Critical Hedonism(s) events are dedicated to redefining the ways that care and pleasure circulate and get expressed, integrating critical, analytical thought with experimentation and exploration. They are always free and open to the public.
Events generally have a 4-part structure, with the following format:
preamble and introductions (5 min)
topical talk and/or discussion (20 min)
workshop/demonstration (20 min)
experimentation and play space (1 hr., 45 min)
How can ‘scenes’ be approached as a means of performing other selves, and as a way of enacting different subjectivities? How can the ‘temporary autonomous zone’ of a bounded space and time facilitate the embodiment of alternative orientations, desires, curiosities and roles? In BDSM, the ‘scene’ is used to generate a bounded space for engaging in certain roles and certain dynamics, often with pre-determined activities and participants. How can this performance space—much like the ‘trip’—be used to facilitate experimentation and growth—perhaps with enduring prospects and possibilities? To what degree is all intimate behavior performative and scene-bounded? Is there a value to unbounding sexual practices? What present and future roles might be imagined for the bounded scene?
Can we imagine lifestyles that reconfigure desire, care and creativity? Charles Atlas, in Hail the New Puritan, attempts to do so, as he follows the radical dance troupe of Michael Clark, et. al. Exploring themes of dance, urban life, queer and fluid sexuality, avant-garde art and fashion, etc., the film sketches an aestheticized vision of an alternative life, where collective creative production sits at the heart of both artistic and subjective (re)generation. The film, it is hoped, can open up some of these themes in order to spur discussion and imagination around the role of creativity in shifting the modes in which we deploy pleasure and care, and, ultimately, remaking our subjectivities.
For many, polyamory feels like the most advanced and sophisticated mode of engaging in relationships and sexuality. In this session, we will examine whether polyamory goes far enough in revolutionizing the terrain of love and sex--not from a monogamous or heteronormative perspective, but from a radical egalitarianism perspective. We will be asking whether openness necessarily means inclusivity (i.e. whether polyamory gives access to sex and social bonds to more people than other relationship styles); whether polyamory is all that novel or unique compared with other cultural practices of sexuality and interpersonal connection; and whether polyamory's continued centering of romantic connection is desirable or socially productive--indeed, whether any amor-centric life mode can genuinely be considered emancipatory.
Exploring themes of play to understand emotional intelligence and the healing elements of connection, Elese Moran, Director of Asking for Sex has been creating art that illuminates the discourse around power control dynamics and gender issues for several years now. After spending 15 years in the tech industry working as a marketer, storyteller and consumer behavior researcher, her documentary work uniquely captures how people play and interact with each other to gain connection in this world. Creatively bold and a risk taker, she has created Asking for Sex a documentary that deconstructs modern male sexuality through the stories of consent fails.
Why are we compelled to have sex? Regardless of how the mechanisms of sex originated, our behaviors, neuroses, and nuanced desires are also the products of a new world of complexity, influenced by cultural frameworks for family and intimacy, mass media, technology, identity, power, and status. Knowing this, why have sex at all? What are the benefits of sex to individuals and groups? How do we seize agency and use sex as a tool to build the lives and societies we desire, rather than accepting the status quo and its ramifications on ourselves and our societies?
In what ways do we frequently follow scripts 'in the bedroom'--performing these scripts about sex and sexuality for ourselves and our partners and rarely peering behind and beyond them? How does media and culture 'mediate' our sexual encounters by standardizing regimes of expectation, tropes, roles, and narratives about passionate love-making and/or dispassionate fucking? Where do these scripts come from, and what kinds of barriers do they place on communication, pleasure, solidarity and exploration? How might we shatter and push beyond these scripts, or at least embody them consciously as scenes, rather than as unannounced mass performances within a series of unquestioned expectations and standards?
Are permissive, urban enclaves like San Francisco and New York genuinely liberatory?Throughout history, the aristocratic classes have frequently enjoyed splendor, luxury, bodily enjoyments, and, at many times and in many places, downright debauchery. In many ways, these uncritical and exploitative hedonisms have inspired the condemnation of the middle and lower classes, in the form of religious and other principled attacks on the glaring, hypocritical behaviors of society’s most powerful. In fact, much of the episodic puritanical intervention that our society has experienced throughout the ages has been a backlash against aristocratic hedonism built upon and paid for by the suffering of the lower classes. This discussion examines the relationship between scarcity, power, the concentration of enjoyment, and ‘ressentiment,’ exploring the ways in which top-down imposition of ascetic order has frequently backfired by becoming a universal moral standard expected of all (and not just the working classes). What does it mean to be in an era of unprecedented overall wealth, and how might redistribution of both material comfort and permissivity lead to a genuinely ethical mode of hedonistic pleasure for all?
What makes something erotic? Is the erotic inherently tied to taboo and transgression? How does pornography both extend and limit the boundaries of the erotic imaginary? In the imaginary universe of pornography, are there ethical or other kinds of limits? At this event, Tobie will consider the nature of pornography, considering the boundaries between pornography, literature, and obscenity, with these remarks rooted in Susan Sontag's essay "The Pornographic Imagination."
Many of the things we like are either inherently scarce, or have been made artificially scarce, as a means of canalizing behavior and rendering subjects more docile. Perhaps alongside a project of eliminating what Herbert Marcuse calls “surplus repression,” we might also seek alternative pleasures. From heat, to play, to adventure, to food, self-expression and even altruism, there are a great many pleasures that are un-celebrated, partially because they are unprofitable, and partially because they are not consistent with society’s interests.This talk will explore the idea of ‘everyday pleasures,’ focusing on the kinds of pleasures that are not often emphasized, encouraged or celebrated.
Sexuality and domesticity have been thoroughly intertwined in western culture, with sex intentionally being confined and castigated to the home by Evangelicals and powerful social reformers. In many ways, the home was meant to confine, segregate and privatize the sphere of sex, and channel its vitality into the family and reproduction. Today, if one were to reimagine sex and sexuality, they might also elect to reimagine home as well. At this event, “polyamorous nomad" Leela Universe presents their take on domesticity and sex, ruminating on the nature of intimacy and connection, as learned from a lifestyle of perpetually delving into a myriad of private lives, while resisting the trappings of privacy and domesticity.
To request information about future events, or to inquire about being involved or collaborating somehow, please email Eric at
eric [at] nookzy [dot] com