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Pleasure: Why Are We So Afraid to Feel Good?

Erin: [00:00:00] Welcome to Hotter Than Ever, where we take a look at the unconscious rules we've been following. We break those rules and we find a new path to being freer, happier, and more self expressed. Doesn't that sound great? I'm your host, Erin Keating.

Today, we're going to be talking about pleasure. Why, why are we talking about pleasure today? Because people don't talk about pleasure in the course of everyday life, especially women. I don't think we talk about pleasure and the role that it plays in our lives and what it means to have it and what it means to not have it, what it means to pursue it. We hear the phrase pleasure seeking and it always feels a little [00:01:00] pejorative.

And so that's what I want to talk about, that feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment that we call pleasure. Where does pleasure come from in your life? We hear about the small pleasures, right? The like sitting out on your deck and drinking a cup of coffee and watching the birds in your backyard before your busy day starts.

When we think on the, the deeper, darker end of pleasure, we think about sex, uh, food, alcohol, you know, cigarettes, tobacco. I think we think about pleasure in the same thought that we think about vices. And I'm not sure that all pleasures are vices or all vices are ultimately pleasurable. You know, what's on the line here in this conversation about pleasure is that women, I think, and I'll speak from my own experience because that is the only fucking thing I know, you know.

When I was [00:02:00] deep in the throes of the unhappiest time of my life, um, that looked like the happiest time of my life from the outside, when I had little, little kids and a crazy intense job and a marriage that wasn't working. I really did not prioritize my pleasure. And, you know, what I was focused on was getting shit done.

I think all of us, many of us can relate to that. You know what, what we're focused on is what we're committed to, what we're obligated to the, the deadlines and the goals and the more immediate needs of, of raising children and inside of a marriage that isn't working. There may not be. You know, much pleasure at all in terms of affection or touch or sex.

And I think it's just worth looking at all of it. I think when we don't prioritize our pleasure, our happiness and our [00:03:00] joy suffers. And I, I often feel like women are holding on so fucking tight to the things in their lives. That they aspired toward, that they wanted so badly, that they worked at, that they, you know, the marriage and the children and the career. That sometimes pleasure ends up taking a back seat. And so that while we have all this stuff on the outside, inside of it we are not. Enjoying ourselves. And I, I wonder what it is that we are afraid will happen if we take a second to slow down and think about what would please me in this moment, what would give me pleasure tonight, this weekend, this year.

We plan our vacations. We plan our special occasions. But what is the experience of pleasure that we're having on a day to day basis? You know, [00:04:00] for me, I was so focused on all of the things that I was committed to. That my life was really about duty and obligation and commitment and accomplishment. And inside of that, you know, a job well done can give you pleasure. A dinner with a girlfriend where you really connect can give you pleasure. A meal, a dessert, a glass of wine, something sublime in your mouth can give you pleasure.

For me... My marriage did not contain sex, but I also did not pleasure myself. I did not give myself pleasure on a regular basis because I felt so disconnected to the part of myself that put that at the center of my life. I felt so far from that. And, you know, what happened is I blew my life up. That's going to be a refrain you hear a lot in this podcast. But, you know, I, I got very sick with COVID. I [00:05:00] turned 50. My marriage finally expired. Praise be to whoever helped me with that from above. And... I started to realize that my life was geared around all these obligations and not at all about what was actually going to make me happy.

What was actually going to deliver what Epicurus, who was a Greek philosopher, um, who you might recognize the name around the word Epicurean. Um, which has to do with enjoying food. He said that pleasure is freedom from pain in the body and freedom from turmoil in the soul. I would go so far as to say it's more than freedom from pain, because that's a neutral state, but it is some sort of, uh, euphoric or happy dopamine hit that you feel in a lot of different contexts, if you're tuned into it, and if it's a thing that you prioritize, [00:06:00] I would say about like Nigella Lawson. She's so sexy cooking in the kitchen.

There's like beautifully, um, beautifully art directed shots of her, you know, stirring a bowl of cake batter and then licking her finger. And you could just see like, she took so much pleasure from the work that she was doing. And part of that is a sort of connectedness to sensuality and the things we do because they feel good to do them.

It's interesting. I mean, I, I feel that I took pleasure off the list of my priorities. It had been on the list of my priorities, certainly as a younger person, certainly. I thought of myself as a bit of a hedonist. I now know that to be totally true. I am a hedonist. I seek pleasure. And I want more and more and more of it, especially in the like the food and sex areas of pleasure.

But I, you know, I judge myself for that a lot as a younger [00:07:00] person. And then somehow the pendulum swung and I found myself totally disconnected from from that. I think it's the flip side of the like the clap back of of pleasure is if you overindulge.

And I think that's what our culture is afraid of is not pleasure so much as as the overindulgence where if you take too much pleasure. If you, if you eat too much chocolate cake, you have too many orgasms, you're too focused on sex, then, you know, all will go to hell in a handbasket. And, you know, certainly the flip side of, of pleasure seeking is that you're chasing that dopamine hit and that can lead to addiction and addiction can lead to depression and anxiety and insomnia and, you know, just being a generally fucking miserable person. And, you know, there is a line for all of us to find but I don't think we walk up even close enough to it I don't think we [00:08:00] walk around in our lives thinking what would give me pleasure right now.

I think we think okay I'm gonna order my lunch. I like that sandwich that I sometimes get. Oh, it's too much bread It's too much XYZ. And so we what we do is we we give ourselves, you know constraints and then we call our pleasures indulgences and like good for the people that that works for, good for the self disciplined moderates of the world.

I don't count myself in that category, unfortunately. I have to not eat sugar because I don't have an off switch when it comes to that kind of pleasure. And then it turns into the flip side addict thing where one chocolate chip cookie is a bag of chocolate chip cookies and, uh, and I can't stop. I think that's a question of knowing yourself.

As you get older, understanding what pleasures lead to addiction, or bad behaviors, or shitty [00:09:00] repercussions, and what pleasures actually you can build into your life, into your everyday, and prioritize for yourself. Because life is fucking short, and you don't know when you're gonna die. Really. I mean, not to get like, super grim about it, but we have a limited time here on Earth.

Like, are we here to deny ourselves the ability to feel good when it's built into our senses? You know, we love certain smells. We love certain tastes. We love certain physical experiences. And if you're a woman, you know, your clitoris is the only thing on your body, the only human organ, that is built only for pleasure.

It is built into us. We are meant to have it. Your body, our design is so sophisticated and excellent. There's a very good reason for that. You're going to give us a lot of pleasure if you're going to have us make babies. That's just a lot of work. I really believe that it's important [00:10:00] to up your pleasure quotient, to look for the small places in your life.

where you can have more of it. And look for the big places in your life where you're not giving yourself permission to have any of it, or you're doling it out to yourself in such parsimonious ways that you don't have permission for pleasure. Whether that's a simple pleasure or whether that's, you know, in my case, in my marriage, there was not, after a time there wasn't sexual pleasure.

And you know, I've spent a considerable amount of time in this past year since being separated seeking that reconnecting with that capacity in myself. Holy shit. So fucking great. Highly recommend. Highly recommend. Whether that's with yourself or with other people or with one other person or with a series of people.

Get out there and feel good. I think we're really afraid that if we [00:11:00] open the floodgates, if we open the door to pleasure, if we make that the organizing principle of our lives. If we pursue pleasure too much, then everything is going to fall apart. Everything we've held so tightly to is going to fall apart.

So we allow ourselves these little pleasures. We, we, Oh, we have that square of dark chocolate at night before we go to bed. Oh, I'll just take my pleasure in this dark chocolate square instead of a fucking banana split every once in a while. Where is the line for us? We are so far from the line of too much pleasure, we should be running towards the line, and we will be running for a long time.

And I say that because I feel like we are so stingy with ourselves. We are so, we are so ungenerous. [00:12:00] You know, we, we act like our pleasure is an indulgence that we don't have time for. Yes, of course there are things we have to do in life. We are going to do those things. That is who we are. Women get it done.

Older women have been getting it done. Successful older women have been getting it done well, all of our lives. But have we given ourselves the opportunity, beyond the sort of cult of Chardonnay, you know, the sort of mom juice nonsense, the sort of white wine culture of, uh, that's where we're allowed to indulge and nowhere else.

Yeah, we don't allow ourselves. And I'll speak for myself, when I was working 50, 60, whatever hours a week, the notion of going outside for a walk during the day, something [00:13:00] that would give me pleasure, just a walk in the neighborhood for 20 minutes, seemed like such a profound overindulgence. Today, if I want to take a fucking walk, I'm taking a fucking walk.

Today, if I want to stop, uh, and get in a hot tub naked in the middle of the day, I'm going to do that because I'm working from home, and I live in Southern California, and that is one of the great pleasures of life in Southern California. I love when people have all the tools for their own pleasure, they build it in to their lives.

You know, they have the ice cream maker, but they never fucking make ice cream. They have the hot tub, but they never get in it. You know, they got the vibrator, but it's in the back of the drawer, gathering dust. Get it out. Get in the hot tub. Make the ice cream. Don't even make the ice cream. Go get ice cream and eat the ice cream.

Like, are you afraid you're going to become some sort of harlot? Some [00:14:00] sort of obese person? Some sort of undisciplined loser? Because you decided to prioritize your own pleasure for 20 minutes? For an hour? For a weekend? For a week? For a month? When you go somewhere else in the world and reinvent your life and go indulge all your eat, pray, love fantasies, like, what are we afraid of?

What are we afraid that the other side of that line looks like? I'm fascinated by that. Of course there's addiction. Of course there's overindulgence. But I argue that we are not even close to any of those. Things for the most part, most of us are just holding ourselves so tightly and to pursue pleasure is to pursue a kind of ease and looseness and sensuality that often seems at odds with modern life and certainly the life of modern women who are trying to have it all.

Here's my challenge to you, [00:15:00] sweet, sexy listener. Identify a handful of things that give you pleasure. Make a list and then add some pleasure, big or small, to your everyday life. See if you can grow that muscle of just enjoying yourself and your senses and your one and only life here on earth. You are so fucking hot when you do that.

Thank you for listening to Hotter Than Ever if you liked this episode if it spoke to you, follow the show on whatever platform you're listening to right now and please tell your friends.

Hotter Than Ever is produced by Erica Gerard and Podkit productions. Our associate producer is Lena Reibstein music is by Chris Keating with vocals by Issa Fernandez. Let's talk again next week. We're just getting started


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