What We Are Watching: THE PRINCIPLES OF PLEASURE
How did you learn about sex and pleasure? From an awkward teacher uncomfortably talking about it in “health” class? From reading Playboy or watching porn? As clueless as many men are about women’s anatomy and what gives them pleasure, women can be equally clueless, mainly because of what society has taught them about sex. Speaking generally, the way many of us have been taught about sex tends to focus on procreation (heteronormativity), genitals and their anatomy, and risk. Pleasure is oftentimes not even part of the education we receive.
THE PRINCIPLES OF PLEASURE is a docuseries on Netflix that covers women’s pleasure and the science behind it. This 3-part limited series, directed by Niharika Desai and narrated by actress Michelle Buteau, is eye-opening and a revolutionary attempt to equip women with knowledge about their bodies, empowering them to take ownership of their own desires. While appreciating that it should not be our sole responsibility to figure out the key to good sex, the show offers some genuine educational lessons that we can use to teach ourselves to give, receive and enjoy pleasure.
Even better? One of our favorite award-winning authors, Emily Nagoski, and her book, “Come As You Are” make an appearance in the show (there is even a workbook that allows you to apply the book's groundbreaking research and understanding of why and how women's sexuality works to everyday life). Emily is an American sex educator and researcher and also a Director of wellness education at Smith College. Her book is a New York Times bestseller and will transform the way you look at your sex life. This book is a customer (and staff) favorite and we struggle to keep it stocked but we currently have copies in the shop and online so grab one before they sell out again!
A favorite moment from the show is when Nagoski shows us how to increase our body confidence so that we can see ourselves as a more sexual person by recommending we stand in front of the mirror (or use a hand-held mirror) and compliment the things we love daily. This idea is such a beautiful and compassionate suggestion and gives us all the good feels.
The show also covers something we strongly believe is critical to any healthy sexual experience: consent. The show takes us through how to properly ask for and give consent, without any surface-level analogies. They also discuss how early experiences of trauma warp our perceptions of sex, which ultimately can lead to a struggle with giving, receiving, and turning down consent.
The element of consent in the show is so important. 97% of women surveyed in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment, including sexual assualt, with 96% not reporting those situations because of the belief that it would not change anything. “We live in a world where women feel like they need to say ‘yes’ to everything or ‘no’ to everything and that’s not where great sex happens Great sex requires that clarity of communication that grants everytone permission to [ask for what they need specifically],” says Nagoski, further explaining how this missing piece often results in women “consenting” to sex they don’t want.What THE PRINCIPLES OF PLEASURE does really well is walk audiences through the progress we have seen in the study of sex and pleasure while highlighting that there are still giant gaps in the education we receive. It showcases how valuable research into the health benefits of pleasure could be, if only they were more widely approved. It also highlights how many roadblocks women and people with vulvas face in accessing pleasure - from shame to misinformation to misogyny. It is a cycle we, at Vespertine, are trying so hard to break and we hope you will join us in this mission. Let us know if you watch the show and what your thoughts are! We always love to hear from our customers.