The Silent “P”:

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The Silent “P”:

Being sexually healthy isn’t just about not being sick. It’s about acknowledging that one of the key reasons people engage in sexual activity is because it brings pleasure.

Sexual Pleasure

The World Association for Sexual Health defines sexual pleasure as “the physical and/or psychological satisfaction and enjoyment derived from shared or solitary erotic experiences including thoughts, fantasies, dreams, emotions, and feelings.”

Pleasure is more than a sensation; it is a way of experiencing the sensory world. Not only does it engage the senses, but it also releases what is commonly referred to as “feel good” hormones.

Health Benefits

The numerous health benefits of orgasms have been well documented, but what about the benefits of experiencing pleasure in general?

Enjoying something we find pleasurable releases both dopamine and serotonin and provokes the feeling of joy. Experiencing joy is associated with boosting the immune system and relieving/preventing stress and pain.

Dopamine is directly linked to pleasure because it’s part of the brain’s reward/reinforcement process. The sensation of pleasure comes from the release of this hormone in the brain that triggers a “rush” to the body that we experience favorably. Dopamine helps regulate things like learning, attention and sleep.

Serotonin is mainly known as the mood-boosting hormone. It is associated with the feeling of euphoria and plays a role in depression if there is not enough of it. Medication is not the only way to treat low levels of this hormone though, both exercise and sunlight are natural ways to increase the release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin helps regulate things like memory, digestion, sleep, and stress.

Solo Pleasure Mapping

Pleasure mapping is a practice that involves finding what feels good and pleasurable.

Masturbating is a common way that individuals explore their bodies to discover what they enjoy sexually, but it’s only a piece of the pleasure map.

The goal is to find all the sensations that bring you pleasure and make you feel good, including non-sexual things like choice of music or lighting preferences.

Pivoting Partnered Pleasure

Experiencing partnered pleasure can be a bit more complicated, especially considering we put such a large emphasis on orgasming.

Yes, orgasms are nice, but it shouldn’t be the end-all goal of sex because it can disrupt the experience of pleasure. Viewing orgasm as the ‘final destination’ of sex distracts us from being in the moment and diminishes our ability to fully embody the sensory experience of pleasure.

Communication is key to any relationship. Open and honest discussions around desires and dislikes are important for sexual partners to set boundaries and share what brings them pleasure.

Pleasure is an important part of your overall health and wellbeing. Find a healthcare provider who isn’t afraid to discuss it with you.