Is it so obvious that pleasure is important? Could we function without it? How does
pleasure actually serve us, and what can get in the way of that purpose?
In this article, my intention is to take a close look at the different benefits and
advantages of pleasure, and the different causes and situations which get in the way
of experiencing pleasure fully. I will also touch on massage therapy and how erotic
massage—which focuses on pleasure—interacts with these issues.
The Importance of Pleasure
Touch and pleasure are vital to our physical, mental and emotional health.
Benefits of pleasure include an improved cardiovascular health and immune system. The release of ‘feel-good hormones,’ such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, help to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing feelings of positivity and happiness. Intimate touch and connection can also help to improve self-confidence and improve one’s appreciation of self and others.
Connecting to the body as a source of pleasure can be incredibly healing. It can help ground a person who has dissociated from their body as a result of trauma. It also helps relieve physical and emotional stress and tension. The more we connect with ourselves as a source of pleasure, the more it improves relationship we have with ourselves. This ultimately improves the relationship we have with the world.
This may surprise some of the readers, and sound very familiar to others, but as important as pleasure is to our lives, many people experience various difficulties in experiencing pleasure fully and freely.
Pressure to Perform as a Barrier to Pleasure
The fact that sexuality is scarcely discussed openly and sincerely, in combination with the influence of pornography on modern society, has led to the creation of rigid ideas about how we should behave during an erotic encounter. Focusing on how we are observed and perceived by our erotic counterparts and the experience of tension and anxiety to show up a certain way, moves us away from experiencing pleasure ourselves.
The pressure to perform, unspoken expectations, and a lack of clear communication with our partners creates undue stress on both sides. This does not stem from porn culture alone, but can also be a result of trauma, self-confidence issues, education, social conditioning, and the thoughts we have about ourselves, our partners, and sexuality.
The Difficulty of Receiving
Tapping into a deep state of erotic pleasure can prove challenging for many people. The experience of deep relaxation and surrender can feel either inaccessible completely, or challenging for anything longer than a short moment.
We encounter feelings of guilt or shame that is often related to societal and cultural conditioning, previous experiences, or trauma. In these moments of unrest, the sudden thought that we are taking too much and being selfish crosses our minds. These feelings easily become exponential—the more pleasure is offered the more the discomfort intensifies.
In the lovemaking game, feelings of discomfort when receiving are often interpreted as an impulse to put the focus on our partners, and redirect our attention and action to their pleasure and away from ours.
It’s important to note that the difficulty with relaxing and surrendering to receiving pleasure—while unfortunately not often talked about—is actually not at all uncommon, and can be worked through with a variety of approaches and modalities.
When trauma occurs, be it physical or psychological, a single event or ongoing situation, our nervous system responds by going into a fight, flight, or freeze response.
There is some level of emotional impact to every physical impact to the body, and vice versa. Each stressful or traumatic event can manifest itself in different ways in our physical body, which can result in our body developing tension, pain, hyper-sensitivity, or numbness. These trauma-related sensations or numbness can prevent us from fully experiencing pleasure, and can occur all over the body, especially common with the genitals.
Trauma often imprints the idea that we are not good enough or worthy of enjoyable things in life. This powerful, limiting belief can make us deny ourselves from our birthright of pleasure, to actively seek it and live our lives fully.
When There is No Trust
The feeling of safety is the foundation of making healthy connections with others, experiencing trust and intimacy, and authentically expressing ourselves in the world.
We need to feel safe in order to be able to feel pleasure, and as such, the experience of pleasure is also an indicator of safety and a well-regulated nervous system.
Feeling trust and empathy towards another person also requires a degree of vulnerability which is sometimes difficult to access and allow. This can be related to the person we’re with, the circumstances, and other factors we bring into the sexual play situation.
When we’re unable to make an honest trusting connection with the person we’re with, we’re held back from fully feeling pleasure.
How Can Erotic Massage Support Your Pleasure Practice?
A session with a professional erotic massage provider removes many of the barriers of performance and reciprocity, since by definition, the client is there to receive and the usual need to perform or reciprocate is out the of the way. There is an opportunity for a new imprinted experience of relaxing and receiving pleasure, which can be later modelled with other partners.
Learning to relax and receive pleasure will also support us in being more attentive and intentional lovers when we pleasure our partners, coming from an authentic place of desiring their pleasure and not from one of performance or pressure of exchange.
What to Expect from an Erotic Massage
Erotic Massage is an intimate experience that requires you to surrender to benefit from its effect. In order to surrender, you need to feel safe, comfortable, and you need to trust the practitioner. Therefore, it is recommended that you do your research beforehand, such as looking at the practitioner’s website, including reading client reviews, and finding out about their qualifications. Ensure you gain as much clarity and information before the day of the session.
Erotic Massage can include a full body massage with pressure from hands, feet, and even using the entire naked body-on-body process. While very common and considered an integral part of erotic massage, genital touch and orgasm are likely to be offered, but don’t have to be a part of your session.
Orgasmic pleasure is of course highly erotic, and in most cases, is considered an integral part of an erotic massage session. Experiencing touch and pleasure throughout the entire body and not focusing only on the genitals can offer a deeper, more profound pleasure experience.
The safety of an erotic massage session provides a container for exploration and new experiences. You might be surprised to find new and unexpected orgasmic reactions from new parts and areas of your body, or in response to a particular kind of touch.
Some practitioners of bodywork choose to go through additional education about trauma and are trained to respond to the potentially intense situations where a client experiences a response to touch which is trauma-related. Such practitioners are ‘trauma informed’ and will mention that in their descriptions.
If it’s your intention to address some trauma-related issues in your session, or if you have a concern about a potential trauma response which may occur, it’s advisable that you seek out a trauma-informed practitioner. Some erotic masseurs and masseuses are trauma informed and it’s advisable to discuss this prior to scheduling your session.
This won’t necessarily make your session about the trauma, but discussing it in advance with the erotic massage provider can inform your choice of practitioner.
Pleasure in Erotic Massage vs Tantric Massage
All practitioners providing tantric massage or erotic massage work in an individual way and the outcome of the session, whether it’s purely about pleasure or issue-based work, will depend on your and their intention, unique style, and qualifications.
With erotic massage, there’s a clear and specific intention to work with and through pleasure, mainly including sexual and orgasmic pleasure. Erotic massage practitioners may also offer issue-based work, depending on their interest and therapeutic training.
Tantric sessions involve pleasurable experiences; however, pleasure is not the only focus. One of the differences between erotic massage and tantric massage is that genuine tantric massage practitioners take it upon themselves to facilitate a healing process for the client, for example, through the movement of sexual energy, or by combining trauma release through de-armouring techniques.
Sometimes, tantric and erotic massage techniques overlap and can address the same issues.
Find Erotic Massage and Tantric Massage Practitioners
As you can see, the full experience of pleasure, sexual or otherwise, has many benefits and is often overlooked. My hope is that this article has inspired you to engage more deeply with pleasure awareness and pleasure practice, be it with yourself, a partner, or a professional.