What gives you pleasure?

Justine Toh ponders: What is pleasure? Is it just about desire? Or are there deeper pleasures to be found in the normal gifts of life?

I just took part in the National Pleasure Audit which – perhaps improbably, given the name – turned out to be a pleasurable experience. It’s a survey from Southern Cross University that invites Australians to share about the circumstances in which they feel the varieties of pleasure: gratitude, love, sexual desire, awe, hope, contentment, pride, and joy. Even being greeted by that spectrum of pleasures was itself very satisfying. The news stories I’d seen about the survey intuited that readers would immediately link pleasure with sex. But here was a much broader sweep of smaller, everyday pleasures, which seemed to reveal just how much sex has colonised our concepts. Maybe in the pleasureverse the humble hot bath – and not the hot guy – can be king.

I found myself reflecting on the deep connections I have with my family, friends, and community – connections that make you bleed, sometimes, because they cut so deep. That’s because while these intimacies are rich, they’re not all fun.

There’s so much that doesn’t present as “pleasure”: commitment over the long haul, taking inconveniences in my stride, dragging myself out of bed to help the six-year-old build the Batmobile because Lego is his love language.

Perhaps pleasure isn’t just a feel-good, pick-me-up – but the gateway to meaning and purpose. It can remind us that we’re part of something bigger that is worth our time and our tears.

Whatever the case, I never expected to feel such immense gratitude after filling out a survey. Maybe you will too, once you dwell on what gives you pleasure. Let the researchers know at www.nationalpleasureaudit.com.