Foto: Natália Zajačiková

How Queering Pleasure Can Expand Our Lives

When I first heard the word queer used as a verb, a whole new world opened up for me. At the time, I already identified as queer, but I had not yet realized that queer is both who I am and what I do. This realization has evolved into the constant question and practice of how can I queer my pleasure? Meaning, how can I free my life from the hetero and mononormative notions that don’t align with what I want or with my versions of pleasure? One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through my work as a sex educator is that I’ve been conditioned to see and know myself through the eyes of certain influences that don’t intimately know me.

These spheres of influence, as Euphemia Russell calls them, include: individuals, family, communities, institutions, social norms/structural forces, and spirit/landscape. These all contribute, in some way, to how we form beliefs around our pleasure and sexuality. You may have adopted self-affirming beliefs from sources with the best of intentions, but you’ve also likely adopted ones that try to diminish your sense of self-worth. Some of these sources (capitalism, media, mainstream porn, to name a few) place an agenda on our bodies and beliefs that don’t fit right; that don’t support who we are or what we want to align with.

Queering our pleasure, simply put, is claiming our identity and definition of pleasure bravely and fully. Part of this process is choosing to stay in touch with the pleasure beliefs that feel aligned with our joy as well as unlearn the beliefs that run the risk of burying our joy.

Here are just a few ideas around how to continually orient yourself toward beliefs and practices that ground you in what is important and real; that make you feel more like you (which is up to you, and only you, to decide). I say continually because your pleasure is a living and breathing entity; a body of nuanced joy that will show up as different forms of itself; complex and multi-dimensional just as you are.

Foto: Natália Zajačiková

Lean into curiosity

Have you outgrown it? Did you ever really subscribe to it? Lovingly interrogate how you receive and seek pleasure – what you think you deserve when it comes to pleasure. If it feels sticky or dulls your energy, most likely it was nonconsensually placed upon you by one of those influences. When we can identify the source of a misaligned pleasure belief (or at least identify that it isn’t aligned, period) we can lessen its charge. Its grip on our freedom loosens and we can choose to keep turning toward the practice and mindset of unlearning it. It takes time to repattern these beliefs, so be gentle with yourself along the way and know that even those small releases are largely important.

Expand your definition of sex

Reflecting on my definition of sex has been the most powerful tool for releasing limiting beliefs. When I started taking my sex education into my own hands, I realized that I had been carrying a very narrow definition of sex around with me. Previously, sex meant penetration. But this definition doesn’t support my queerness or the many orientations and preferences out there. 

It can be a liberating process to think about – even write down – what sex means to you. Why not even write your own pleasure manifesto? To see and read about the breadth of your pleasure on paper shows us how much beautiful range we have. What I notice whenever I do this, is that sex is like a river that flows into the boundless ocean of pleasure. Pleasure includes this river and so much more. Here are some examples of what sex can mean:

  • To step out of preordained ways of expressing myself with my partner
  • Gender expression
  • Creating a whole lexicon of sex/pleasure outside of penetration
  • Making out
  • Sexting
  • Sensual touch
  • Kink
  • Bdsm
  • Roleplay 
  • Sharing fantasies
  • Watching ethical porn solo or together
  • Masturbation

There are many more possibilities. These are just a few. Which ones would you include in your definition of sex and pleasure? What would you add? Feel free to share in the comments! You deserve to author your own narrative around sex and pleasure in a way that is exploratory and reaches out across the wide spectrum of who you are.

Call on the power of your senses

Sensuality allows us to belong in our bodies. It centers the sensations and senses that pull us back into presence. What I love about sensuality is that it both exists within sexuality and outside of it. It can be practiced anywhere, any time. Sensations might not always be pleasant but they are always valuable information. Sensations let us know when we are in the presence of pleasure and can also alert us as to when or where our pleasure is being blocked. 

To call in sensuality, think about how you might titillate your five senses.  Smell your favorite scent, chew a delicious bite of food slowly, listen to your favorite music, gaze at something beautiful for a while, tracing its contours and noting its colors. Run your fingers along your skin or clothing, noticing the different textures. You can even ascribe adjectives to the sensations to remain present with them and the moment. Walking in nature is another way to be enveloped by the richness of sensuality all around you.

When we queer our pleasure, we bring abundance back into the picture. And pleasure lives in the arms of abundance. We may not have been able to avoid the harmful messages that have leaked into our system, but we can now choose to rewrite those messages into ones that have our best interests in mind.

Sarah Diedrick


Sarah Diedrick