The “sensuality doula” on reframing pleasure as self-care.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Writer, activist, and self-described “sensuality doula” Brianne Patrice is a force for good — and feel-good rituals — in the wellness and self-care arena. As the executive director of Sad Girls Club (founded by lightworker Elyse Fox), Patrice has been a long-time advocate for mental health and building community for Black women and people of color.
But, she isn’t stopping there. As the founder of TwentyNineThirty, Patrice is cultivating a safer and braver space for sensual healing — all the while making room for tender (and previously taboo) techniques for achieving peak self-love. We checked in with her to talk about how (and why) we should all come along for the ride.
Why is connecting with our sensuality a tool of self-care?
We’re all looking for the Divine, but when we dismiss our senses as unwanted distractions or uncomfortable reminders of our humanness, we miss her. Our senses are our connection to all things that are holy. This work is so deeply personal and spiritual. And connecting to our sensuality means that we are learning [about] ourselves, our ancestors, and our environment. We are of the Earth and in no way are we separate from her.
What’s pleasure mean to you?
Pleasure for me is addressing the totality of one’s humanity. It means attuning to both our sensual and sexual pleasure, because the two are not mutually exclusive. You can have one without the other, as most of us [have probably experienced]. But, when married together, the two awaken such a mind-bending power attaching us to things like joy, abundance, health, wealth, ease, creativity, peace, stillness and all of the other things one wishes to align themselves with. Pleasure is activating.
Why is pleasure essential — versus negotiable — to our soulcare and power?
Pleasure is healing. As we get older, so many of us immediately think to “put away childish things” — and that’s okay because it’s not our fault. We were trained to do so. [Many of us] were trained that pleasure doesn’t exist outside of sex, and that sex doesn’t exist outside of marriage.
On a micro level, there are so many of us [who] are unaware of what brings us everyday pleasure without immediately thinking of the sexual. And yes, sex is important: I myself enjoy it, but imagine how the physical act of sex could be much more enjoyable if we knew what it meant to invite pleasure into even the mundane things of life.
Why do we lose touch with this part of ourselves?
I just recently led a workshop on pleasure mapping and we got into some of the things that separates us from our sacred pleasure. We live in a society that constantly hypersexualizes women’s bodies, but only for the pleasure of men. Things like “church trauma” and sex-related trauma disconnects us from our pleasure. And, of course, pleasure shaming. It’s okay for us to talk about what we do like so long as it fits within this bracket of what society deems acceptable. But, the moment we step outside that window, we are labeled as weird, freaks, or inappropriate, which reinforces that guilt and shame we are actively working to free ourselves from.
What are some of your favorite ways to celebrate your own body?
I always talk about my love of sensual self-portraiture. I am a plus-size and curvy woman; have been for as long as I can remember. And though I have always known myself to be a pretty girl — I mean, I really am fine, LOL — my confidence in my body was not always there. Photographing myself, though, either clothed or naked, has allowed me to develop a deeper appreciation for her.
This body that has gotten through abuse, has seen me through motherhood, and held me through heartbreak. She deserves to be seen [and] provided the same love and tenderness that she gives me, daily. So, standing in front of the mirror, or stepping in front of a camera to admire my stretch marks and thick thighs; to take in the arch of my feet and back; [or] to admire the softness of my skin and belly has created a celebration within the both of us.
Self-pleasure (a.k.a., solo sex) is another way I’ve grown to love my outer being. Combining breathwork with solo sex and making note of how my body responds to its own touch is my body creating its own language that only she and I can speak.
“Sensuality self-care kits” are such a cool part of your community’s lexicon. Can you give us a taste of what one might include?
Working through each of your senses honestly boils down to a question of “what.” What are you touching? What — or who — is touching you? What are you smelling? What are you eating? What are you listening to? And what are you looking at?
If I’m focusing on touch, I might play around with certain fabrics, changing my bed linen, indulging into body or face oils, lotion, and the like. If I’m thinking about taste, what foods make my taste buds dance? If my focus is sound, maybe it is listening to the birds chirp in the morning, listening to the sounds of the wind or the rain, trying a new genre of music, or even just the sound of my own voice and noticing its peaks and valleys when switching from subject to subject. If my focus is sight, immediately thinking about my environment, my home that is also my sanctuary, and [whether that] pleases me upon looking [at it]. And if my focus is smell, which scents do I enjoy? [I’ll play with perfume], filling my room with eucalyptus, lavender, or any other fragrant flower. Or maybe, I’ll light a candle or burn some incense.
What gifts and strengths can we unlock when we’re more in touch with our sensuality?
There is quite, literally, nothing a woman cannot do when more in touch with her sacred, sensual self. Our worlds become more colorful and playful. We become more expressive and confident, and that transcends into how we connect to our value and our self-worth. We quickly learn and can identify what doesn’t fit or should not be. And then, we have the language, the strength, and the capacity to demand and ask for more.
How can you incorporate sensuality into your wellness plan?