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pleasure portraits: barbara

The Pleasure Society is going international, and this is our first portrait from outside of the Netherlands. We teamed up with Kate Channer in telling the story of Barbara, originally from Portugal and now living in Berlin.

The pleasure portraits tell stories about about what sexuality means to different people. In a series of portraits, the Pleasure Society wants to show the diversity of what sexuality can mean, what it can look like and what people have to say about it from their own perspective. Let’s celebrated in all its different forms. With or without toys. If you just started exploring or have been exploring for much longer.

Sexuality is complex and diverse. Let’s proudly show it to the world.

Model: Barbara Conde. Photographer: Kate Channer.

Barbara (she/her 24) invites us into her newly moved into apartment in the luscious borough of Berlin, Moabit. This is the first time she has lived alone and excitement fizzes from the fresh flowers, flowing curtains and bouncy moss-green sofas. Barbara is a person who cherishes spirituality and intuition, with dance as her main expression. Luckily for us — she also loves to talk!

Let’s start from the beginning — what do you think when you hear the word ‘pleasure’?
I would say pleasure for me is basically life — pleasure always comes hand in hand with happiness. It is part of feeling alive.

Would you say that the way you relate to sex and pleasure reflects the way you live your life?
Absolutely. I have been connected to my sexuality from a young age and that bothered a lot of people. I was this all good, catholic raised girl growing up on a farm in Porto but I have always been very open because sex gave me happiness and pleasure. I don’t see it as a dark taboo — in fact, I like the dark taboo! I believe when we express ourselves in our truest sense with our bodies, not always explicitly sexual, we connect to an animalistic and raw nature that can be very sensual.

Are you still catholic? 
I stopped being catholic when I was 11 and I told my family I would not go to Sunday church anymore. I was the first one of my generation to cut it off. I am proud to be this rebel but I don’t consider myself a rebel in life. I have always been marked as a good girl but I love to fuck and I love to get fucked. Growing up I was told how I should be and how I should act in certain ways, more prude in the way I dress but as I said, I was never really shy — this is my body…This is who I am and it makes me happy to express it. Take it or leave it.

“I would say pleasure for me is basically life” 

Model: Barbara Conde. Photographer: Kate Channer

How do you relate to your spirituality now, and how do you think differs from when you were younger? 
My spirituality is liberating because it makes me feel powerful. As a child, I would make a lot of potions. Growing up near the ocean, I would pretend I was the one moving the waves. Now, living in Berlin, I feel like I’ve been more able to follow my spirituality and a path of pleasure. I think spirituality is really nothing more than finding your true power and listening to your intuition, and as a woman, I find it very empowering to connect with this. It has made me feel more honest and open with myself about what I like to do, how I like to do it, who I like to do it with, and how I like to connect with people. When I don’t want to do something, there is someone with bad energy or when I have been moving through more toxic relationships, connecting with my spirituality and intuition has allowed me to be strong.

It’s really important to feel close to yourself, and certain types of spirituality, magic, and rituals can do that…
Completely. I did a moon ritual for the full moon recently which was really helpful. I think the moon and planets influence us and our female energy and I remember after this ritual I felt very confident and empowered because I had to sit with my emotions.

“my intuition is very connected to my sexuality”

What exactly do you do in a moon ritual?
It is mainly meditations in which you try to connect with the earth and the present moment. You can find certain symbols or elements to bring into your mind during the practice, which brings you closer to the world, leaving you more grounded. Not being surrounded by so much materialist bullshit or the thoughts that fog our minds for a few moments can centre you in what’s honest, and that’s what I felt during the ritual. It is essentially about taking a moment just for you, connecting to what you want and which direction you want to go in. This makes my boat steer in the right direction, making the waters feel calm and that feels healthy or less damaging because sometimes you can do things through a bad impulse, so it’s good to know when you’re on a good course.

Yes, I can’t help but relate ‘magic and rituals’ as we are calling them, that ground you and bring you closer to the earth, yourself, and your intuition to be a really important part of sex too. If you know what you want, you can feel more fulfilled through your intention and who and what you choose to do with pleasure.
As a dancer, I have always been connected to my body because I never got a chance to read or surf the internet growing up on a farm in Porto. Not all my sexual experiences have been golden – of course – but I’ve luckily found it easy to feel pleasure. There is the brain, there is a body, and there is a soul in between. When I’m sexual I try to completely trust in my body, let go, and try to feel every part of it. It is good to jump on things without fear and get out of your head.

It can be really difficult to reach climax when you’re stuck in your head. Playing is important!
Yes, it’s all through feeling. It’s the same thing I tell people in my classes with Dance on the Mat, “don’t think it’s the right or wrong way to do something. Your body is unique, the way you express yourself is unique, let your body show you how it’s done!” 

Model: Barbara Conde. Photographer: Kate Channer

This is unknown to us. We are so comfortable being in our heads and living within certain guidelines but when we listen to our body and to the truth, it can be real access to magic and pleasure. We sometimes avoid this connection because of a break-up, or something that might be bringing us anxiety, grief, or trauma and we avoid it because it’s scary to feel pain, sadness, happiness, but the more we can feel these emotions in our body, the more we can connect with life.

I think people think of magic as something quite ‘out there’ and irrational, but it can be very simple. As simple as listening to something that speaks without words, it just feels, it tells you something.
Actually, there is something I would love to get into, which is putting spells into sex. I read that you can create and put spells or manifestations into sex so that when you orgasm it brings forth your intention into your life. And if it’s really not for you, you will know at this moment. You can’t lie during an orgasm. On a side note, I love to watch my male partners orgasm because at that moment you see a very vulnerable side that you don’t see very often at all. 

How do you think your sexuality has changed?
I never knew until I started to explore. I have been to play parties hosted by a good friend here in Berlin, so I was in a trusting place. I had a beautiful experience of being asked to dance for one of these parties. So there I stood, in a beautiful room, in front of a large group of people all dressed in their most honest self. Some in kink, their favourite outfits, naked. I wore a black transparent dress. I danced the happiest dance of my life. As a dancer, of course, I dance on stage and I perform, but I am vulnerable as an artist and there is a point where I cut that off. For this performance, I felt so vulnerable in all aspects and this made me feel so free. I danced real Barbara, not Barbara with a technique or a ballet foot — it was just me, raw. And from that moment, I realised I should always dance and move like this.

The duality of complete vulnerability and freedom is interesting because people wouldn’t usually put these together and might think that being vulnerable means that you are not free or that you are weak. But because you get to decide the terms, you get to express your true self and you are more open to all the emotions, it can make you feel empowered.
Exactly, and I would say that’s what I learned from being in Berlin: empowerment. I come to Berlin and people are making love with their kinks. There is a level and a place for everyone, it’s a playground where you can explore, with boundaries in place. I don’t want to sound like everything is perfect, you should always find your way and be careful. It’s hard to step away from some situations, and it can be easy to blame yourself if other people have bad intentions. This is something that needs to be educated from a young age to tackle the core of the problem. If we had spoken about these themes earlier in life, maybe fewer people would feel they could take advantage. But being in Berlin I have found wonderful communities that built my confidence and helped me feel secure and strong.

I agree! Any final words…
We are raised to give, but you cannot give to others if your cup is not full, and we should learn to fill our own cups or we will have to keep drinking others. Different people receive different love in different ways and I think it’s really important to give yourself love, giving yourself pleasure is so important. Give yourself the good moments.

Photo: Kate Channer