Pleasure and pain

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Photo by Antoine d'Agata/MagnumPhotos

Pleasure and pain
The orgasm cure

What if we could expand ecstasy, reduce stress and lift depression, all by delaying and extending orgasm?

Peter von Ziegesar

Photo by Anna Stepska/Getty

Where pain lives

Fixing chronic back pain is possible only when patients understand how much it is produced by the brain, not the spine

Cathryn Jakobson Ramin

Classic /Meaning and the good life

On the happy life

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, 64 CE

With a new introduction and commentary by Massimo Pigliucci

From The Secret Companion  by R J Brodie London, 1845. Photo by Wellcome Images

Virtues and vices
A handy history

Condemned, celebrated, shunned: masturbation has long been an uncomfortable fact of life. Why?

Barry Reay

French composer Pierre Boulez in 1976. Photo by Herve Gloaguen/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Musical pleasures

We know music is pleasurable, the question is why? Many answers have been proposed: perhaps none are quite right

Roger Mathew Grant

At the Baltic Sea, 1933. Photo by Herbert List/Magnum


We ride a stream of naked neurons, stripped of their sheaths, to the most blissful moments and deepest intimacies of life

Steven M Phelps

Relax! You'll get there. Photo by Christopher Anderson/Magnum

Pleasure and pain
When it’s good to be bad

The relentless pursuit of success is valorised in our culture, but taking the long way around is often the best

Cody Delistraty

Esme Grant walks over ‘ZOBOP 1999’, a large scale installation by artist Jim Lambie. Photo by David Moir/Reuters

Beauty and aesthetics
Eye candy

The pleasure we take in beauty must have been shaped by evolution — but what adaptive advantage did it give us?

Mohan Matthen

Photo by SSPL/NRM/Getty

Pleasure and pain
Catching desires

That drink, that cigarette, that dance: wanting things is highly contagious. Can you be immunised against the infection?

Bence Nanay

Sisters, Pennsylvania, 1962. Photo by Eve Arnold/Magnum

Pleasure and pain

Philosophers have traditionally been highly suspicious of fleeting pleasures, but to enjoy the moment is a radical act

Sandy Grant

Th original fan-fiction; Bridget of Sweden, mystic and saint writing while an angel whispers in her ear. From the Fifteen Oos of St Bridget, Harley 2850, f.47v. Courtesy the British Library Board

Stories and literature
Full-body reading

Literary criticism taught me to scrub my feelings out of my reading, but a medieval mystic showed me how to put them back in

Anna Wilson

Amputation and trepanning instruments, C18th. Photo courtesy Wellcome Images

Pleasure and pain
Our anaesthetic times

Nobody wants to go back in time, but did we lose our sense of sympathy when we lost the shared experience of pain?

Joanna Bourke

Rick Rowell/ABC

The pleasure of their pain

Why the punishment and humiliation of reality TV contestants provides such a satisfying and deep pleasure

Batya Ungar-Sargon

Searching for the truly authentic image: Gerhard Richter's paintings invite a deep engagement. Abstraktes Bild 809-4. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

At the altar

Going to an art gallery is like going to church — a spiritual experience. But what makes a painting worthy of veneration?

Emma Crichton Miller