What does sex positivity mean to you?

Questions and discussion about your sexual lives, choices, activities, ideas and experiences.
Asking Queries
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What does sex positivity mean to you?

Unread post by Asking Queries »


I’ve been seeing a bunch of great questions asked on this forum about how people think of certain ideas, and I think that it would be interesting for people to say what sex positivity means to them.
I’ll go first:
For me, sex positivity means trying to live by some principles of how I think about and judge sex, sexuality and sexual media:
1. Consent is absolutely necessary (with the cautious exception of within fiction), and an activity must be consensual to be sex.
2. Sex should be and often is a fun and intimate experience, and that enjoyment and intimacy is good. Sexuality in general should also feel good and safe.
3. It’s important to accept people’s feelings and opinions about sex and sexuality, while also pushing back on harmful ones and gently engaging with (“challenging” feels too strong of a word) sexual shame.
4. No one should be pressured to be sex positive, or judged negatively for not feeling sex positive. (There’s definitely a line here for when someone is expressing sex negative views that could hurt people, but I’m not sure what that line is.)

I’m curious what others think. My use of principles in the form of a numbered list is definitely not mandatory, it’s just how I was thinking of it in the moment.

- AQ
“… we need to recognize that adolescents, like all human beings, need strong social bonds. To provide youth with such bonds—at an interpersonal and societal level—is the work of us all.” - Amy T. Schalet, Not Under My Roof.
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Re: What does sex positivity mean to you?

Unread post by HannahP »

This is a great question, AQ! I've seen people use the term "sex positivity" both in ways that I love to associate myself with and ways that I definitely don't want to, so I think it's really useful to pick apart what the term means to each of us.

The main thing I'd like sex positivity to represent is advocacy around decoupling sex/sexuality and shame. I believe that sex and sexuality are parts of the human experience like so many other things, and although it's perfectly reasonable to want to keep your experiences and feelings private, there is never any reason to feel ashamed of things related to sex. I believe that shame is a damaging force that increases the existing risks of sex and it has no purpose in sexual education or sexual health. My sex positivity opposes anyone who suggests that shame or even fear is an acceptable or effective tool for reducing abortion, STIs, pregnancy, heartbreak, sexual problems, bad sex, etc. It supports the idea that free information, support, and transparency are the best tools for that job.

Other things I consider to be important:
  • As long as no one is being harmed physically or emotionally, consensual sex between adults is always okay, even if it's not to another person's personal taste. This includes kinks, nonmonogamy, sex work, etc.
  • People deserve the same agency over their sexual choices as they do about all their life choices. Different people will have different sexual tastes, values, and comfort levels and that's okay. We want to empower people to make the choices about their sex life that are right for them, not prescribe certain "right" paths.
  • That reproductive rights are fundamental and birth control should be as available as possible.
  • Moving away from a "purity" mindset around sex and focusing instead on sexual ethics (which are mostly the same as nonsexual ethics!)
  • An understanding of consent that goes beyond the presence of verbal consent. Coerced or pressured consent is not consensual sex. Having sex out of a sense of obligation is not consensual sex. People must always always feel as free as possible to refuse sex.
  • It is important to advocate for sexual pleasure. There are many ways that sex can be enjoyable and pleasurable, and enjoyable sex for another person might not look how you expect it to. But enjoyment should be the default of sex for everyone and nobody should be encouraged or expected to have sex that is not enjoyable for them.
What I do NOT consider to be part of sex positivity:
  • That sex is an inherently positive thing for everyone. I think of sex in the way I think of spirituality: many people find it extremely important and central to their lives, other people have no connection to it whatsoever and no interest in developing a connection. Other people have bad experiences and associations with it.
  • That sex is never harmful and that it is sex negative to raise awareness of the risks and harms associated with sex. Sex can be an intensely vulnerable experience, both physically and emotionally. That makes it powerful and that power needs to be respected. There are ways to talk about sexual risks and harms without using shame and fear.
  • That not wanting sex or certain kinds of sex or having boundaries around sex is sex negative. Being a sex positive person has nothing to do with the sex acts that you personally partake in.
  • That sex is unrelated to inequality, power dynamics, and oppression. People's experiences of sex are influenced by their identity and their experiences in the world at large. We can't make the world a safe, sex positive space just by saying it should be — we have to meet the world where it actually is and individual people where they are.
Well, I feel like that got away from me a bit, haha! I feel like I could write another five paragraphs, but I'll stop there for now. :)
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