'I asked anonymous women what pleasure really looks like to them - minus the guilt.'

You know what I’m putting in the bin this year, aside from the majority of 2020 and Locky’s bad chest tattoo? I’m chucking out the phrase ‘guilty pleasure,’ or more to the point I’m throwing away the notion that pleasure should be laden with guilt.  

I’m proudly owning the joy that The Bachelorette, Harry Styles’ pearls, and putting Maltesers in my popcorn bucket at the movies gives me for no other reason than they make me feel good. And I refuse to feel bad for feeling good anymore.

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In 2017 I started writing a sexy, romantic comedy novel about a woman in her mid-thirties who looks around at her life and realises she isn’t happy. She’s done all of the ‘right’ things, ticked all of the boxes, and she still isn’t content. So, she begins to interrogate her life and consider the things that actually bring her joy, which results in her embarking on a pleasure quest.

When I began this thorough analysis into pleasure, I posted an anonymous survey asking women to tell me what more pleasure in their lives might look like. And I was fascinated by the answers – things like wearing a bold coloured lipstick, wearing what they wanted, being the first on the dance floor, leaving their relationship, having more orgasms, or wearing lingerie.

It wasn’t grand trips to the Maldives, or shagging Zac Efron – these women knew that pleasure was possible, that these small, actionable things were in their reach and would make them feel good… and yet, still they didn’t do them.  

It’s wild to me that we mindlessly trust the oppressive systems that are built to tell us how we should look, behave, and what we should and shouldn’t enjoy. 

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🌷When you heal old wounds and feel light as fuck. ⁣ Let go of that shit...it is heavy.🌷⁣ ⁣ Also, black and white photos aren’t my jam...but I love anything where women support other women. I am buoyed by so many bad ass, incredible, formidable women. I nominate everyone. Share all of the photos of your joy, your gloriousness, you feeling like a babe...or not...share whatever you fucking well please. Share because your Instagram is your space and and you don’t need permission to share your face or thoughts or feelings. I want to see it all, all the bloody time. It is valid. You are valid. You giant babe. Yup. ⁣ ⁣⁣ 🌷⁣⁣ Dress: @asos ⁣⁣ Earrings: @shibuyamoon ⁣⁣ 🌷

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If we watch Real Housewives, love Taylor Swift, or wear our pyjamas to Woolies we have been programmed to feel shame. To justify our choices with a caveat of guilty pleasure, or, to keep these things secret entirely to avoid inevitable judgment. 

And I say, no more. 

Apparently, the sale of romance novels boomed when e-readers were released because people could be discreet about their love of reading stories of people shagging on a rug by a crackling fire. 

We undermine constantly the sexual experience and pleasure of women. You need only look at the earliest iterations of sexual education in schools where we teach young men about wet dreams, and young girls about menstruation. 

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Obviously, the patriarchy is to blame for most of the systems that are built to oppress women, and the messaging that we should be small, selfless and silent. 

Leaning into pleasure means knocking up against these systems, because the first step is believing that you are entitled to feeling good. 

Then, it requires you to trust in your desires and fantasies enough to act on them, to make them real. It requires self-belief and vulnerability – things we’re not taught. So, here’s the lesson: you are deserving, and your longing is legitimate.  

Noni Blake, the main protagonist in my novel, is a bisexual, fat, people pleasing woman who wants more. More adventure, more joy, more romance, more orgasms... more of, well, everything.

And the story is of her actually figuring out how to get all of these things. Of how she feels the shame and guilt we’ve been programmed to feel, but learns to trust her intuition, to back herself and get what she wants. It is unashamedly an uplifting, sexy, romantic romp that I’m hoping will inspire people to put their own pleasure at the forefront of their mind, and then find ways to make every experience in their lives more pleasing. 

Doing what feels good to you is a revolutionary act. 

So, start small... dance to your favourite song, wear the thing you only wear on special occasions, or say no to the thing you don’t want to do. You are actually an expert on what you want, you just need to start trusting yourself. And get rid of the guilt. You don’t need it. 

Here’s to you totally doing / eating / buying / kissing / proclaiming / leaving / tattooing / shagging or saying the things you want. Because you really should. 

Follow Claire on Instagram @claireandpearl. Her novel It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake is available in bookstores now.