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Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  5,742 ratings  ·  626 reviews
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 an ...more
Paperback, 441 pages
Published February 13th 2019 by AK Press
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 ·  5,742 ratings  ·  626 reviews

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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 peop ...more
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
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 immediate ...more
Joshunda Sanders
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 mir ...more
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.
- oppre
Nov 30, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was written for Adrienne Maree Brown by Adrienne Maree Brown. It was an excuse to interview people she likes and admires, and and excuse to talk about how woke she is.

I'm not saying that's a bad thing. On the contrary, sex positivity is something that is sorely lacked. Sex isn't something a lot of people are comfortable talking about... even with their romantic partner(s). And there were some bits in this book I enjoyed: the pole dancer who loves what they do; the unpacking of polygamy
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Thais Mather
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
This book was a major miss for me. I think it had a wonderful foundation of ideas, but never culminated into a fully formed text. Super scattered and many assumptions made; about sex, consent, and queer culture. I felt like it offered a skim of all of these topics- while actually leaving someone who lives these identities feeling kinda violated. It is a slice of life for this particular time- perhaps a slice that isn’t appealing or particularly thoughtful or researched. Where is the editor? What ...more
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 vulnera
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 29, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book might have been really great if the author was able to string coherent thoughts together and write in a linear, cohesive fashion which followed the rules of logic. Instead, she wrote paragraphs with broad sweeping assertions which she neglected to support with examples or arguments. Based on fact one, she would then say therefore, totally unrelated fact two. If my life experience happened to support her assertions I found myself nodding along, but if not, then I was wondering how the h ...more
Leigh Kramer
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
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. I’d recommend it to anyone who works in a helping profession.

There is a lot of compassion and grace around trauma and how peop
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism, favorites
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.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Austin Brown
Mar 31, 2022 rated it liked it
The thesis statement of the book was “how do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience?” However, upon finishing it, I think the mission statement would better be written as “how do we make the most pleasurable human experience into social justice?” This is a fine goal imo (politicize sex!), but not what I was told the subject of the book would be, and that is incredibly disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m here for Uses Of The Erotic. I just feel like the idea behind that t ...more
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 di
Joy Messinger
[3.5 stars] A collection of essays on various facets of pleasure and desire, curated primarily through a Black queer feminist lens. For me, this book was a mixed reading experience. I connected with a number of points that she raised in the introduction but am not sure if what followed met that promise. A big chunk of the essays are taken from her 2017/2018 Bitch Media columns, so if you're an avid reader of the print and online content like I am, it may seem repetitive. I appreciated how often ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know how much I needed to read this. ...more
Linnae Chau Schroeder
what a fitting book to start off 2021! this is a chonky read, but well worth it. there is so much to learn about how we can make room for pleasure in our lives all the time, and adrienne maree brown + all the book contributors start to open that door for us. if you felt called by audre lorde's uses of the erotic, this book will take you further along different pathways about what it means to experience pleasure and then demand no less than a pleasurable, fulfilling life.

i feel particularly call
Jan 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
3.5? this was overall enjoyable, but i wanted a lot more in many ways. a lot of my thoughts are worded well in this review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

i wish it’d engaged more w actual politics, maybe a little more theory. there are still so many avenues to be explored and i felt like some of them weren’t given the attention they deserve. maybe it’s partly my straightedge-ness, but i really would’ve loved more exploration of how bodily autonomy doesn’t always mean drug use, and act
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
Rona Akbari
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 worl
Anna Levitt
Jan 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Wow wow wow. It took me almost six months to read this book because I spent so much time underlining and trying to soak up the dense goodness in little chunks. Reading this book and learning about pleasure activism has changed the way that I interact with my own desire, my body, and the communities that I am grateful to be apart of. I cried when I finished it. Everyone should read Pleasure Activism.
rosa guac
a liberatory, healing text that orients and prioritizes pleasure as a way to lead revolutions (internally and externally). what a restorative book that adm gifted to all of us: a text that i know i'll revisiting to remind myself that leading my life with pleasure will be joyous to not only myself, but also to others.

this book fed my curiosity, my yearning for more radical perspectives on how to simply live(!), and my ultimate goal to find myself (like really find myself)

"center pleasure as an
Not the book I thought it was going to be. But like all good things, it landed on my lap just when I needed it. Stretching, funny, provoking, heartbreaking. I need to broaden my meanings of 'erotic' and 'pleasure' - cause now I understand that I am working towards these 2 ideas in my work. Lots of unlearning to do. ...more
Mar 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I thought this was an edited book of essays about the revolutionary value of pleasure. And I guess it sort of is. I enjoyed most of it. Many pieces are written by Adrienne Marie brown, and I like her work. The other contributors are great also. My only complaint I guess would be—not that it’s repetitive (although it is a little), but just that the short format doesn’t quite get into a lot of ideas too deeply. I had hoped that pleasure wouldn’t be conflated with sexuality too much, but it sort of ...more
Jun 16, 2019 rated it liked it
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...
Amani Ariel
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Oh — fantastic, delicious, magical. A constellation of thoughtful and candid and warm and funny and sexy voices. Grateful the book came into my life when it did.

I enjoyed the burlesque and sex work essays, as well as the essay about pleasure over sixty and the essay on being the second (in non-monogs relationship woo woo), and finally the deeply charming “Are you there, goD? It’s me, Day” by Holiday Simmons. I thought brown’s writing was gentle and bright, and I adored every time her voice appea
Feb 28, 2021 rated it liked it
This book is separated into a variety of essays and interviews, as well as a few poems/art pieces that explore the politics of "pleasurable experiences", mostly exploring the politics of sex and drugs. The passages were a mixed bag for me- some I really enjoyed such as "the radical gratitude spell" poem, others (such as some of the interviews) just didn't land as powerfully for me. Diverse perspectives were not only included but brought to the forefront as different authors had their own passage ...more
Isabella Maria Jayme
A friend recommended this book (and Adrienne Maree Brown) to me very recently, and I'm so happy she did. AMB's voice and message is refreshing, honest, and open. She emphasizes the realities and struggles of race and identity in our society, and at the same time writes with an overwhelming amount of hope and love.

These essays, poems, and interviews focus on emotional and erotic pleasure and how necessary pleasure is not just in life, but in organizing and healing. She brings together the voices
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adrienne maree brown is the author of Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is the cohost of the How to Survive the End of the World and Octavia’s Parables podcasts. adrienne is rooted in Detroit.

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