might be expressing anger, letting myself cry, showing Every year I declare it the Year of *something* or other, and this year is the Year of Pleasure. For me, this means, mostly, being in my body for moments of wonder, awe, curiosity, and pride. Eating something delicious, watching the sun rise or set, the feeling of rain drops or wind on my face. It might be a moment of gender euphoria, of feeling utterly safe, of letting myself rest or asking for what I need without guilt or shame. It might be expressing anger, letting myself cry, showing vulnerability. Even being wrong or causing a small harm can result in the pleasure of taking accountability, regardless of whether there is a "positive" outcome. Boundaries, even those that come from hurt, can be result in pleasure. Year of Pleasure is about presence in embodied feeling and action—even when the feeling or action is a difficult one. I have a trauma history and have struggled with mental illness all my life. I'm poor. I live with disabling chronic pain. I was raised Catholic, where pleasure is literally a sin. Pleasure has been both hard to come by and hard to even recognize. I've spent most of my life dissociated, anxious, and suffering. Pain, whether physical or emotional, destroys pleasure right at the root. I had to ask myself a year or two ago, What even is pleasure? I wanted to find ways to live, and be alive, in a body of pain, a traumatized, mentally ill body and be able to experience, fully, moments of pleasure. So I was pretty excited to get my hands on a book about centering pleasure as a political act! I was bummed at how much of this book focused on sex and of how repetitive the content was. Sex is great and sexual pleasure is a topic that definitely deserves attention and for those looking specifically for that, I think the book will be, for the most part *cough-cough* a pleasure. For those of you looking for a more diverse representation of pleasure as activism, as well as a book that goes deeper into the topic and presents different viewpoints and experiences, I imagine there will be some disappointment. Which brings me to the reason for my exceptionally low rating. In the interview with Sami Schalk, Brown asks Schalk, a self-described "non-disabled ally," to tell her, and I quote "what can people with disabilities teach all humans about pleasure?" Full stop for a minute here. I want you to imagine that she included in this book an interview with a cisgender "trans ally" and asked "what can transgender people teach all humans about pleasure?" How about a hetero answering what gays teach about pleasure (actually I'm sure this would be hilarious)? You get my drift. Not to mention that there was no representation from sick, chronically ill and/or disabled people. The only appropriate answer to this question is "Ask them." It is never, ever okay to ask someone not part of a marginalized group to speak on behalf of that group. It is not ally-ship to speak on behalf of a marginalized group. HOW AM I HAVING TO POINT THIS OUT? Disability is so routinely off peoples' radar that even folks like Brown and Schalk, who seem to have wonderful politics, missed something so utterly basic. I have no doubt that Brown will, as she says in the book, keep growing and learning and I won't hold it against her personally, but damn it's a disappointment.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Casey

    I really loved this book. At first it seemed like it would take a long time to read, but I actually breezed through it. It centers the voices of marginalized groups in an exploration of and case for being pleasure-driven. It has helped me make a shift in my perspective and priorities, and I think that will likely continue to be the case for quite some time. I would have loved more exploration of pleasure outside of the realms of sexuality, drugs, and friendship, things like food, the natural I really loved this book. At first it seemed like it would take a long time to read, but I actually breezed through it. It centers the voices of marginalized groups in an exploration of and case for being pleasure-driven. It has helped me make a shift in my perspective and priorities, and I think that will likely continue to be the case for quite some time. I would have loved more exploration of pleasure outside of the realms of sexuality, drugs, and friendship, things like food, the natural world, and even strategies to find what is pleasurable for you since so many of us are just barely giving ourselves permission to be driven by our own pleasure and may not know hoe or where to find it. Some of my favorite quotations: "In general, I am a high-functioning depressive person...I have come to believe this is a part of my magic, that I dance with darkness and respect it. I know what it is to need therapy, medicate myself, not be able to get out of bed, and not want to live. And while it isn't easy, it makes me feel like I can see things whole, and whatever joy I have is grounded in the miraculous and tragic dual nature of the real world." (That beautiful, genuine description of living with mental illness is just a footnote!) "It has been said before but it's always relevant: no is a complete sentence...We must remember that our socialized aversion to no, particularly in capitalist countries, is strategic for those who aim to hold power over us. If we are made to feel uncomfortable saying no, then we will say yes to anyone and anything that tries to sell us shit. We must remember that we are learning to say no as we recover from patriarchy, capitalism, racism." "The instant your mind begins to move in any direction of desire, you can type your longing into a search bar and watch your fantasy or something close to it. Your imagination isn't really needed. And perhaps that would be fine if the top searches were: woman on top of someone she could never identify as a family member, strapped women taking tender tushes, grown up legal-aged professionals of all genders in hot consensual antiracist role play." "But 'money can't buy you happiness,' right? Like fuck it can't...Money buys protection, time off, privacy, and nice, pretty shit. Money also buys food, housing, and health care. Getting paid enough to meet our needs--and more--feels good. I'm not romanticizing the sex industry, I know it has risks; I'm just not going to romanticize economic deprivation in the name of being a 'good girl' either...you know what feels amazing? Surviving capitalism." "Folks who are rooted in sensing and seeking pleasure, and bring that energy into their work and relationships, are shining a light for others--there is another path that isn't full of stress, self-doubt, pain, victimization, and suffering. There is a path in which everything is learning, playing, practicing, doing things anew."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ariel [She Wants the Diction]

    Reframing activism as something pleasurable, rather than making it all about the struggle, really is a radical concept. There are many, many quotables in this book, but this sets the tone: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” - Audre Lorde Despite the cover being of all kinds of animals having sex, I didn't realize it would be so sex-focused. This is probably because I didn't actually realize what the cover was until late in Reframing activism as something pleasurable, rather than making it all about the struggle, really is a radical concept. There are many, many quotables in this book, but this sets the tone: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” - Audre Lorde Despite the cover being of all kinds of animals having sex, I didn't realize it would be so sex-focused. This is probably because I didn't actually realize what the cover was until late in the game, as I was reading a tiny e-book version. I found the footnotes difficult to navigate on e-book, and for that reason would suggest picking up a physical copy. (Brown loves her footnotes, and while I love that every single work mentioned in here is cited, I think she gets a little carried away at times.) The best writing in this book is from Brown herself, in the form of what appears to be articles from Bitch magazine that she's already written but have been collected here. She talks to a diverse range of people about a broad range of topics, often using an interview format. One of the things I really loved was her discussion of "harm reduction" when it comes to drug usage. Acting like people don't use drugs, or telling them not to, is something I just can't get behind. I didn't even know harm reduction was a thing until now, but it's a philosophy I fully support. As for the things I disliked... Like I said, the book is VERY sex-focused. I've read some other reviews saying that for this reason, it's not very inclusive of asexual people, and I would agree with that. I really wish she had explored more avenues of pleasure, because it seemed like the focus was strongly on sex. However, it is generally very diverse. She speaks to disabled people, trans people, people of color, sex workers, political activists... the list goes on and on. Another thing I disliked were all the zodiac references (which is something I dislike in any book). Her writing has this vague, spiritual New Age-ish feel to it, so if you're not into that, you may be turned off. She also has a section talking about how capitalism/the patriarchy/porn/rape culture has hijacked our desires, specifically our fantasies, and while I understand the point she was making, I think a more nuanced conversation needed to be had about BDSM - which deals with a lot of these "power dynamics" and is a safe arena in which to explore. I just found it weird this book neglected to even mention a practice that is so essential to a lot of queer folk - it was an odd omission for such an intentionally inclusive book to make.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Maybe if I hadn't encountered so many people hyping this book up I wouldn't have had such high expectations. Then again, I came to this having read Emergent Strategy and absolutely not vibing with that either. I'm in no way opposed to the content or intention of this book. I take issue with a few things, all of them structural. First of all, I feel that the concept of "pleasure activism" is so broad and ill-defined, the playing field is too expansive to produce a book that goes particularly deep Maybe if I hadn't encountered so many people hyping this book up I wouldn't have had such high expectations. Then again, I came to this having read Emergent Strategy and absolutely not vibing with that either. I'm in no way opposed to the content or intention of this book. I take issue with a few things, all of them structural. First of all, I feel that the concept of "pleasure activism" is so broad and ill-defined, the playing field is too expansive to produce a book that goes particularly deep into anything. Secondly, any of these interviews? articles? could have issued from any of the contributors. There was such a consistency of vocabulary, perspective, and phrasing, that I didn't feel at all like I was seeing different perspectives on pleasure. I've read a lot of anthologies, and what I like about them is the opportunity to hear two ideas on the same topic, that might be diametrically opposed, one after the other in the same chapter. This book was everyone just agreeing. About everything. Which is fine, but not very engaging to me. Finally, I am left with the question of why adrienne maree brown presented the interviews (?) in the format she did - apparently verbatim, from transcripts. I felt like all the conversation were so short, again, there was a lack of depth to a lot of the articles. The verbatim format can work (see "What We're Rolling Around in Bed With" - Hollibaugh/Moraga) but I think they work best when both parties are really engaged in the conversation, rather than being interviewed. Bonus round: the wanton employment of footnotes, in a way that could have easily been part of the body of the writing most of the time, drove me, specifically, into a frenzy. This is just my taste. I'm not trying to bash this book. I'm really happy that a lot of people are getting a lot from this book. I didn't - and that's also okay.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Min

    i initially had a bit of difficulty with this book, or at least i didn't think i could ever resonate with pleasure as a politic as someone whose ideas of pleasure n even more vague notions of happiness have always been rooted in other ppl (from my parents to relationships to the fact that i'm a god damn ppl pleaser!!!) & bc (altho the erotic n sexual r clearly distinctive) there's sm sexual trauma to sift thru still and general body/gender/Trans things the diff sections and stories r very i initially had a bit of difficulty with this book, or at least i didn't think i could ever resonate with pleasure as a politic as someone whose ideas of pleasure n even more vague notions of happiness have always been rooted in other ppl (from my parents to relationships to the fact that i'm a god damn ppl pleaser!!!) & bc (altho the erotic n sexual r clearly distinctive) there's sm sexual trauma to sift thru still and general body/gender/Trans things the diff sections and stories r very conducive to taking what you need. skipped parts about parenting bc i think it's so far from where i am right now looking at the structure of the book now, i think it makes sense that the beginning was harder to engage in bc it's mostly about sex. as it moved into care as pleasure, conditions of possibility (imagining!!!!), pleasure as political practice, wholeness in movements, and liberated relationships..... mmmmm

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