Pleasure Practices: Welcome to the Age of Pleasure!

Janelle Monáe’s latest album invites us to explore physical and sexual pleasure of all sorts.
Photo of Sami laughing while posing with an illustration of Black breasts from inside Janelle Monae's album held over her own chest.
Photo by Sami Schalk.

Janelle Monáe’s latest album invites us to explore physical and sexual pleasure of all sorts.

This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.

Y’aaaaaaall. Have you listened to the new Janelle Monáe album The Age Of Pleasure yet!? I’ve talked here before about the pleasures of deep listening to an album and ever since The Age Of Pleasure came out on, aptly, 6/9, I have been listening to it on loop every morning as I get ready: every drive, every kayak, every swim, every house chore, every—well, you get the point. I’ve been listening to it A LOT. I am listening to it as I write this.

Janelle Monáe’s The Age Of Pleasure is unquestionably an artistic expression of pleasure activism, centering Black, queer, trans pleasures of all sorts: physical, sexual, romantic, sensual, aesthetic & more. Monáe (she/they) has referred to themself as a “free ass motherfucker” and their public discussions of being Black, queer, non-binary, and polyamorous over the past few years have brought me, a Black, queer, polyamorous femme, immense pleasure and joy. It’s so rare to see so many aspects of myself reflected in media or a celebrity. When Monáe released the first single from the album, “Float,” in February I was excited by the general vibe of the song and began listening to it whenever I was in or on the water. It quickly became a personal anthem and as Monáe asked us on social media teasers if we were ready for The Age Of Pleasure (the album, the era, the movement, all of the above), my answer of course was a resounding fuck yes.

As a pleasure activist I was eagerly intrigued to see where Monáe would take her art this time. Throughout their career, Monáe has been a world builder through both their music and the accompanying videos, from their initial time-traveling alter ego Cindi Mayweather to the futuristic emotion picture and album Dirty Computer. But in May when she released the HOT AF BLACK QUEER FEMME NAKED NAKED NAKED (really needed to emphasize that) music video for “Lipstick Lover,” I knew we were in for a deliciously Black queer pleasure experience.

If it’s not already apparent, the album did not disappoint, y’all. I stayed up late to listen the moment it was released and cannot stop playing it. I even got the limited edition indie record shop edition from Strictly Discs. In honor of The Age Of Pleasure, I’ve created a list of pleasure practices referenced in the album. If you have not listened yet, go do that! It’s a quick 32 minutes with each song blending smoothly into the next. It’s sexy summer music with distinct Caribbean influences that will make you wanna dance and get naked with the ones you love. So this month, be a free-ass motherfucker and try out a few items that speak to you from this non-exhaustive list of the pleasures mentioned in The Age Of Pleasure:

  • Swimming
  • Wearing clothes that makes you feel “haute”
  • Shaking ass
  • Wining 
  • Vogueing
  • Stripping
  • Smoking marijuana (legalize it already Wisconsin! It’s what the people want)
  • French kisses
  • Neck kisses
  • Neck bites
  • Affirmations in the mirror
  • Shibari rope play
  • Wearing lipstick
  • Being naked
  • Being naked in a pool
  • Being naked outside
  • Flirting
  • Dirty Talk
  • Foreplay
  • Celebrating your accomplishments
  • Wearing high heels with no shirt
  • Sending sexy pictures
  • Giving and getting head
  • Masturbation
  • Eating delicious food
  • Barhopping with friends
  • Sex in the shower
  • Sex in the jacuzzi
  • Good wine
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
  • Sharing pleasure with loved ones
  • Threesomes
  • Polyamory (if you are seriously interested in exploring non-monogamy, check out this reading list And do some reading, thinking and communicating with your partner or potential partners before diving into non-monogamous dating)

And remember, badass bitches know that we don’t yuck each others’ yum. Just because something on this list doesn’t bring you pleasure doesn’t mean it’s bad, undesirable, or wrong for someone else. We can all be free ass motherfuckers and badass bitches in our own unique ways!

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