A Pleasure Manifesto
This is the talk that Kit was invited to give at TEDx Beacon St. Weeks before the event, the organizers told her that her talk was “IMPORTANT, NEEDED TO BE HEARED, & BEAUTIFULLY DELIVERED.” But that it was “NOT APPROPRIATE” for TEDx and The JFK Library.
She was then removed from the speakers list. Kit wrote about the experience of censorship on The Huffington Post.
WOMEN’S SEXUAL PLEASURE AS OUR NEW NORTH STAR
(A transcription of the talk)
Masturbation. Porn. Orgasms. Female masturbation. FEMALE orgasms – Voldemort, Voldemort, VOLDEMORT!
A reminder, everything I will say, they are all only words. Saying and hearing *female masturbation* is safe, I promise. At least saying and hearing these words is less likely to result in the Dark Lord emerging from the sky. I say less likely, because goodness me, we sure do still have a lot of taboo about female self pleasure. So why on Earth would I want to be associated with, let alone known for, promoting female masturbation?
I assure you, it’s not because I am any less aware of the potential for awkwardness. And it’s not because I’m the one person who has no sexual hang-ups. And I certainly didn’t grow up in a utopian world of exclusive sex-positivity. Nope. My name is Kit Murray Maloney.
After receiving a masters degree in Gender & Social Policy from the London School of Economics, and spending two decades as an activist, academic, and entrepreneur addressing a range of issues involving women’s sexual experiences and women’s sexuality, I have come to understand a celebration of women’s sexual pleasure, including a celebration of female masturbation and genuine female orgasms, is needed for healing and bettering the world.
All the potentially uncomfortable words have been said, we’re all still here, and the world is still very much turning. Awesome. I can feel your smile. So let’s explore this in more depth, shall we? It’ll be fun!
Presenting the “not-tos”
When you think of sex education, what comes to mind? If you are lucky*, you got what I refer to as the three “how not-tos”: how not to get a disease, how not to have an unplanned pregnancy, and how not to be sexually assaulted. How bizarre is it to have a topic as complex as human sexuality and to learn and engage with only what is to be feared and avoided? Bizarre and… devastating.
Our three “not-tos” for sex – have us focused on what we don’t want. If “what we focus on is what grows”, then we are in deep trouble. We’re in the painful, fractured, and understandably angry state of today. With our focus, our current North Star if you will, rooted in these “not-tos,” we are disconnected from our bodies, our health, and from creating WHAT WE DO WANT in the world. We are separated from pleasure, intimacy, vibrancy, and joy. The not-tos have us living in a traumatized, reactionary, and numb state of being. The not-tos for sex is a shame and fear based approach and pragmatically, it is just not working. Disease is on the rise, unwanted pregnancies abound, and sexual misconduct and sexual violence is a devastating epidemic.
A new North Star
Pleasure. It’s not that WE DON’T want to mitigate disease, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual assault. In fact what I want most in life is to eradicate our sex not-tos. I want that with every morsel of my being. I want that so badly that I’m willing to look around and put voice to the truth – the not-tos they are not working!
Right now your mind might be screaming out, “But, but, but, if all these are on the rise, then that’s all the more reason we need to ADDRESS them.” And yes, absolutely we do.
But, I don’t want you not to be sick. I want you to have a thriving, enjoyable sex life – however that looks for you – that keeps you healthy. I don’t want to tell you a lie that abstinence only is an effective way to avoid unwanted pregnancy. I want your desires to be celebrated, not shamed. I want females to have a deep and intimate knowledge of our bodies and cycles. I want women to have empowered choices. It’s true, I don’t want women’s bodies assaulted. AND I DO want women’s pleasure, women’s sexual pleasure, women’s orgasmic pleasure, prioritized and celebrated. Imagine how different it would be to have a North Star of WHAT WE DO WANT?
A North Star that would allow us to focus once again on celebrating and honoring human sexuality for us all to THRIVE. It’s time. It’s time to take the courageous leap into exploring and executing a new North Star for sex and sexuality for ourselves and for our communities. A new focus that allows us to grow and create what we DO want in the world. It is time to fully embrace Pleasure.
Mmm.. pleasure. Okay, I am SO excited to dive into this more deeply, but first let’s get clear and on the same page around how I am using the word pleasure. What I call capital P pleasure. Capital P pleasure is always in genuine support of one’s sense of aliveness. This isn’t about indulgence. Capital P pleasure is about balance, not extremes. Even having mind-blowing orgasms all day every day would eventually stop supporting your true sense of aliveness. You’d eventually want to use all that energy to create something, or sleep, or at least pause to call a friend and brag about it. Capital P pleasure can’t function in anything less than a cauldron of pure consent. Assault involves a misuse of power. When a person misuses their power – power of position, strength, or circumstance – and in false service of their own lowercase p pleasure, they are way out alignment with Capital P pleasure. Again, Capital P pleasure can’t function in anything less than a cauldron of pure consent. From now on, when I say pleasure, please know that I am talking about capital P pleasure.
So this is where it gets exciting – with Pleasure as our North Star – everything shifts. With pleasure as a North Star we finally get to celebrate! We get to celebrate so many amazing, beautiful, and powerful aspects of human sexuality! Under pleasure, we can say, accept, and celebrate masturbation, self-pleasure, or solo-sex with ease. It’s grounded in pleasure, exploration, and self-love. So it’s a-okay for EVERYONE! If sexual pleasure is celebrated, than that certainly includes women’s sexual pleasure. So now the notion of orgasm can be freed from the clinical and explored with depth and boundless curiosity.
Under the North Star of pleasure, we can stop the absurd notion that the clitoris has no biological purpose and therefore isn’t important. That baby has more nerve endings than scientists know what to do with. But under this North Star we can stop asking “Why does it exist?” And start wondering, “If half of the human race has a clitoris – designed specifically for pleasure, maybe there is purpose in pleasure?!”
The Impact of Pleasure
A few years ago, I thought “ How can I double down on my message?” I wondered, could I commit to a DAILY orgasm? I figured I’d start with a stretch goal that also felt attainable – three weeks it was!:) Almost as soon as I made this commitment, women friends started noticing more vibrancy in me. When I told them what I was up to, they wanted in. From those conversations, what is now called the Pleasure Pledge was born.
The Pleasure Pledge is a twenty one day long invitation for women to commit to their daily orgasm. “Pledge” – not challenge – because it is an intention. There is no failing. A Pledge For “Pleasure” not orgasm. Though I encourage women to interpret that pleasure as orgasm or sexual pleasure, I trust women to know what pleasure they need. This Pledge is about an expansive understanding of pleasure, not a narrowing or constriction of it:The thousands of women who have enjoyed the Pleasure Pledge is curious.
In many ways, it is something that anyone can do entirely on their own and without the container of the pledge itself. Yet, the truth is that in our present society women DON’T have the permission to the pleasure we deserve. We women are yearning for what many men are able to take for granted. We are yearning to feel autonomy and ownership of our bodies; to have complete choice in when to have sexual experiences – whether solo or partnered – and to have our pleasure and orgasms prioritized and celebrated. From all over the country and the world, women have written to me – sharing their stories of how celebrating their pleasure has impacted their lives:
A note from New Zealand read, “Kit, I just need to tell you how much I have enjoyed this pledge – the information is so empowering and fascinating too! You’ve helped me get out of my head and into my body. The pledge has guided me in my journey to achieve orgasms both by myself and with my partner. Soooo powerful. I could go on and on, just know that what you’re doing is healing the world.”
Another woman from Canada wrote to me saying, “I’m in love with this Pledge! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for offering this opportunity. I am tearing up (in the best way) as I write this. Thank you for this work and this experience.”
An LA woman said that The Pleasure Pledge was the start of her “discovering a new way of living life that ignited a rippled effect which has without a doubt changed her life for the better.” Prioritizing pleasure people.
This is playful and fun, but it’s serious stuff too! This is why a celebration of female solo-sex is so important. In a safe, supportive, and fun community of women, the Pleasure Pledge is a potent permission slip for women to come back themselves. It is a powerful reminder for us as women, to re-access a Truth that is too often withheld from us. We are whole and safe. Beautiful, powerful, and potent. All within our own selves. All within our own systems.
The world needs more vibrant, resourced, and embodied women. Declaring, “I need to refuel” is not selfish, it is necessary. It’s a courageous and alive woman who can say, “I need to refuel in ALL aspects of my life, including my sexuality. There are times when I need to come first.” (Yes, it’s impossible to give this talk with throwing in at least one pun:)
Pleasure for Healing
As women, finding safety within our bodies is a journey. Sometimes it is a journey of exploration and other times, for many of us, it is also a journey of healing. Victims and survivors of sexual violence are always on my mind and in my heart. I’m a rape survivor. I never knew nor imagined that I could come to my current place of healing.
I am in tremendous gratitude for my solo-sex practice for being such a wonderful gift to me along my healing journey. The practice continues to ground me in the the truth that trauma tends to disconnect us from: I am whole. You are whole. There is safety within. Recovering and healing from sexual trauma is a journey, likely a lifelong journey. It isn’t done overnight. It is a process of coming home to oneself and a solo-sex practice can be a beautiful part of that process of once again feeling safety in one’s body.
So from a place of curiosity and deep compassion for self, I encourage all women to start experiencing some level of pleasure within the safety of themselves. The “some level” piece is critical. Trust yourself and your boundaries. This is what this is all about. Maybe the “some level of pleasure” that feels safe to you is a nap in a sunny window. When done so with the intent to both give and receive pleasure all within your own system, that is an equally powerful first healing domino too.
Eventually we all have the power to come back to ourselves. That might not always feel true, but it is Truth. And for many, reconnecting with one’s sexual PLEASURE begins with experiencing simultaneous safety and enjoyment on their own, as a practice, first.
What DO WE WANT?
It’s time to answer, What DO WE WANT FOR OUR OPTIMAL SEXUAL HEALTH? Do we want pleasure, intimacy with ourselves and others, delight, orgasms, safety, wonder? I hope you agree with me that we do. So let’s lay down our isolated focus on our not-tos. I am releasing and letting go of shame, guilt, and taboo. I invite you to join me.
Together, let’s start creating the world we do want to live in, now. Let’s celebrate pleasure, including women’s pleasure, including women’s sexual pleasure, including women’s self pleasure. It’s such a good, and important, North Star.
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