Pleasure principle: ‘Dear Culture’ turns up the heat on summer love

“I wish nothing but empowerment, and really for anyone who is having sex in general,” said Dear Culture Co-Host Shana Pinnock

Black couple lying on bed together
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Trigger warning: Part of this week’s conversation includes the ongoing Bill Cosby case and sexual assault. 

Summer is here and temperatures aren’t just rising outside!

This week on the Dear Culture podcast, our hosts, theGrio Social Media Director Shana Pinnock and theGrio Managing Editor Gerren Keith Gaynor, welcomed special guest and pleasure strategist Lidia Bonilla to talk about keeping sex safe, fun and pleasurable. We’re asking: Dear Culture, are you sexually satisfied?” 

For centuries, conversations around sex and pleasure have been taboo and the source of a lot of heated debate. Pinnock said that when it comes to sex, women face a lot of scrutiny and shame in trying to own their sexuality and own their desires. 

“As a woman, you are conditioned to believe that the pleasure that you’re having comes secondary to men especially cis-hetero situations,” said Pinnock. “People have tried to shame me for how open I am about talking about sex. This is not something I’m going to be shamed about– No one is going to shame me from my experiences.” 

Black couple reading a book on the couch
(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Bonilla, who is also the founder of House of Plume—an intimate lifestyle brand, says pleasure is a birthright and responsibility. The co-founder of Women of Sex Tech, a non-profit organization focused on merging sex and technology, said that although the shame of being sexual and pleasure seeking persists, women have always defied and resisted it.

Bonilla cited women to whom she refers as the “impossible women of history,” which includes Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra and Mary Magdalene

“A lot of powerful women, or women who have done groundbreaking things have done questionable things with their sexuality,” said Bonilla. 

She also added that while there is still plenty of work to be done around destigmatizing and normalizing sex and pleasure, she is starting to notice a cultural shift in attitudes towards the subject. 

“What I’ve noticed is people are more open to talking about it and more open to talking about their curiosity,” said Bonilla.  “There are more terms that people are more comfortable speaking about and they have more of a language to really talk about sex.”

Gaynor said gaining the confidence and comfort to talk openly about sex and sexuality came with time, as he too faced shame as a queer Black man, especially being raised in the Black church. However, overcoming shame and stigma and being communicative with partners, he says, had led to better experiences. 

“There’s a lot of complicated things around sex that I’m still navigating through, but when I do choose to have sex, I have learned to become vocal about what I like or don’t like because at the end of the day no one wants to have boring or unfulfilling sex.” 

Bonilla echoed that sentiment and added that learning to communicate with partners about wants, needs and desires not only leads to better sex, but builds a skillset that has value in other parts of our lives.

“(Vocalizing what you want) builds your self-confidence, it validates your self-worth and that you having a great experience really matters and those are actions that will carry over into other areas of life,” said Bonilla. 

To that end, Bonilla said that while healthy, safe and satisfying sex is important, her goal is to help people claim and own pleasure for themselves no matter what that looks like.

“My work is based on a broad definition of pleasure and sex can be pleasurable, but it’s not the whole gamut of pleasure,” said Bonilla. 

To hear the entire steamy conversation, tune in to the Dear Culture podcast. Now streaming on Apple Podcast, Stitcher and Spotify. 

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