With all the sex negativity in the news (sigh), it is time to focus on something more positive: sex positivity! What, you may ask, is sex positivity? It’s the idea that sex is a natural and human thing to do, and that people should have the freedom to engage in any kind of sex in any safe and consensual way.
Holly Pervocracy gives this definition: sex positivity is “the belief that sex and sexiness are… okay. It’s the belief that people shouldn’t be judged by the sex they have. It’s the belief that consent matters and social norms do not. It’s the belief that porn and erotica are valid media of expression (not that the current porn industry is hunky-dory, cause it’s not) and that sex work ought to be just work (not that it currently is). It’s the belief that neither “slut” nor “prude” should be an insult. It’s the belief that every sexual and gender identity is valid.”
Clarisse Thorn situates sex-positive feminism within a social movement that has struggled against the destructive stereotypes of women engaging in sex acts. The feminist movement has seen tons of debates about whether certain sexual identities or activities are empowering for women, or harmful to women, and these debates have sometimes been very acrimonious (for example, the anti-pornography “sex wars” of the 1980s).
In one of Jill’s Feministe posts, which is actually about her quotes getting taken out of context (sorry, Jill!), she gives a list of points about sexuality that, while she doesn’t frame them as being about sex positivity, can totally be read in that light. She writes, for instance, that “Sex is good and healthy and fun. The things we like sexually don’t always fit into the traditional narrative of what sex looks like or should be. That’s ok.” This is one of the core tenets of sex positive feminism, for sure. She also makes the point: “Just because you like something in the bedroom doesn’t mean you want every other relationship in your life to operate that way.” And yet, “It is actually worth reading these things critically, though. Sex, sexuality and sexual desire are not independent of cultural forces.” I’ve ruminated on the connections between sexual desire and society in the past, and these are still questions worth asking.
At any rate, a sex positive attitude is one worth cultivating if you want to learn more about other people’s perspectives and be part of a dialogue about what healthy sexuality means. It’s also a great exercise in open-mindedness, which in the end benefits everyone!
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