With Pleasure: Managing Trauma Triggers for More Vibrant Sex and Relationships
“With Pleasure [is] a book that can be beneficial to readers who have experienced trauma, readers who care about people who have experienced trauma, and readers who want to add more joy and comfort to their lives.”
The authors of With Pleasure share the mission of their book in the extended title: to help people deal with the aftermath of trauma so their lives can be richer and more joyous.
The good news is that August McLaughlin and Jamila Dawson succeed admirably in this caring goal.
McLaughlin, a health/sexuality writer and host/producer of the Girl Boner Radio podcast, and Dawson, a licensed sex/relationship therapist/writer/educator, begin with a warm welcome: “There is no particular type of trauma you have to have experienced for this book to support you.” They continue in this supportive tone by stating: “You matter. Your feelings matter.”
The opening “About This Book” section is a very helpful guide; it showcases that the authors have set up their work to be read and reread, as it should be. McLaughlin and Dawson explain the method to their book: “Each chapter of With Pleasure is titled with a phrase or question common among survivors who are feeling stuck in the grasp of trauma.”
The authors go on to comment that since they “began working on this book, the word triggered has been increasingly co-opted by people who prioritize making fun of anyone with different political views . . .”
It is worth noting that McLaughlin’s and Dawson’s care and compassion, which radiate throughout With Pleasure, stand in stark contrast to those (lookin’ at you, Donald Trump Jr.) who seize vulnerability as a means to bully.
In the beginning of the book, McLaughlin shares her personal experience with trauma (“AUGUST: IN HER OWN WORDS”). This is followed by Dawson sharing her thoughts on being a sex therapist (“JAMILA: WHY SEX THERAPY?”). The authors’ first-person narrations feel unstintingly honest. Reading this book does indeed conjure the air of having an ongoing conversation with two women who know a lot about this subject and who want to be of help to others by making their knowledge available.
Throughout With Pleasure, McLaughlin and Dawson share poignant stories from survivors of trauma. Readers who find themselves deeply moved, often to the point of tears, will not be alone. The impact of these stories is enhanced when they are followed by sections titled “Jamila’s Reflections” and, in an equally effective technique, commentary on the stories via dialogue between the authors.
The “Afterword” to With Pleasure, with the subtitle “Our Process with this Book” is also in the form of a dialogue. Again, if readers find themselves thinking they have met two wonderful new friends after reading this section, they will not be alone.
That With Pleasure shares some of its structure with a workbook is appropriate and serves to make the journey for readers encouraging and motivating. Illustrations, charts, and bullet-point lists help to clarify and expand on the subjects being presented. Chapters end with a brief section called “Grounding Exercise” (“Distract yourself. Sometimes mindfulness and presence aren’t what you need in a triggered or activated moment.”).
With Pleasure includes advice for additional help that readers can consider, including “Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy and Therapy Animals,” and “Cannabidiol (CBD).” The authors provide phone numbers to call for “immediate and anonymous resources for support” for anyone who “feels in harm’s way.” The book ends with an appendix (“Suggested Exercises and Illustrations”) and a list of additional resources, including apps, books, and websites.
McLaughlin and Dawson are graciously and compassionately generous with their expertise and empathy. This renders With Pleasure a book that can be beneficial to readers who have experienced trauma, readers who care about people who have experienced trauma, and readers who want to add more joy and comfort to their lives. With Pleasure is a welcome gift to all. It is not hyperbole to say that—given the state of the world—this book is needed now more than ever.