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Troubleshooting Pleasure

June 2015.

I was a sophomore in college in India when it struck me that my desires could NEVER be satiated: that in my mind, the fetishes I had conjured, could NEVER be brought to fruition. Been brought up in a sex negative environment, I was taught to fear my own sexual being and was shamed whenever I felt slightly erotic.

It wasn’t until I came across a Ted Talk entitled, “The Art of Seduction” that I experienced my own erotic awakening. Lost in the sensuality of her movements, the rhythms the language adopted, the context upon which the Talk was structured, Dr. Seema Anand truly helped Troubleshoot my Pleasure.

We often course through life as we self-doubt, overtly criticize, and structure several mental and emotional stresses around our sensuality, sexuality and pleasure. This burden of appropriating oneself with societal expectations often overshadows one’s basal desires. At times, cultural hegemonic interpretations of sexual expressions prey upon those overshadowed needs, cursing them to into a coffin, as we live the nun’s lifestyle.

Pleasure is ours to prioritize, in whichever format we choose to do so. Cloaking it under a veil will only deny us the gratification we owe to ourselves.

Every category of pleasure we intend to harness, be it the Sensual (incl sexual, health, novelty), Material, Competency/skill, Platonic, Fame, Influence, Pious/Spiritual Service, Malevolence, Memory, Imagination, Anticipation (eagerness), Association (expecting), Relief or Intellectual, begins with a simple mantra:


The mechanism in the brain that controls one’s sexual responses is referred to as the Dual-control Model, consisting of:

  • Sexual Accelerator (Gas Pedal)

  • Sexual Decelerator (Brake)

Sexually relevant information in the environment (everything one hears, sees, tastes, smells, touches or imagines) is ID’d and coded in the brain as I’m turned on (coded by the Gas) or as I’m turned off (coded by the Brake). The process of getting aroused is a Dual process that involves turning on the ons and turning off the offs. The nervous systems activated here are the sympathetic (accelerator) and the parasympathetic (brakes).

A majority of our issues with pleasure can be solved upon understanding one’s own Sexual Excitation System (SE) and Sexual Inhibition System (SI). Please refer to the Sexual Temperament Questionnaire to obtain an idea on one’s Erotic Signatures. While you're at this stage, you might want to find out what your Erotic Blueprint is.

We often stimulate the brakes more than the gas pedals. Just a single turn-off can be responsible for hitting pause on the entire arousal mechanism. Hence, in order to access your authentic sexual being, one needs to understand their Inhibition and Excitation Systems. There are several brake-systems that inhibit our arousal: it is any stimulus that our brain considers as a threat, be it the fear of getting caught, getting pregnant, body image issues or even an upbringing in a sexually conservative environment.

There are essentially two brake systems:

  • Foot brake (Fear of Performance Consequence)

  • Hand brake (Fear of Performance Failure)

As strategies for turning off the offs do not differentiate upon which brake is being hit, one can simply consider the brake system as one unit in order to understand the neural mechanisms underlying arousal states.

Enter the Nucleus Accumbens (NAcc), the area of the brain regulating the excitatory and inhibitory signals.

  • When the front of the NAcc is being stimulated, it triggers the social approach and curiosity-like behaviours.

  • However, when one triggers the back of the NAcc, it elicits stress, threat induced and avoidance-like behaviours.

  • When we are in a calm, peaceful state of mind, the social approach and curiosity-like behaviours that occur when the front of the NAcc is stimulated, also present themselves when the back is stimulated.

  • And as we would have it, when in stress, the brain interprets almost every stimulation to the NAcc as threatening.

So, we should always create a context for the brain to interpret the world as a pleasurable, safe and a sexy space. For most individuals that context exists under low stress, high affection and high trust. However, these are not the keys that lock your access to your authentic sexual self.

The keys to that door are Confidence and Joy. To have confidence is to know what is true. It is to be aware of the fact that one has a brake alongside the accelerator. Joy is to love your brakes and accelerators. We should turn inwards, towards ourselves, look at ourself with curiosity and accept who we are in totality.

Having accepted ourselves just the way we are, here are some tricks and tips to troubleshoot pleasure.

The body contains several erogenous zones, each of which can be triggered to elicit arousal.

And many more..

Indulging in sensual touch or utilizing tools to enhance sensation from candles, temperature play, flavoured accessories, blindfolds to nipple clamps, ASMR, erotic hypnosis, paddles, floggers, Wartenberg wheels, can be quick fixes to harnessing one’s raw energy.

Alternatives such as mindfulness, tantric heart meditations and/or sensual plays also heighten arousal states. It is important to ask ourselves what we intend to feel.

Each of these emotive states offers a peek into the Yes/No/Maybe checklist that elucidates subcategories under BDSM play (Bondage and Suspension, Impact/Percussion, Sexual Activity, Sensation Play, Breath Play, Humiliation, Body Part Torture, Fetishes, Role-plays, Service and restrictive behaviors, Voyeurism and Exhibitionism, and/or Bodily fluids and functions).

To that effect, if I were to indulge in let’s say role plays, it's the creation of a character helps me break free of the monotonous routine I am often trapped in. From the classics: Nurse, Doctor, Witch, Kidnapper to some ingenious ones such as Mad Scientist, Burlesque Bunny, Lion Tamer, Biker, there exists no limits to our collective powers of imagination.

So take charge, be confident, prioritize your sensual needs and join me in spicing up your pleasurable routine.


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