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Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,064 ratings  ·  116 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 ...more
Paperback, 441 pages
Published February 13th 2019 by AK Press
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 ·  1,064 ratings  ·  116 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 ...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 ...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 ...more
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
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, feminism
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
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.
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
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
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.
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know how much I needed to read this.
Katrina Hamann
3.75 stars. More thoughts on this later! Just need to enjoy the fact that I FINALLY finished this one
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2019
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
Sarah Ervin
Mar 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Mary Margaret
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
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...
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Bree González
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"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."
Nishta Mehra
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book landed in my life at what felt very much like the perfect time, thanks to the library holds shelf! I found the framework of Brown's thinking to be incredibly powerful and personally valuable when it comes to reframing concepts like desire, pleasure, and activism itself. I enjoyed Brown's writing voice and her transparency as an author/thinker and enjoyed the sections written by her very much. Some of the guest-authored sections were also valuable to a point, though they seemed to have ...more
Ai Miller
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There was a lot of this I liked quite a bit/wanted to read more about. Some of it felt disjointed or like the topics Brown was writing about/interviewing people about needed a little more focus. There are lots of good references for further reading in here, though, and I appreciated those a lot. I can't say exactly what didn't click with me; I believe in much of what is in the book, but I also don't know that it felt like it gave me very much to grapple with in the end. Maybe it's a book I would ...more
Polo Lonergan
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book gave me a lot to think about. I'm not the target audience and some of it definitely went way over my head, but I underlined and sticky-tabbed this book so much that I ran out of one of the colours of sticky tabs, which I think says a lot.

I do think this book could have done a better job on trauma, disability, and asexuality but I also think it contains so much about personal perspectives on pleasure that it could never be completely consistent that way.

Might do a longer review on this
Natalie Pitt
This book is an anthology of all the collective works of pleasure activism in the last decade+. It is immense and heavy and hard to get through. I found myself loving the work these ladies have done/are doing and celebrating and basking in their pleasure. I guess I was waiting for it to go deeper and, for example, examine the science of pleasure activism or something. “How many of us can even imagine desire that is liberated from patriarchy?”
Sep 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essay, nonfic, 2019
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.
A solid 4.5, but I’m going to round up.

I almost gave up on this book - there are a few academic essays which I found difficult to read. amb and the wonderful people she’s managed to pull together for this book fill me with such joy and hope and inspiration.

I’ll be returning to this one.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I'm really excited about this book and the books that will come afterward as we collectively learn how to articulate a praxis of pleasure. This book feels like we're just getting started and heading in a really important and empowered direction.
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adrienne maree brown is author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds and the co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements. She is a writer, social justice facilitator, pleasure activist, healer and doula living in Detroit.
“I touch my own skin, and it tells me that before there was any harm, there was miracle.” 5 likes
“Our radical imagination is a tool for decolonization, for reclaiming our right to shape our lived reality.” 4 likes
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