The term ‘sex positive’ began appearing in popular culture only a few years ago and already has multiple connotations and buckets of misconceptions surrounding it. Sex positivity means embracing your own sexuality, or lack thereof, and valuing your own needs. Sex education and the practice of safe, consensual sex also stand as essential components of sex positivity.
The sex positivity movement aims to break down rape culture and slut-shaming while promoting an inclusive attitude toward all sexual and gender identities.
What does sex positivity look like?
Sex positivity means we get to decide who we feel attracted to, who we sleep with and who we don’t and that we feel respected while making all of those decisions. It also means that we need to accept other people’s decisions about sex and their sexuality. Everyone expresses their sexuality differently and as long as they express it in a completely consensual way, we should all be cool with it.
Sex positivity leads to a more nuanced understanding of how gender socialization, patriarchy and sexism have an impact on sexual violence. Gender socialization refers to the idea that we grow up in an environment with preconceived notions about gender norms and we learn these ideas through own experiences and conversations, our schooling and the media. The patriarchy refers to the idea that we fact that we live in a society where more men hold powerful positions in government than women. It also allows us to pause and examine the power dynamics in our own relationships and experiences and how gender, race, class or able-bodied privilege influence this. These characteristics influence how we live our lives and even crept into the most intimate of spaces. Acknowledging them, can help all of us begin to unravel these complicated issues. It also allows us to explore how the intersections of race, gender and class to better understand how these police our sexuality.
Being sex positive does not mean that you have sex or even like sex, it focuses on accepting that other people do and that they have every right to do so. It also means accepting that some people do not like sex or have no interest in it.
Sex positivity does not mean you have a happy uncomplicated relationship with sex. Space in the sex positive movement exist for trauma survivors, asexual people and people who have had painful or regrettable sexual experiences. Our bodies come with baggage and painful experiences and unique histories.
Sex positivity fights rape culture
Rape culture refers to a set of societal beliefs that create an environment which normalizes sexual violence and sexual assault. The objectification of women and misogynistic language perpetuate these beliefs and disregard the safety of women. Sex positivity emphasizes consensual sex, bodily autonomy and empowering of all people regardless of sex or gender identity to deconstruct rape culture and slut shaming.
This movement works to encourage us to view other human beings with full bodily autonomy, which in today’s world exists as a liberal—even radical—idea. In viewing people as people and not sexual objects, we can begin to end victim shaming and blaming. Sex positivity works to end the social cycle of making people feel guilty about sexual activity. It fosters self-love and explores how toxic hyper-masculinity can harm men, women, trans and gender fluid individuals.
Is sex positivity only for cis-women?
Absolutely not. While this movement developed to combat slut-shaming, sexual violence and the concept that women cannot want sex, the goal of this movement tries to create a space for everyone. Sex positivity encourages people of all gender identities to explore their own sexuality and engage in relationships and sexual encounters that affirm these ideals.
A place exists for men in the sex positivity movement as we overhaul the idea that men always want sex and women cannot want to sex. Men must acknowledge their partner’s desires and respect them; they must learn how to use their gender privilege to address the rape culture ASAP. The movement also offers men an opportunity to realize they do not need to confirm to gender stereotypes about when they should want sex and how they should have sex.
We also must acknowledge interlocking forms oppression and the fact that some people do not have the ability to participate in this movement.
How can you participate in sex positivity?
Sex positivity without critical analysis can do more harm than good. Never stop asking the uncomfortable, hard-to-talk-about questions. Be aware of how our bodies have been categorized and labeled since birth and how our socialization influences how we view ourselves and sex. “Being open to the idea of non–traditional relationships and being open to the idea that sex does not have to be just penetration. Do what is best for you and your partner(s),” William and Mary junior Maddie Talnagi said. Do your research, respect other people’s consensual sex lives and work to deconstruct the rape culture by educating each other. Be safe and have consensual fun, kids.