Pleasure Lineages

Updated: Apr 21

This week I dove into another aspect of pleasure activism, which is the idea of pleasure lineages.

This idea comes from adrienne maree brown’s (amb's) chapter titled “Who taught you to feel good?” in Pleasure Activism: the Politics of Feeling Good. Pleasure lineages are essentially maps of our own histories of our own comfort, satisfaction, and delight. Since each of us learns what ‘pleasure’ means from different people, our definitions and embodied experiences of pleasure all look and feel different. Pleasure lineages help us engage with and better understand our capacities for experiencing joy in multiple aspects of our lives. Pleasure extends beyond sex! It can be found in everyday activities, in feelings and ideas, in relationships, even in solitude.


So pleasure lineages essentially answer the question that adrienne maree brown poses in the beginning of this chapter:

“Who taught you to feel good?”

- (brown, pg. 20)


This week I went to work trying to create an interactive zine that explores and maps pleasure lineages. To start, I condensed adrienne maree brown’s pleasure lineage into a few distinct connections. It looks like this: 

  • Writers like Anais Nin, Alice Walker -> taught her the pleasure of sexual liberation, of desire outside of wanting men, of embracing the queer body

  • Frida Kahlo -> taught her the pleasure of public self-love, curiosity, standing out, truth

  • Aunt Margaret -> taught her the pleasure of fashion and home decor, bright colors and patterns, socks and muumuus

  • Keith Cylar -> taught her the pleasure of being your whole self in professional settings, and flirting

Next, I got to work on creating my own pleasure lineage! I did this based off the prompt in amb’s Hot and Heavy Homework. Check it out below: 



- (brown, pg. 25)


My pleasure lineage looks something like this:

  • Activist friends and idols -> taught me the pleasure of speaking up, or thinking critically, of not taking the first ‘no’ as final

  • My parents and grandmother -> taught me the pleasure of small gatherings, of routine, of non-romantic affection

  • Writers like adrienne maree brown, Roxane Gay, Donna Haraway -> taught me the pleasure of being mindful, of clarity, of queering academia 

It feels incomplete, and I think I could go on for a while and just keep digging deeper. This exercise helped me contemplate which feelings really feel pleasurable, compared to which feelings I have just been socialized or taught to perceive as good feelings. I really loved doing this thought experiment, and it reminded me of the pieces of wisdom that amb lays out in her book. She tells us to remember that we get to define what is pleasurable is for us and our bodies and minds. She tells us to remember that pleasure will change overtime, so approach everything with curiosity. 


She reminds us to ask ourselves: does this activity/object/idea/relationship give me sensations of satisfaction, excitement, joy, or pleasure? And if not, she prompts us to think critically about its role and priority in your life, and to investigate sensations in which pleasure does arise.


I got all of this information from Pleasure Activism: the Politics of Feeling Good, Chapter title: “Who taught you to feel good?” pg. 20 - 30. I’ll say it before and again, please consider purchasing the book yourself (preferably from a black owned bookstore likehttps://www.esowonbookstore.com) because it is a joy to read.


Thank you for reading & I'll see you next week!

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