Wellness Wednesday: Decolonizing How We Think about Pleasure
by Rebekah Elkerton
The relationship we have with ourselves and the comfort we have in our own skin evolves, twists, and turns throughout the many seasons of life. Our sacred spaces have the power to draw in loving energy, release tension, and nurture connection with ourselves and others. We have a right to feel pleasure in the body and this is not a radical concept, although societal conversations around sexuality might suggest otherwise. Our orgasms hold creative power. Through pleasure rituals we consistently inform our relationship with ourselves. These energies can inspire us and bring about healing.
Our world has commodified sexuality and we have been taught that self-worth is based on sexual appeal. It’s been modeled to us that validation must be primarily acquired externally, and that we must sexual or desexualize ourselves to be accepted and deemed “worthy” of accessing certain spaces, relationships, and success. Most of us have been performative, at one time or another, in how we experience personal sexuality, suppressing the truth of our desires and needs. We may resist our own pleasure by denying the body of what feels good and not effectively communicating our needs. Whether it has to do with self-imposed judgment, fear of judgment from others, or a lack of knowledge about the body and how to communicate, we can transform the limiting thoughts we carry and become truly comfortable in our own skin.
Understanding healthy sexuality can come with it’s fair share of challenges as an Indigenous woman, combatting ingrained communal and personal traumas and the colonially created expectations placed on us. Indigenous women’s bodies have long been tied to how colonizers see the land and their intentions for conquest. Kim Anderson’s text “Construction of a Negative Identity” breaks down the ways in which Indigenous women's bodies have been written about throughout history- beginning with the pure Indian princess, new and waiting to be explored. Later this narrative was reconfigured to become the Squaw, something dirty and in need of taming yet still accessible and available for the use of colonizer men. These imposed sexual identities aimed to strip Indigenous women’s spiritual connection to their own bodies and healthy sexual practices. We have been told by outsiders that as Indigenous women we fall into one category or the other and as a result we have become protective of our bodies so much that we may shame ourselves and other women because we see them through the colonizer's gaze.
Two Spirit identities have also been discriminated against, and often deemed invalid. This has planted deeply rooted harmful ideas about gender fluidity and diverse sexualities in many communities. Through colonially imposed insititutions that uphold the dominance of heterosexuality, personal expressions of gender and sexuality became taboo and discriminated against over time. We are currently in an era of reclaiming reverence for the beauty and unique knowledge that two-spirit people have to offer the world. We must support one another as we shed harmful foreign mindsets that have oppressed diverse lived experiences, discriminated against queer people and ultimately divided our communities. If all community members cannot feel comfortable in their bodies and at peace with their natural desires (none of which are harmful to others) then the foundation of that community is broken. We must live with acceptance and love for one another so that we may collectively heal.
Through self-discovery we have an opportunity to take back our bodies and the relationship we have with the self. Showing up for yourself through self-pleasure can be a powerful tool for releasing self criticism and judgment. When we come to know ourselves intimately we can find rituals through which we feel safe in exploring our desires. For some this process may bring up difficult feelings and memories that have been avoided and hidden within us. When we come to the task with the intention to heal we set ourselves on the path toward self love that grows independently of external eyes and validators. Being comfortable when we are alone with ourselves is the strongest foundation for building healthy relationships with others that are based on mutual respect and support.
Through orgasm we release resistance and live in the present. It’s natural to have sexual desires and fantasies and we should all feel that it is safe to feel sexy and feel pleasure. Through practice we get to know the fantasies that feel good to play out in our minds and the attached emotions that bring us pleasure. When we try new things alone and explore the body and all it’s amazing intricacies we honour the self and fully enjoy our humanity. It’s important to be patient on the track to self-knowing and pay attention to our day to day happenings that may increase our interest in sexual experiences, as well as those that depleat it. We are not obligated to take part in sexual experiences that don't feel right, and each experience, whether alone or with a partner, should be approached with the intention of respect and pleasure.
The times when our sexuality has been discouraged and shamed can stick with us long after, bringing feelings of embarrassment and pain. We may not feel empowered by our sexuality and as a result we deny an important part of us that can heal, release negativity, and bring us to deepened experiences of intimacy. By getting in touch with our bodies we have the information necessary to communicate our needs when it comes time to share sexual experinces with another person. We have the ability to empower ourselves so that we can show up better for our partner, aware of the emotional intentions and desired closeness we hope to have with them. To be intimate with a partner comes with responsibilities and when we’re in tune with our personal sexual health and wellbeing, it’s easier to navigate relationships of all kinds with respect for ourselves and others.
Taking time for yourself is essential for wellbeing. We all require balance between our daily responsibilities and moments of introspection and self care. Self pleasure is just one example of honouring the relationship with the self. When we take the time to work through our blockages we can form a healthy relationship with our own sexuality and show up better for ourselves and others. Embracing our natural sexual needs and desires is decolonial by nature. When we come to know ourselves and allow ourselves to feel the waves of pleasure we have been gifted by Creator we heal generations of suppression and break cycles of disempowered sexual experiences. When we approach the topic of sexuality with the intent to understand and cultivate wellness, we build healthier communities. Sexual healing is the name of the game and it starts with the self.
Photo by Malvestida Magazine
Anderson, Kim. A Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood. Canada, Sumach Press, 2000.